New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is having the best season of his career, and that is saying a lot since he hit 52 homers as a rookie in 2017. But this year, he seems more mature, more complete as a hitter: he is slashing .318/.389/.676 with a league-leading 15 home runs and a 209 wRC+.
But he will be a free agent after the year after rejecting a long-term deal from the Yankees that would have paid him around $30.5 million per season for seven years. If the Yanks fail to retain him, these three teams could be ready to pounce:
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San Francisco Giants
Per NY Post’s Joel Sherman (link to the NJ Advance Media article here), there is a non-zero chance the San Francisco Giants pony up and bring in the All-Star slugger to San Francisco.
“So is Judge’s intention to play the ‘I’ll leave’ card to the last second as a way to squeeze the most out of the Yankees, but to stay in the end? If he plays this to the hilt, we might just happen to catch him in a photo with Giants manager Gabe Kapler,” Sherman wrote.
And the Giants, recently known for developing their own stars and contributors, can afford to splurge on the guy that could lead them to the postseason again.
New York Mets
Steve Cohen is the wealthiest owner in baseball, and he loves the Mets. That’s not a good combination for the Yankees if Judge reaches free agency.
As a continuation of his idea of Judge possibly joining the Giants, Sherman said that Judge could “show up in a video clip entering Citi Field at the same time — sources will say — that Steve Cohen was in the building.”
It’s really not that hard to envision: Cohen loves stars, and stars love money. There is nothing wrong with that.
Boston Red Sox
Per Sherman, the Yankees’ slugger could also join archrivals Boston Red Sox. “Maybe we’ll be stuck trying to corroborate the rumor that Red Sox owner John Henry personally walked Judge out to the Green Monster to wonder aloud what he might do to the wall in 81 home games.”
To be fair, Judge may bring the wall down, batted ball after batted ball. All kidding aside, it’s hard to see Judge going to Boston, but one should never say never in baseball.
In the end, now that they let him reach free agency, the Yankees will have to significantly increase their offer. “Is there anything more likely to motivate the Yankees to deviate higher from their contract offers than the thought of Judge playing for the Mets or Red Sox?” Sherman wrote.
The Dodgers, Rangers, Tigers, White Sox, and Marlins shouldn’t be ruled out. In the end, the Yankees remain his favored long-term destination, but if they don’t pay Judge what he wants, he could be wearing another uniform in 2023.