Aaron Judge surprised people by turning down the Yankees’ $213.5 million, seven-year offer on the eve of this season. Judge played big, and won bigger. Yankees president Randy Levine called Judge “an all-time Yankee” on The Post podcast “The Show”. With Judge at 55 home runs and counting, the price tag is rising, possibly at $75 million or more.
Thus, Judge tops my very first list of the five best decisions of the last calendar year. Here are the five best, and for balance the five worst, decisions of the past 365 days.
1. Judge rejects the Yankees’ offer.
The Yankees made a reasonable offer. But now Judge’s own estimated salary request of $36 million seems more than reasonable.
“He’s a $40 million player,” claimed one expert. While negotiations have not gone smoothly, few expect him to leave. The one edge the Yankees have in talks: the pinstripes are a major plus.
2. The Dodgers sign Freddie Freeman for $162 million, six years.
Speaking of not waiting for someone to leave, Freeman appeared near tears after his return to play as a shortstop in Atlanta. Regardless, Los Angeles got him for about the same money (or even a little less if you count California taxes and big delays in the deal) as the offer that upset him from the Braves ($135 million for five officially, $140 million verbally ).
3. The Phillies hire bench coach Rob Thomson as manager, replacing Joe Girardi.
Thomson was Girardi’s right-hand man, but in terms of behavior, he is the opposite. As serious as Girardi seems, that’s how loose Thomson is. The change worked wonders as the Phillies made their way into a playoff position.
4. The Marlins sign Sandy Alcantara for $56 million over five years, plus an option for 2027.
Alcantara is a Cy Young favorite and his four complete games are more than most teams. Hat tip to ex-Marlins general manager Michael Hill, who acquired Alcantara, Zac Gallen, Daniel Castano and Magneuris Sierra for Marcell Ozuna.
5. The Astros sign Justin Verlander for $25 million for 2022, plus a player option.
This move might have been even higher had the Astros stuck with their original two-year deal, changed when team doctors thought they saw something. Now, the Cy Young favorite will obviously exercise that option.
Honorable mention: Cardinals sign Albert Pujols for $2.5M; White Sox sign Johnny Cueto to minors deal; Mets hire Buck Showalter; Dodgers sign Tyler Anderson for $8M and re-sign Clayton Kershaw for $17M; Yankees acquire Jose Trevino in trade with Texas and sign Matt Carpenter for $2M off Rangers waiver; Rangers sign Martin Perez for $4M; Orioles, Mariners and Royals promotions by Adley Rutschman, Julio Rodriguez and Bobby Witt Jr., respectively.
1. The Brewers trade Josh Hader for Taylor Rogers and three prospects.
Analytically, and logically, it made sense. Hader is due a $10 million salary raise, is a year into free agency and has begun to struggle. While his struggles only worsened in San Diego, it was like a bomb was thrown on the clubhouse of the brewers.
2. The Tigers sign Javier Baez for $140 million.
Baez is a talented and exciting player known for his wild swings, and pitchers have taken advantage of his hitting plan, or lack thereof. Full thumbs down in Detroit.
3. The Marlins sign Avisail Garcia for $53 million over four years.
Garcia was apparently the alternative choice for former CEO Derek Jeter, who reportedly sought out Nick Castellanos first, but turned his attention to Garcia when other Miami executives were said to be “hot” on him. Big mistake.
4. The Phillies sign Castellanos for $100 million over five years.
Good thing the Marlins didn’t grab him either. Castellanos can hit, but hasn’t done it well enough to make up for his defensive deficiencies.
5. The Red Sox fail to extend Rafael Devers or Xander Bogaerts.
By giving Trevor Story $140 million, Boston didn’t make realistic offers to their two best players.
The Devers offer was reportedly designed after Matt Olson’s $168 million deal, so it probably came up short by half. They didn’t even come that close to Bogaerts, offering only to add another year at a below-market $20 million.
Dishonorable mention: Fernando Tatis injuring himself on one of multiple motorcycle rides; Tatis failing his PED test.