The Athletic's Aaron Judge story reveals how poorly Yankees misread MVP's market

Aaron Judge Press Conference
Aaron Judge Press Conference / Dustin Satloff/GettyImages

Hey, we're on the other side. New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner got the job done. Aaron Judge is now the Captain of this team for the foreseeable future after signing a nine-year, $360 million contract this offseason.

Let's get the nice stuff out of the way. Steinbrenner deserves credit for his involvement in the free agency process. The Yankees deserve credit for retaining Anthony Rizzo and bringing in both Carlos Rodón and Tommy Kahnle (both of whom are already injured, but we digress...). But the richest organization in the sport was very close to losing it all. On Thursday, we discovered how perilous the situation got for New York.

Ken Rosenthal's latest story for The Athletic (subscription required) chronicles the hectic final hours of Judge's free agency and what went down behind the scenes. Now we know a little bit more than we did before, and fans can't help but wonder why it even got to this point.

According to Rosenthal, the Yankees, at first, were reluctant to budge off their eight-year, $320 million offer. The Giants courted Judge and offered more, and the Padres, as we know, came in at the final hour with an offer in the $400 million range.

It was apparently larger than we previously thought, too. Rosenthal says the deal was believed to be "at least 12 years" and in the "$415 million range" -- almost $100 more than what the Yankees were initially comfortable with.

Yankees misread Aaron Judge's market but Hal Steinbrenner saved the day

The prevailing narrative has seemingly been "Hal Steinbrenner saved the day," but in reality, Judge was always asking for $360 million. That was his number before the start of the 2022 season and before he won AL MVP, putting forth an historic season. The Yankees still wouldn't meet that number until outside threats arrived. And the Yankees, quite frankly, got lucky that he wanted to remain with the team for less money, or else he'd be playing in California right now.

Also, some might be wondering what even is the point of Brian Cashman as general manager. He leaked the "lowball" $213.5 million extension offer before the start of the season, then seemingly presented the $320 million offer, and finally "urged" Steinbrenner to take a more prominent role in the negotations (per Rosenthal). What purpose did Cash serve other than nearly derailing this whole thing?

The Yankees were obviously never going to bid against themselves, which is understandable as well as smart business. And the Padres have been baseball's version of Tyler Durden with their unpredictability and aggression, so that was an unexpected wrench. But $100 million off?

This just all seemed to be in line with the Yankees' worst practices, which ended up resulting in desperation and scrambling. A $6 billion enterprise shouldn't have to do that, and hopefully they learn from it in the future ... even though they probably wont.