September 27, 2023

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Aaron Judge’s free agency decisions dominate MLB’s Winter Meetings


SAN DIEGO — Around 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, just as San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler finished his winter session with reporters, word began spreading through the lobby of the Manchester Grand Hyatt that this year’s star of the free agent market had made it. his mind. I started by tweeting, I quickly backed offHowever, Aaron Judge was carrying out the worst-case scenario for the New York Yankees by signing with the Giants.

It continued despite repeated assurances from Giants CEO Larry Baier, trapped in a hotel corridor, that he “had nothing to report,” though Kapler insisted he hadn’t heard anything — though he admitted, somewhat coyly, He was talking to reporters, not looking at his phone. By the time the sun sets on a cloudy day here, nothing is official.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he had just got out of the shower when the rumor reached him. He contacted general manager Brian Cashman, who told him nothing had changed as far as he knew. After a few minutes, it was his turn to meet the reporters, who greeted him with a smile and a joke about lucky timing.

“It was an uncomfortable hour,” he admitted.

Elsewhere, it was hectic. Journalists in the lobby checked charter flights from Tampa, Where he was greeted by Judge Tom Brady In the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game Monday night, to San Diego. They found one that landed in the late afternoon. Baseball news today — including first baseman Josh Bell agreeing to a two-year deal with the Cleveland Guardians and left-hander Andrew Heene agreeing to sign with the Texas Rangers on a two-year deal, according to people familiar with the deals — seemed outlandish by comparison.

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Judge has been the focus of the baseball world for nearly the entire season, from the moment he turned down the Yankees’ April extension offer through 62 home summer run Until the night the Yankees’ season ended when soon to be World Series champion Houston The Astros swept them in the American League Championship Series.

For the Yankees, Judge was the foundation they needed to build this offseason, not a prize to be won. he is was the AL MVPAnd rightly so: no player in baseball has had more of an outfield influence on his team’s fate than Judge because he sometimes single-handedly backs up his lineup. He would be the Giants’ biggest star since Buster Posey – possibly since Barry Bonds.

So the day in San Diego belongs to the judge, who didn’t start the day in San Diego and didn’t seem to have made a decision by the time MLB’s inaugural draft lottery — won by the Pittsburgh Pirates — made a ignoble attempt to change the subject. Agent Scott Boras once held a media meeting for him. He’s usually the guy with the big stars at these meetings, and he has a few — but none of them are the judge.

One of those clients was Cody Bellinger, the enigmatic 2019 National League MVP who was not offered a contract by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He agreed to a one-year, $17.5 million deal with the Chicago Cubs, according to a person familiar with the situation. People familiar with their thinking said the Giants were interested in adding Bellinger to their outfield. But if they’re going to lose on Tuesday to a high-profile player, you can assume they’d prefer it to be him. (They’ve added outfielder Mitch Hanegger in a three-year, $43.5 million deal, ESPN reports, but that won’t stop them from grabbing the judge either.)

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Another Boras client and elite player, former New York Met Brandon Nimmo, was in San Diego this week to meet the teams. But it seems that his fate is linked to the fate of the judge as well.

“There is an expectation that some clubs are waiting to move to the next step depending on the outcome of” Judge’s free agency, Porras told reporters.

AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander agrees to sign with the Mets

Will the Giants need an outside player if they lose out on a judge? If not, many teams have room for a fast, stable, top-of-the-line racket like Nemo’s – if they’re willing to spend what Boras will ask for. Even the Tampa Bay Rays, not known for prolific spenders, have expressed interest, according to a person familiar with Nimmo Market.

So Nimmo remained on the list of not-yet-signed top-tier free agents—some of whom could serve as backup offensive additions for the Yankees or the Giants if one of them missed Judge. Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, catcher Wilson Contreras, and left fielder Carlos Rodon remained unsigned until late Tuesday afternoon, even though Taijuan Walker agreed to a deal, according to multiple reports, with the Philadelphia Phillies, who added depth a day later. Grab star shortstop Trya Turner. The extent to which all of their markets depend on Judge will be apparent in hindsight. But the extent of speculation surrounding them on Tuesday pales in comparison.

No one person’s decision could set baseball’s world on fire as Judge appeared to do on Tuesday, when sections of baseball’s fandom that had rooted against the Yankees were desperate to believe that where there is smoke, there is fire — and the Yankees prayed it was a false alarm.

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