I’m here on a mission of mercy. I’m here to keep you from having your heart broken. I’m here to finish this unholy trilogy of content. As with Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton before, there’s simply no chance the Giants land this year’s AL MVP and lifelong San Francisco Giants fan Aaron Judge in this free agent sweepstakes.
Look, I don’t make the rules. I think the Giants should sign Judge! And Carlos Rodón. And Trea Turner. And Carlos Correa (Turner can play second and the outfield). And Kodai Senga. And Brandon Nimmo, if he’s into it. Whatever gets the Giants’ payroll to $200 million or more. The simple fact is that the top of the market free agent players don’t want to either play in San Francisco or hit at Oracle Park. So, this isn’t just me being all doom and gloom. I’m citing historical precedent!
As Brian Sabean has explained:
“To entice a free agent to come to San Francisco, we’re almost in an overpay situation, so why get involved in all those battles where you’re not going to be able to go up the totem pole money-wise? [...] You’ve got the state of California taxes. [San Francisco] is a long way from where some of these guys live in the offseason. It’s not a hitters’ ballpark, so you can scratch that side of the fence. It takes the right pitcher to consider wanting to come there for a number of different reasons, some of them I just mentioned, even if it’s a pitchers’ ballpark in a pitchers’ division.”
(On the pitching point, it’s worth mentioning here that Jacob de Grom hasn’t said anything about pitching in San Francisco. He’d rather go to Texas.)
Now, I’m going to tackle the tax thing just for a second, too, because I know I’ve encountered the opinion that such a thing has almost zero bearing on the final decision. Let’s say Judge gets a 7-year, $300 million contract (I have no basis for this, I’m just throwing out a figure for the example). That’s an AAV of $42,857,143 and per game gross average of $264,550.27.
In 2023, the Giants play 81 home games plus 7 against the Dodgers in LA plus 7 against the Padres in SD + 2 against the A’s in OAK and 3 against the Angels in... uh... ANALA? That’s 100 games in California out of 162. That’s $26,455,026.54 of his AAV. Less 10% agent fee (for which I’m assuming the additional 5% most artist talent has to factor in for the attorney fees is wiped out here because a lot of sports agents are attorneys — but again, this is a quick and dirty calculation), and his taxable starting point is $23,809,523.89. After state and federal, that’s a take home of $11,874,533, or $118,745.33 per game. I’m gonna average out all the other states income taxes and added it to federal tax rate to say he’d be taxed 42.42% on the AAV balance of $16,402,117. Less 10% agent fee and That’s $8,499,905.10 or $137,095.24 per game. So, that’s a post-tax AAV of about $20.375 million (which he could probably adjust upwards with other itemized deductions).
If he played in New York, that’s 83 games (81 home Yankees games plus 2 at the Mets) under New York tax and 79 elsewhere. He’d have a post-tax AAV of about $21.578 million, a difference of about $1.203 million or $8.421 over the life of the deal. Could the Giants overbid to make up that difference? Sure. But I’m going to touch on that in a bit.
Again, I’m doing this to protect you. I know it’s tough because this situation is not really like the Stanton and Harper situations. Stanton had a full no-trade clause which made the situation more like a free agent negotiation with the salary already settled. Ironically, Harper knew Bochy was on his way out and preferred playing for Gabe Kapler in Philadelphia. With Judge, though, the Giants have something to offer him.
“My dad’s favorite number is 35, so as a kid I wore 35 and Rich Aurilia was the shortstop for my favorite team and he wore 35,” Judge said. “I liked watching him.”
Judge said he even copied Aurilia’s right-handed stance when he was growing up.
“I was the tallest kid and I was crouched down like Aurilia,” he told NJ.com. “It was funny.”
Now, I don’t know if proximity to Rich Aurilia is itself a selling point, maybe? And he has no formal attachment to the team itself — he’s a studio analyst and wine salesman these days, not an associate manager.
This is the obvious one. The chance to be a hero in the uniform of your hometown team. I can’t deny the potency of this, but athletes only have a limited time to achieve fame and fortune before their bodies betray them.
He saw the Giants win three titles without him, and he’s presently on the most historic sports franchise in modern history suffering through a championship “drought” of 13 years (poor guys!). I don’t know. Seems like the chance to become a Yankees legend might mean more than being able to be the next Bonds on the next good Giants team.
A park that’s favorable to right-handed hitters
Oracle Park has had a better 3-year park factor than Yankee Stadium. 100 - completely average! Yankee Stadium? 99, slight pitcher tilt. And for right-handed batters? 101, good for 10th in baseball. Yankee Stadium? 12th! Will any free agent listen? Will any free agent care?
The Giants haven’t had a 30-home run season since Barry Bonds in 2004.
