In need of another power bat to lengthen their lineup and shift their offensive approach, the Mets and their never-afraid-to-spend ownership have been linked with Yankees slugger and free agent Aaron Judge since it became clear that he would test the open market.
Such a concept is unprecedented: The face of the Yankees, the pride of one of the most recognizable sports franchises on the planet skipping town to go to Queens to play with the Mets. Unheard of.
But the Yankees made their spring-training offer of a seven-year, $213.5M contract extension public, which disappointed the 6-foot-8 slugger. He proceeded to turn around and make what probably was the greatest bet on oneself in human history.
He set an American League record with 62 home runs, batted .311, and led the league in RBI (131) on-base percentage (.425), slugging percentage (.686), and OPS (1.111).
There’s never been a better season for a player going into free agency, and Judge is going to get paid. It just remains to be seen if it will come from the Yankees.
Owner Hal Steinbrenner has often made it known that he isn’t willing to exceed Major League Baseball’s luxury tax threshold. Paying Judge a contract well north of $300 million — which is exactly what he deserves — won’t help that mindset. After all, the Yankees already have the bloated contracts of Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole on their books while having to address a litany of other issues that plagued the team in 2022. That ranged from a lack of starting-pitching depth to the little production out of the third-base and shortstop spots.
So the baseball world finds itself with one eye transfixed on the potential Judge sweepstakes. After all, there should be a healthy number of suitors lining up just to have a conversation with the 30-year-old’s representation.
Are the Mets such a fit for Aaron Judge?
Not likely, at least at this moment.
The Mets have an abundance of key free agents that they’ll have to make decisions on retaining — most notably starting pitcher Jacob deGrom and center fielder Brandon Nimmo. While deGrom could receive one of the richest average annual value contracts in MLB history, Nimmo’s impressive 2022 proved that he is just as invaluable a part of the Mets’ machine as an ever-improving center fielder and a key lead-off bat.
He’ll undoubtedly have other offers on the table as well, including that of the Colorado Rockies, so the Mets will likely have to act quickly to keep him in Queens. They’ll have to act with haste for closer Edwin Diaz as well, who could become the first-ever $100 million reliever.
Retaining Nimmo would keep the Mets’ outfield from 2022 intact alongside Starling Marte and Mark Canha, meaning the team’s largest offensive need this winter will be a power-hitting designated hitter — something neither Nimmo, Marte, and Canha are. And Judge’s defensive ability would make it an unreasonable ask for him to DH full-time, either.
Add those other needs amongst the roster sheet with the fact that Judge simply might not want to deal with the fallout of jumping ship for the Mets of all teams, as Jon Heyman of the New York Post first noted. If the right offer were to come from a west-coast team closer to his hometown like the San Francisco Giants or Los Angeles Dodgers, then the likelihood of him leaving the Bronx would understandably increase.