Red Sox Rumors: Could Boston steal Aaron Judge from the Yankees?
By Sean Penney
Would the Boston Red Sox break the bank for Aaron Judge?
Is this the last season that Aaron Judge will spend in the Bronx? The MVP frontrunner will have no shortage of suitors if he hits free agency after the season, perhaps including the Boston Red Sox.
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, there are no ongoing contract talks between Judge and the New York Yankees. The sides failed to agree upon a salary for the 2022 season, let alone a long-term deal, and they are scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Friday.
While it’s hard to believe that an organization with pockets as deep as the Yankees would allow themselves to be outbid for their best player, the impasse in contract negotiations opens the door for speculation that the three-time All-Star could be moving on after this season.
Olney provided a list of seven teams that could potentially pursue Judge. Despite that contract extension negotiations with their own superstars have stalled, the Red Sox were on his list.
Red Sox owner John Henry might be feeling pressured by a restless fan base following the franchise-altering trade that shipped Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fans were further irritated by the insulting offer they extended to Xander Bogaerts before the season, which he immediately rejected (don’t think we’ve forgotten about low-balling Jon Lester either).
While there’s obviously much more that goes into the business side of negotiations that makes the “give my favorite player a blank check” strategy unfeasible, the perception that the Red Sox have become allergic to spending money still lingers. Signing Trevor Story to a $140 million deal put a dent in that narrative. Splurging on Judge would shatter the illusion.
Judge is on pace for a career year, hitting .300 while leading the league with 25 home runs, 55 runs scored and a .644 slugging percentage.
Setting the financial aspects aside for a minute, Judge would be a great fit in Boston. Their offense could certainly use the tremendous power he brings to the middle of the lineup, especially if they elect to let J.D. Martinez leave in free agency. The Red Sox could let Martinez go in order to allow more flexibility in utilizing the designated hitter spot while upgrading the outfield with Judge.
Boston should have room available in the outfield with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Enrique Hernandez entering free agency after the season. Judge is a strong defensive right fielder with impressive athleticism for a player his size. Fenway Park’s right field is challenging but Judge has proven capable of handling it during numerous visits as a division rival.
Back to the financial part. Yes, Judge is going to be expensive with a contract that should average $30+ million per year. However, if the Red Sox let Martinez ($19.35 million), Bradley Jr. ($9.5 million) and Hernandez ($8 million) go and replace them with Judge plus minimum salaried players such as Jarren Duran and Triston Casas, they would actually be spending less on those three roster spots than they are this season.
There’s an $8 million buyout on JBJ’s contract that carves into those savings but the Red Sox have over $21 million in payments they are making this year to players who are no longer on the roster that will be falling off their books, including the final $16 million owed to David Price.
There’s enough money being removed from the payroll after this season that a mega-deal for Judge doesn’t prevent the Red Sox from locking up Bogaerts and Rafael Devers. A case can be made that the wiser path is spreading that money around to upgrade the pitching staff, especially with Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Wacha potentially leaving in free agency, but the Red Sox could sign Judge plus their two star infielders while maintaining a payroll similar to what they have this season.
Boston can afford the financial ramifications for 2023. The bigger question is how many years they would be willing to commit to Judge, who turns 31 years old next April. Judge already turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million offer from the Yankees that would have kicked in next year. Unless he honestly believes he’s going to crush that $30.5 million average annual value, Judge is presumably looking for additional years to boost the total value.
That’s a risk the Red Sox would be hesitant to take. Judge would be 38 years old for nearly the entirety of the final year of an eight-year deal. The threat of that contract turning into an albatross before the end is real. If he wants a longer deal that pushes toward his 40th birthday or beyond, we’re talking about the potential for several rough years on the back end.
The perception that the Red Sox are cheap is false. They are projected to exceed the $230 million luxury tax this season with a payroll that ranks fourth in the majors for tax purposes, per Spotrac. It’s not that Chaim Bloom is unwilling to spend, it’s that he’s rationale about the short and long-term fallout of those spending habits. Short-term, Judge would be a great signing that they can reasonable afford. Long-term, it could be a disaster.
The thought of stealing Judge from the Yankees is certainly sweet. Boston will show interest in Judge if he hits free agency but there will be a line in negotiations that they won’t be willing to cross. If the bidding war escalates out of control, the Red Sox would be better off focusing on locking up their own talented young stars and saving some funds for the pitching staff.