Aaron Judge = free agent. New York Yankees = not effective in free agency. Should be a fun one, guys! Though many analysts and pundits expect Judge to return to the Bronx, Yankees fans won’t believe it until he signs on the dotted line and is part of the 2023 Opening Day lineup at the Stadium.
No, not the San Francisco Giants’ Opening Day lineup at the Stadium. The other one.
There are some potential big players that are expected to be involved who could outbid the Yankees on the open market. The Giants, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers are the usual suspects up until this point. Some have even floated the LA Angels, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays — all of whom feel very unlikely to actually make it happen.
But what about others waiting in the shadows? Other contenders/up-and-coming rosters with plenty of money to spend thanks to a flexible payroll? Judge is the top name on the market and is the likely AL MVP for the 2022 season. Though some teams may not be willing to offer up massive long-term contracts due to the fact he’s entering his age-31 season, some could afford ridiculous short-term AAVs that might attract the slugger.
Who might those teams be? Some have been mentioned in passing throughout the year, but none have necessarily been taken seriously. Perhaps it’s time to do that as we get closer and closer to free agency erupting.
3 dark horse teams that could steal Aaron Judge from Yankees in free agency
3. Texas Rangers
Even after splurging $500+ million last offseason, the Texas Rangers enter 2023 with just $92 million guaranteed on their payroll. Why stop now?
Their primary need continues to be pitching, but the market isn’t exactly robust with top talent. There are a few notable names and then a big drop-off. Perhaps that’s a trade market endeavor for the Rangers.
As for free agency, their expenditures on Corey Seager ($325 million) and Marcus Semien ($175 million) kickstarted things last winter. They don’t have a full-time right fielder. They have a vacancy on the defensive side of the ball and an obvious fit in the middle of the order for Judge.
With only two long-term commitments in Seager and Semien (and if you want to count Jon Gray, who’s making $14 million AAV through 2025, fine), the Rangers have the financial flexibility to go above and beyond for Judge if they really wanted to. That allows them to also go short-term-heavy on potential options like Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom and/or Carlos Rodón. And don’t forget the no state income tax!
Watch out for Texas.