The Giants are planning to sit down with the market’s top free agent this week, as Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweets they’re expected to meet with Aaron Judge. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports the parties have a sit-down scheduled for tomorrow (on Twitter).
It’s notable but entirely unsurprising to see the Giants in the market for Judge. They’ve long been speculated as perhaps the top threat to the Yankees for the reigning AL MVP’s services. That’s both a reflection of the slugger’s ties to Northern California and, more importantly, to the abundance of financial breathing room at the Giants’ disposal. As MLBTR’s Darragh McDonald explored this afternoon, the Giants are as well-positioned as any team to make a major splash on the open market.
San Francisco’s 2023 payroll commitments are presently estimated around $133MM, per Roster Resource. They’ve opened seasons with player spending upwards of $200MM in previous seasons, and while those heights were reached before the pandemic, they’re still well shy of last year’s $155MM Opening Day figure. The long-term books are almost bare, with just over $20MM in guaranteed commitments for 2024. By 2025, the club has only a $3.5MM player option for Wilmer Flores on the ledger. In that context, it’s easy to understand president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi declaring at the GM Meetings earlier this month that “from a financial standpoint, there would be nobody that would be out of our capability.”
That includes Judge, who’s expected to land the largest deal of the offseason. He set the AL home run record with 62 home runs and hit .311/.425/.686 through 157 games. It’d have been nearly impossible to draw up a better platform season, and while Judge certainly can’t be expected to replicate that kind of production, he’s now a career .284/.394/.583 hitter in over 3000 MLB plate appearances. Few players are more imposing offensive forces. Judge also typically rates as an above-average defensive right fielder and played reasonably well over 632 2/3 innings of center field work for the Yankees this past season. He’d probably be a better fit for the corner in spacious Oracle Park, but his play in right field would upgrade an outfield defense that was among the league’s worst this year.
MLBTR predicts Judge to land an eight-year deal worth $332MM; the $41.5MM average annual value would rank second all-time, while it’d be the largest overall guarantee for a free agent in history. While the Yankees and Giants are generally perceived as the favorites in the bidding, he’s also been linked to the Dodgers. Feinsand first reported last month that L.A. was considering the possibility of jumping into the Judge market while contemplating kicking Mookie Betts into second base. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reiterated the Dodgers’ interest last week.
Of course, there are myriad possibilities for the Giants (and other big-spending teams) beyond Judge. San Francisco has also been connected to the top free agent shortstops available — Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson and Xander Bogaerts — as well as center fielder Brandon Nimmo. San Francisco also has needs in the bullpen and could look to make a splash at the top of the rotation. There are a number of avenues for Zaidi and his front office to explore, starting at the very top of free agency.