By Morris Phillips
The Giants have been down this road before. In need of a focal point offensively, and wanting to get younger and usher in a new era, they signed 28-year old Barry Bonds as a free agent in 1993.
That move worked out tremendously.
The initial outlay was $43.75 million over six years, then the highest priced contract in total, and average value per year in the game. The Giants enjoyed a decade of success, and moved into their new downtown ballpark during that run. Bonds went on to be the biggest name in baseball with the records and accomplishments to match.
The 2022 Giants, coming off a 107-win season in 2021, have faltered and are on the verge of turning the page, and likely moving on from their most established stars and several pricey contracts.
The Yankees and slugger Aaron Judge have failed to consummate a contract extension, and the 30-year old is poised to hit the free agent market in the off-season as the game’s biggest prize.
Should the Giants be interested? Would the $200 million cost be a shrewd investment or a boondoggle? Let’s look.
In seven Major League seasons, Judge has showcased his trademark power, hitting 206 home runs to date. His high strikeout numbers and injury history have tempered the buzz surrounding his 6’7″ frame with his 2018 through 2020 seasons truncated due to injury.
But in the last two seasons, Judge has put it all together with 48 home runs and a .297 batting average to date, and attempting to register one of the biggest offensive seasons in the last 25 years. Judge is slugging at .663 clip with 1.056 OPS that leads all of MLB along with his home runs and RBI (105).
What players have put up a full season of comparable numbers? The list is short: Bonds, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.
Adding to the Judge aura: He’s cut down on his strikeouts, lifted his batting average to a career-best, and he’s a credible base stealer, successful on 14 of 15 attempts.
So why would the Giants be in play? Here’s where it gets interesting. Barring a triumphant run to the World Series, the Yankees and Judge may consider parting ways. Their contract negotiations have been contentious and eventually stalled prior to this season’s start exacerbated by the labor strife that pitted the player’s union against the 30 team owners.
The quiet and private Judge may have grown tired of New York City, and might be amenable to a change of scenery. His childhood home of Linden, California outside of Stockton would be nearby if he chose San Francisco.
And here’s the biggest reason the Giants and Judge might be a fit. The limited market for Judge’s services point toward the Giants as several other teams have made free agent moves in recent seasons while the Giants have swung and missed on Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto.
And this time a superior trade package won’t Trump the Giants. Money and a belief that Judge can maintain is superstar status throughout a five or six-year deal will be all that’s needed.
Would you pull the trigger on such a move? You and the Giants are on the clock.