Giant gesture for Aaron Judge sets fire to MLB winter meetings

Giant gesture for Aaron Judge sets fire to MLB winter meetings


SAN DIEGO — At around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, just as San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler was wrapping up his winter meeting session with reporters, news began spreading through the lobby of the Manchester Grand Hyatt that the star of this year’s free agent market had made up his mind. It all started with a tweet, quickly retractedwhich suggested that Aaron Judge was enforcing the New York Yankees’ worst-case scenario by signing with the Giants.

He persisted despite repeated assurances from Giants CEO Larry Baer, ​​stuck in the hotel driveway, that he had “nothing to report”, despite Kapler insisting that he hadn’t heard anything – although he admitted, somewhat timidly, that he had spoken to the reporters. , without looking at his phone. By the time the sun set on an overcast day here, nothing was official.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he had just gotten out of the shower when the rumor reached him. He called general manager Brian Cashman, who told him nothing had changed as far as he knew. A few minutes later, it’s his turn to meet some journalists, whom he greets with a smile and a joke about the fortuitous timing.

“It’s been an uncomfortable hour,” he admitted.

Elsewhere it was frenetic. Reporters in the lobby checked charter flights from Tampa, where Judge hosted Tom Brady during Monday night’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, to San Diego. They found one, landing in the late afternoon. Today’s baseball news – including first baseman Josh Bell agreeing to a two-year contract with the Cleveland Guardians and southpaw Andrew Heaney agreeing to sign with the Texas Rangers for two years, according to people familiar with the deals — seemed quaint in comparison.

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Judge had been at the center of the baseball world for most of the season, from when he turned down the Yankees’ extension offer in April until the night the Yankees’ season ended when the future World Series the champion Houston Astros swept them in the American League Championship Series.

For the Yankees, Judge was the foundation on which they had to build this offseason, not a prize to be won. He was the AL’s MVP, and with good reason: No baseball player had as much on-field influence over the fate of his team as Judge, as he sometimes single-handedly supported their roster on the stretch. . He would be the biggest Giants star since Buster Posey – possibly since Barry Bonds.

So the day in San Diego belonged to Judge, who had neither started the day in San Diego nor appeared to have made up his mind by the time the inaugural MLB draw – won by the Pittsburgh Pirates – gently attempted to change the subject. Agent Scott Boras held his unique media scrum. He’s usually the man with the big stars at these meetings, and he has a few – but none of them are judges.

One such client was Cody Bellinger, the enigmatic 2019 National League MVP who did not earn a contract from the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has agreed to a one-year contract worth $17.5 million with the Chicago Cubs, according to a person familiar with the situation. The Giants had been interested in adding Bellinger to their outfield, people familiar with their thinking said. But if they were going to lose a top outfielder on Tuesday, you might assume they’d rather it be him. (They added outfielder Mitch Haniger on a three-year contract worth $43.5 million, ESPN reported, but that wouldn’t stop them from grabbing Judge as well.)

Another Boras client and elite outfielder, former New York Met Brandon Nimmo, was in San Diego this week meeting with teams. But his fate also seemed tied to Judge’s.

“It’s expected that some clubs will wait to take the next step depending on the outcome” of Judge’s free agency, Boras told reporters.

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Would the Giants need an outfielder if they lost Judge? Otherwise, plenty of teams have room for a fast, stable, high-end bat like Nimmo’s – if they’re willing to spend what Boras will need on him. Even the Tampa Bay Rays, not known for their prolific spending, have shown interest, according to a person familiar with Nimmo’s market.

So Nimmo remained on the roster of top free agents who have yet to sign — some of whom could represent backup offensive additions for the Yankees or Giants if Judge were missed. Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, receiver Willson Contreras and left-hander Carlos Rodón remained unsigned late Tuesday afternoon, although right-hander Taijuan Walker agreed to a deal, according to multiple reports, with the Philadelphia Phillies, which added throwing depth a day after catching the star shortstop. Trea Turner. The extent to which all of their markets depended on Judge will be clear in hindsight. But the scale of speculation surrounding them on Tuesday was miniscule in comparison.

No one’s decision could set the baseball world ablaze the way Judge seemed to on Tuesday, when segments of the baseball fandom rooting against the Yankees were desperate to believe that where there’s smoke, there’s smoke. fire – and the Yankees prayed it was a false alarm.

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