We’ve known for a while that the San Francisco Giants would be in the running for Aaron Judge. Primarily because we’ve known for a while that any team with money to spend would be in the running for Aaron Judge.
That’s what happens when a player, fresh off one of the 10 greatest hitting seasons in MLB history, hits the market for the first time in their career. But it’s only been recently that the smoke surrounding Judge has been hovering over San Francisco.
It’s impossible to reduce a player’s offseason choice down to two teams, especially when the offseason hasn’t even kicked off. There will be mystery teams. There will surprise offers. And there will be the Los Angeles Dodgers. Because there’s always the Dodgers.
But right now, the overwhelming consensus of the reports points to there being two destinations for Judge: New York Yankees, where he was homegrown, and the Giants, with his hometown.
A recent report from Randy Miller, a Yankees beat reporter for NJ.com, sent out the most smoke. Miller quoted an anonymous source who was part of a meeting with the Giants ownership group that, “Judge is at the top of the Giants list and they won’t be underbid. If they miss out, it won’t be because of money” (sidebar: pretty sure that person meant to say “overbid”).
It’s fair to question the validity of a report about the Giants from a Yankees writer, especially since he noted that the Giants are expected to make a few additional splash signings. But in a segment with KNBR, Miller dropped a few fascinating gems regarding both the Yankees and Judge.
Yankees beat writer, Randy Miller, is extremely optimistic that come next spring, Aaron Judge will be wearing the Orange & Black. pic.twitter.com/S48HUByFNl— KNBR (@KNBR) October 26, 2022
“I know Aaron very well,” Miller said. “I’ve covered him since Aaron’s pre-rookie year, 2016 ... I think the Giants will overbid for him. I don’t think the Yankees will. He’s very, very loyal. It’s going to be tough to leave his friends in the organization. That said, he’s very loyal to his mother, his wife. They still live in Linden. He grew up a Giants fan ... I think he’s ready to come home. I think he will come home ... I think he feels a tug to come home. He’s so loyal to his parents.”
Some of that isn’t news. The Judge rumors have always included the information that he was raised a Giants fan in Linden, a small city in San Joaquin County. But the loyalty element is very intriguing, and it’s worth noting that Judge’s aforementioned wife, Samantha Bracksieck, also grew up in Linden.
Miller noted that, despite Judge’s desire to return to Northern California, he needs to join a good situation after playing for the perennially-competitive Yankees. Or, as Miller worded it, “To me, the biggest holdup here is, can the Giants convince Judge that they’re in it to win it every year?”
For Miller that meant the Giants need to make two or three more splashy signings to show Judge how serious they are, and look ... if “we need this to sign Aaron Judge” is the justification for re-signing Carlos Rodón, and adding Brandon Nimmo and one of either Trea Turner or Carlos Correa, then sign me the hell up. Spend that Mission Bay money, baby. Bring Aaron home.
It’s easy to be suspicious about the Giants actually shelling out money. After all, in the four years since ownership decided to go in a new direction with Farhan Zaidi, a glorified one-year deal for Rodón is the biggest contract they’ve doled out. What makes us think they’ll give out one of the largest free agent deals in MLB history, with a few other monster deals peppered around it?
On the other hand, it’s easy to be optimistic. The Giants are a large market team, with money coming off the books, and a thriving real estate enterprise. Perhaps ownership has decided to be cheap, or perhaps they wanted Zaidi to build a .500 team affordably before supplementing it with the type of contracts that keep the Dodgers winning 100 games every year. And after Zaidi’s end-of-season presser — in which he proclaimed that the Giants are past the point of hoping to play well, and to the point of expecting to be contenders year in and year out — it’s easy to think that they’re ready to open up the checkbook once again in the name of chasing wins.
It’s worth noting that Miller is far from the only voice expressing pessimism that the Yankees will match Judge’s market price. The general sentiment from those covering the team is that they won’t go far above the offer that they extended prior to the season ... which Judge rejected before an 11.5-WAR season. So it wouldn’t be shocking if outbidding the Yankees is fairly easy, though matching teams like the Dodgers may prove more difficult.
We could be in for disappointment. The Giants might finish second once again, and settle for another $10 million pitcher and a $6 million outfielder as they run back a lackluster squad and pray that Rob Manfred expands the postseason field one more time.
But the time is now. The money is there. The roster is there, as they’ve built an affordable, decent team that serves as a perfect pedestal for superstars to sit upon. And the star(s) are there.
Hopefully there’s smoke because there’s fire.