Is Aaron Judge Already Using Red Sox As Leverage Against Yankees?

'A lot of great history here, and this is one of the best places to play'

by

September 14

If anyone in baseball history has ever had a better season ahead of free agency than Aaron Judge in 2022, it’s a very short list.

The New York Yankees slugger is in the process of rewriting the record books with a career season, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Judge will be a free agent for the first time in his career following the campaign. There probably will be some interest in a hulking slugger coming off a 65-home run season who also can play a little defense — even if he will be 31 years old by Memorial Day next season.

So, yes, there will be suitors. ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Wednesday confidently declared Judge will get that $300 million contract after declining an extension from the Yankees worth $213.5 million.

And with the Yankees in Boston this week — and Judge hitting two home runs on center stage at Fenway Park on Tuesday — there’s been some talk about the Red Sox stealing away their biggest rival’s best player in the winter. Judge was asked point-blank whether he’d consider that.

“Ooh, we’ll talk about that at the end of the year,” Judge told MassLive’s Matt Vautour in a postgame media scrum Tuesday night, as seen on YES Network.

That came at the end of a question-and-answer session in which Judge spoke quite highly of Red Sox fans.

“They were wearing me out on deck — I don’t know if they were cheering or not,” he said when asked about even some Red Sox fans cheering his history-making performance. “I love baseball fans, just fans all over. Red Sox-Yankees, it doesn’t matter, they came here to see a good game and a good show, and both teams tonight put on a good show for them

“They’re some of the best (fans) in baseball. They’re going to boo you, they’re going to say some things that make you laugh, it’s all part of it. A lot of great history here, and this is one of the best places to play.

“It’s always fun going out to try and put on a show for them,” he said with a smile.

That must be unsettling for Yankees fans who want to see Judge back in pinstripes next year and beyond. And while it’s certainly possible Judge does sign with the Red Sox in the offseason, these comments are likely to be one of two things. The first is Judge being diplomatic and polite, answering questions from a local reporter about the hometown team. That explanation is as boring as it is plausible.

The more entertaining objective would be Judge is using the Red Sox experience to gain leverage against the Yankees in search of every last available penny Hal Steinbrenner is willing to commit to a single player. While Judge has said he hopes to be a “Yankee for life,” it makes at least some sense, right? The Yankees are in a two- or three-year window in which they could conceivably win multiple World Series titles. That’s with Judge on board, though. To do so while the Red Sox are in the midst of an apparent downturn is just gravy.

Judge flipping sides, though, could change the entire calculus. For at least a few years, he could absolutely wear out the Green Monster and serve as the foundation around which the next great Red Sox team could be built. The story writes itself, and Judge leaving it open — “Ooh, we’ll talk about that at the end of the year” — could be seen as a not entirely subtle way of saying “Hey, there’s gonna be a market and these guys could be right there, too.”

In the middle of a historic home run chase with the backdrop of a pennant push for the Yankees, sowing free agency seeds probably isn’t at the forefront of Judge’s mind. But it sure would be fun if that were the case.

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