SAN DIEGO – In discussing Aaron Judge’s nine-year, $360 million agreement with the Yankees, there are many layers to consider – and we’ll get to some of those shortly. But keep this in mind as the discussion turns to the details: few players impact the game more than Judge and by keeping him in New York, the Yankees took a massive step forward Wednesday morning.
Replacing Judge would have been next to impossible after a season in which he set an all-time American League home run record with 62 on his way to a .311/.425/.686 batting line and 10.6 wins above replacement. Of course, it’s unlikely he ever replicates those numbers but even with a dropoff in production, he’ll rank among the game’s elite hitters.
In the Bronx, the consequences of this move are extensive. Elsewhere around baseball, the ripple effects will be felt, too. Here’s an initial look at the impact of Judge’s deal:
The Yankees remain relevant
Imagine the Yankees without Judge. Their lineup would have become pretty ordinary and they would have lost an essential part of their identity. A pivot would have been required with Carlos Correa the logical next target but no guarantees there, either.
With Judge in place, the Yankees are poised to remain one of the AL’s best teams in 2023. They still have work to do with clear needs for a starter and relief help, but the most important part of their winter is complete. Now, it’s a question of adding further, perhaps with Carlos Rodon, the top starter available.
Long-term there are questions here, though. A nine-year deal keeps Judge under contract through his age-39 season at which point the Yankees will likely be paying for far less production. With that in mind, one AL East executive noted that this contract has a chance to backfire in a big way four or five years from now.
But let’s not complicate this yet. Judge was the best player in baseball this past season. The Steamer projections forecast 42 home runs and 6.7 WAR in 2023. And he’s still a Yankee. Short-term, that’s a problem for the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Rays and Orioles.
A question of legacy
Throughout history, the great Yankees players have all won the World Series. Judge has yet to play in one. Now 30, he has plenty of chances left, but if he’s going to join the likes of Derek Jeter, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio in Yankees lore, a championship appears to be a must.
Did the Blue Jays call?
From the outside looking in, the Blue Jays never seemed likely to land Judge. If they spend hundreds of millions on a player this winter, it’s more likely to be for a homegrown star such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Bo Bichette. Among top free agents, Correa was easier to imagine, or Justin Verlander.
At the same time, that was always speculation. So, did the Blue Jays ever attempt to engage with Judge? One involved source offered a concise response: “No.”
What next for Correa?
A pursuit of Correa seemed likely if Judge had signed elsewhere, but the Yankees may now turn their attention to pitching while accepting some of the risk that comes with playing young infielders such as Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe.
That leaves the Giants as a logical suitor for Correa, who has also reportedly drawn interest from the Twins. Of course, if the Yankees wanted to make a real statement, they could go out and get Correa, too.
The impact on Nimmo’s market
If the Giants had landed Judge, it would have been harder to see a fit for the second-best free agent outfielder, Brandon Nimmo. Now, San Francisco looks like a possible fit for the longtime Met and given the Giants’ eagerness to pursue Judge, cash certainly doesn’t appear to be an issue.
That would have implications for other teams involved in Nimmo’s market, including the Mets and the Blue Jays. Of course, if Judge had landed in San Francisco, the Yankees could have jumped in on Nimmo, but now it’s the Giants who seem like the bigger threat.
One way or another, Nimmo appears to be well positioned to land a deal worth $100 million plus. His agent, Scott Boras, represents various left-handed hitting outfielders including Michael Conforto, Joey Gallo and the recently posted Masataka Yoshida, but Nimmo’s clearly the top option among that group