It would be hard to fathom the New York Yankees allowing Aaron Judge -- who hit his league-leading 29th home run Wednesday afternoon -- to depart in free agency this offseason.
But until Brian Cashman and company are able to get Judge to sign on the dotted line, it's fair game to wonder about what teams could potentially pursue him on the open market this offseason.
In a piece for The New York Post, Jon Heyman broke down some of the potential free-agent landing spots for Judge this offseason. The two teams at the top of the list -- the San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox -- really stuck out.
Heyman correctly points out that in Farhan Zaidi's first offseason as the president of baseball operations in San Francisco, the Giants pursued Bryce Harper, seemingly finishing runner-up to the Philadelphia Phillies. From that sense, it completely checks out that they would be aggressive in pursuing Judge, who is from Linden, California and played collegiately at Cal State, Fresno.
On the other hand, the Giants -- as noted by ESPN's Kiley McDaniel -- didn't want to give contracts larger than $100 million this past winter, to the point where they allowed Kevin Gausman to depart for the Toronto Blue Jays on what now looks like a team-friendly five-year/$110 million deal.
Judge, of course, is going to be asking for a significantly larger deal than that, having turned down a seven-year/$213.5 million offer from the Yankees before the season. USA Today's Bob Nightengale wrote this past weekend that Judge "is expected to seek an eight-year deal for about $288 million."
The other factor to consider with Judge here is his legacy. Because he didn't play his first full MLB season until age-25 and has dealt with some injuries, he already faces an uphill battle to putting up enough numbers to eventually be worthy of Hall of Fame election. Oracle Park is one of the most beautiful stadiums in any sport, but it is much less hitter-friendly than Yankee Stadium, and would undoubtedly affect the numbers that Judge totals in his career.
As far as the Red Sox, Judge's camp would certainly love for them to be involved. If Judge wins the American League MVP and the Yankees don't re-sign him, there's going to be quite a large public backlash. If Judge wins the AL MVP and is allowed to leave for the Red Sox, all hell will break loose.
Xander Bogaerts is expected to opt out of his contract this offseason, while both Nathan Eovaldi and J.D. Martinez can become free agents. Those three are making a combined $56.35 million in 2022, so their departures would open up more than enough money to make a play for Judge, in theory.
Still, Bogaerts is hitting .328 with a 3.5 fWAR this season, so it's hard to imagine that the Red Sox won't make any serious effort to retain him. Superstar third baseman Rafael Devers can become a free agent after the 2023 season. It just doesn't seem like signing Judge -- who will be 31 in the first year of his contract -- is something that Chaim Bloom would do.
That's not to say that Heyman is incorrect in suggesting these are the two most likely non-Yankees landing spots for Judge in 2023. But perhaps that strengthens the argument that when push comes to shove, the Yankees and Judge make the most sense for each other.