He’s the mystique
This is a rebuttal to the rebuttal in the hometown team section, only a few sentences ago. Yes, ascending to the firmament with Ruth, Maris, and Jeter would be something. As good as Mays and Bonds? I would assume as a lifelong Giants fan, that’s an easy yes. But in San Francisco, he’d be The Guy. Without question. That doesn’t mean he’d have to carry the team, necessarily — Zaidi’s Band of Optimized Inputs would be a great supporting cast. But he would ditch the Yankees Mystique Baggage.
But we know he’s also extremely loyal and is friends with Anthony Rizzo, who just re-upped with the Yankees.
So, those are all the reasons why it makes sense to be excited about the Giants landing one of the most impressive sluggers of the century. It’s not nothing, but it’s not overly encouraging. Here’s everything else you’ll need to purge the dream from your mind.
He doesn’t fit Zaidi’s model
“We definitely this offseason are going be looking to get a little younger, a little more athletic,” Zaidi said. “I shouldn’t even use the term ‘younger,’ especially at risk of being accused of being ageist. But I think it’s more (about putting together) a healthier group, really, because age is only relevant in as far as it’s impacting your health and/or performance … I just think having a healthier group that’s firing on all cylinders is going to be a priority for us.
“The best solution for any organization isn’t always gonna be the most expensive solution.”
Not only does he have to think about the team’s future but his own future. If his model doesn’t work out here in San Francisco — if the Giants never produce the cheap young core they’ll need to actually be competitive — then he’ll need to be able to have a leg or two to stand on while looking for his next job or else risk becoming just an AGM or advisor elsewhere. Why would an owner trust him to not make a panic deal when the going gets tough?
Besides, even in an overpay situation, the Giants, through lack of talent and five or more teams better than them in the league, have a long road ahead. Sure, a player could be fine with not winning or whatever because he’d be making so much money, but if the money’s close, why change all of his routines and relationships to move back home and play out the rest of his career living in the shadow of the Dodgers?
I don’t know how you’d change a player’s mind on any of that, and neither does Farhan Zaidi:
I don’t know whether it’s a matter of having respect for my colleagues and peers or that I just don’t have the DNA of a salesman, but I don’t really try to get on the phone and convince people of how much they should want our players. You know, everybody has their network of information and scouts and people they rely on; and I think the people in these jobs are too savvy to take your word over the word of their own experts.
From a stats standpoint, he’ll be 31 next year. A long-term deal would take him to his late thirties, possibly even 40. They can’t all age like Nelson Cruz, though, and as Joe Sheehan wrote in his great newsletter, the history of ridiculously tall players is... not good:
Falling From Great Heights (bWAR from age 31 on, hitters 6’6” and up)
Dave Winfield 26.2
Frank Howard 17.8
Giancarlo Stanton 3.8
Dave Kingman 2.8
Adam Wainwright 2.2
As I always point out, that’s Adam Wainwright’s production as a hitter and defender — it doesn’t include his pitching. He’s among the top five tall hitters after age 30.
He’d also cost the team their second-highest draft pick and $500,000 from their international bonus pool. And if they sign two players who’ve rejected the qualifying offer (like Trea Turner), then they’d also forfeit their third-highest remaining pick and an additional $500,000.
But maybe Zaidi is into the idea, if only because he sees where the team is in terms of its talent and especially where hitting power and star power currently reside on the make the team money scale. I think that his never having made a deal of this magnitude has little to do with experience at this point and everything to do with his interest in risk.
Signing Judge would be a tremendous commitment with many knock-on effects. I remain unconvinced that he has any intention of moving off the model that’s worked for him ever since he pitched himself to the A’s. We’re in the Vladimir Guerrero situation all over again!
Q: Did you ever make an offer for
Vladimir GuerreroAaron Judge?
SabeanZaidi: In a word: No. If we had signed GuerreroJudge or [ GaryTrea] SheffieldTurner, we would have been without [ JimJoc] BrowerPederson, [Scott] EyreAlexander, [ MattJohn] HergesBrebbia, [ DustinMike] HermansonYastrzemski, [ BrettAustin] TomkoSlater, [DustanLaMonte] MohrWade Jr. and [ MichaelJakob] TuckerJunis–obviously not being able to field a competitive team, especially from an experience standpoint, given our level of spending.
The purpose of this post was not to prove that Farhan Zaidi is the 21st century Brian Sabean, but the evidence is clear: he is the new Brian Sabean. And I mean this as a compliment!
Aaron Judge would be a great fit for the Giants. He knows that. We know that. Few fans think that means “get him at any cost,” but fewer fans realize that teams are committed to not budging from their internal valuations of players. This isn’t the case with every team, only most teams, of which the Giants are firmly a part. If the risk model permits 6 years, $250 million, then somebody’s going to get him for 7 years and $280 million.
And even if all this misses the mark somehow, we’re still left with the obvious truth: there’s no way the Yankees will let him walk. The situation didn’t become acrimonious between team and player. They gave him a bad deal before the season, he rejected it and had an incredible, historic, fame-making season that will help the team sell more tickets. They’re going to give him a better deal and he’s going to sign it.
But, I hope I’m wrong.