Tomase: Why Aaron Judge to the Red Sox makes zero sense originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Red Sox refuse to spend on their own players, and now they're going to shell out $300 million for Aaron Judge? Help me understand how that makes any sense.
ESPN floated the possibility on Wednesday, listing the Red Sox among seven suitors for the superstar Yankees slugger, who failed to agree to a contract extension this spring and has seemed determined to make the Bombers regret it every day since with free agency beckoning in the fall.
Judge goes to arbitration on Friday with quite a case for himself. If the season ended today, he'd probably be the American League MVP. He's hitting .300 with a league-leading 25 homers and .644 slugging percentage. He's the rare 6-foot-7 slugger without a hole in his swing, and when he leaves the park, there's no doubt about it. In a sport desperately seeking larger-than-life figures, Judge qualifies in both the literal and figurative senses.
His right-handed power is seemingly made for Fenway Park, though it should be noted he's only a .179 hitter here. (Jackie Bradley Jr. might have a little something to do with that).
Let's just stop right there, however, because nothing the Red Sox have done since hiring Chaim Bloom to run their baseball operations suggests they're suddenly going to outspend the market on anyone, let alone a 30-year-old slugger with a troubling injury history who's almost certainly going to be overpaid.
Here's how ESPN pitched it:
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
This is a franchise that traded Mookie Betts, stunned Xander Bogaerts with a shockingly light extension offer and apparently has made few inroads on a long-term deal with Rafael Devers.
So why might Boston owner John Henry get involved with Judge?
Because he's responsible for the trade of Betts; greenlighted the offer to Bogaerts; and hasn't locked up Devers. There is unrest among Red Sox fans, many of whom have become convinced their team has become allergic to spending big money. The signing of Judge would change that narrative, rip the Yankees' best position player out of their lineup, and get Red Sox fans turning out early to watch Judge put divots in the aluminum siding that protects the Green Monster.
Lowballing Bogaerts and failing to engage with Devers aren't some unlucky accidents. They're choices. If Henry wants to undo that bad will, he could simply offer his own players what they're worth.
That he so far refuses to do so should tell us all we need to know about Judge. It does not logically follow that Henry's response to balking at big money for his homegrown stars would be going all-in on the biggest name in free agency.
If you've only got one $300 million contract to play with -- and even that's no guarantee in this new Red Sox era of payroll flexibility -- it's got to be Devers. At 25, he's five years younger than Judge, far more durable, AND HE'S ALREADY HERE. He's also having a better season by WAR (a league-leading 3.9, compared to 3.4 for Judge) and other advanced metrics. Devers, like Judge, is a beast.
The days of one franchise trying to steal a player from the other should've ended when the Yankees bestowed $155 million upon Jacoby Ellsbury while Red Sox fans snickered in 2013. Judge is better than Ellsbury (although don't discount that monster 2011 season), but he comes with some of the same concerns.
Since arriving full-time in 2017, Judge has missed at least 30 games three times, including the COVID-shortened 2020, when he appeared in only 28 of 60 games. He has been sidelined by a broken wrist, strained oblique, and fractured rib. At his size (6-foot-7, 282 pounds) and age (he turned 30 in April), he's a prime breakdown candidate. When you miss over 150 games in your late 20s, you're probably not going to become more durable in your 30s.
That calculus undoubtedly played a role in the Yankees only offering him seven years and $213.5 million this spring, a reasonable offer in a vacuum, but one that's not going to get it done in a market where Corey Seager is a $300 million player and the Padres have spent like oligarchs.
There is no earthly reason for the Red Sox to spend lavishly on Judge when his equal as a slugger has worn the uniform since signing as a 16-year-old. I remain unconvinced the Red Sox will sign Devers, which only makes it more ludicrous that they would even consider Judge. Cross them off his list.