Aaron Judge spoke highly of Boston this week as the Yankees won back-to-back games against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Maybe it was genuine. Maybe it was lip service. Heck, maybe it was a bargaining tactic, with the hope of convincing New York to pony up the cash necessary to retain his services this offseason.
Whatever the case, it was enough to pique curiosity: What if the next time Judge returns to Boston, he’s holding up a Red Sox jersey at an introductory press conference?
Far-fetched? Sure. But an intriguing possibility, nonetheless. And it’s OK for Red Sox fans’ minds to wander a bit as Boston limps toward the finish line in the American League East. A pivotal winter awaits.
The argument in favor of the Red Sox targeting Judge in free agency is obvious: He’s a really, really good player, and Boston could use more really, really good players. Few, if any, have a higher ceiling than Judge — perhaps literally given his gargantuan frame — who’s a total game-changing force.
More specifically, the Red Sox need an infusion of power, something Judge obviously has in spades. Judge left Fenway Park with 57 home runs in his back pocket (after launching two Tuesday night), surpassing the combined total (56) of Boston’s top three home run hitters (Rafael Devers, Trevor Story and Xander Bogaerts).
The Red Sox have hit 136 home runs this season, which ranks 20th in Major League Baseball. The Yankees lead MLB with 224.
Judge also had 20 more home runs than Philadelphia Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber, who ranks second in MLB, when leaving Boston on Wednesday night, marking the first time a player finished a calendar day with a 20-plus homer lead since the final day of the 1928 season (when Babe Ruth led Jim Bottomley and Hack Wilson by 23 homers).
Of course, it’d be foolish to expect Judge to replicate his 2022 output every year moving forward. We’re literally witnessing history. It’s only natural he’ll regress, to some extent, particularly toward the end of the monster contract he’ll inevitably sign this offseason.
But don’t act like Fenway wasn’t filled with real-life versions of the thinking emoji this week as the Aaron Judge Show rolled through Boston. The Red Sox have a lot of money coming off the books this offseason, and writing a hefty check to boost your own lineup while stunning your most hated rival is the type of double-whammy that can shift the balance of power in the AL East for 2023 and beyond. Plus, the Red Sox have a clear need in the outfield, and Judge’s offensive approach and prowess could have a positive trickle-down effect on other younger players, like first baseman Triston Casas.
If only it were that simple.
Judge has given no indication he wants to leave the Bronx, despite rejecting a seven-year, $213.5 million contract offer back in April, and the Yankees simply cannot afford to lose one of baseball’s elite talents — and biggest attractions — at a time when their World Series window is wide open. Any team looking to outbid the Bombers better be prepared to crack open its piggy bank, as a deal in excess of $300 million seems like more of a lock with each towering long ball.
The Red Sox might have the financial resources to swim in those waters, but would they be willing to cannonball into the pool knowing Judge, who’s dealt with injuries in the past, could break down a few years from now and experience a steep decline that turns the contract into an albatross?
After all, they already need to make decisions regarding the futures of their homegrown stars, Bogaerts (who can opt out of his contract this offseason) and Devers (a free agent after next season). And adding Judge to a long-term core that also includes both Bogaerts and Devers doesn’t seem feasible.
Ultimately, the Red Sox probably won’t be major players for Judge, as it’s a move that seemingly would fly in the face of Chaim Bloom’s DNA as Boston’s chief baseball officer. The Red Sox didn’t have the stomach for the contract Mookie Betts commanded, and it’s hard to imagine their appetite suddenly changing for Judge three years later with other internal questions to snack on.
But again, it’s OK to dream, for this Red Sox season largely has been a nightmare and Judge’s epic power display this week at Fenway Park was another wake-up call of the work that lies ahead for Boston.