TORONTO — At the start of spring training, not long after Fernando Tatis Jr. signed a huge extension with San Diego well before hitting free agency, Aaron Judge was asked if he had spoken to the Yankees about a deal.
“No we haven’t,’’ Judge said at the time, adding it was a “good question.”
Now that he’s finishing up perhaps his best — and certainly healthiest — season since 2017, when Judge was the AL Rookie of the Year and runner-up to Houston’s Jose Altuve for AL MVP, the outfielder was asked if any dialogue had started between the two sides.
“No,’’ Judge told The Post over the weekend.
“The ball is kind of in their court,’’ Judge said. “I’m just a player. I just do my job every day. I’m not going to go running to anybody and say ‘Let’s talk about this.’ That’s their job to do. That’s what they get paid for. I’m getting paid to be out here on the field.”
He has one more year of arbitration before hitting free agency — under the Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire on Dec. 1 — and unlike in recent seasons, the 29-year-old has been able to stay on the field, avoiding serious injury.
He put a scare into the Yankees on Sunday night after he delivered the go-ahead double in the top of the eighth inning to help finish off a sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
All the good accomplished by the Yankees seemed in danger of becoming undone by a dislocated left pinky suffered when he slid headfirst into second base, but Judge and Aaron Boone were confident the injury wouldn’t have much of an impact on the slugger.
Judge has played in 142 games, more than in any other season than the 155 he played in as a rookie.
And while he won’t approach the 52 homers, 1.049 OPS or 8.3 fWAR he had four seasons ago, his .903 OPS and 145 OPS-plus will almost certainly lead the team and his 4.9 fWAR is second only to Gerrit Cole’s 5.3.
Those numbers are possible in part because he’s avoided the injuries of years past, like the fractured ribs from a year ago — that he may have suffered in 2019. There was also the strained oblique in ’19, a fractured wrist the year before that, as well as the shoulder injury he played through as a rookie.
While remaining healthy was among Judge’s primary goals heading into 2021, he said he didn’t believe he had proven anything by largely following through on it.
“Not really,’’ Judge said. “It’s who I am. I haven’t changed much. These are only the first steps. I’ve still got a process to work on. It takes a couple years to get to the peak. We’re still working our way there. I’ve got more to my game.”
Specifically, Judge said he’s open to playing more center field.
“Based on the team we have, if that gives us the best lineup to win, I’d love to play there,’’ Judge said. “I got drafted [out of college] as a center fielder. They told me, ‘Would you rather play next to Jacoby Ellsbury or behind him?’ I said, ‘I’d rather play next to him.’ ”
He’s spent 23 games in center this season — with Ellsbury just a distant memory.
“I’ve got to get in better shape to play there more,’’ Judge said. “I just want to keep getting better.”
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