Aaron Judge surprised folks by turning down the Yankees’ $ 213.5 million, seven-year offer on the eve of this season. Judge gambled big, and won bigger. Yankees president Randy Levine called Judge an “all-time Yankee” on The Post podcast “The Show.” With Judge at 55 homers and counting, the price is rising, possibly by $ 75 million or more.
Thus, Judge tops my first-ever 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 declines the Yankees’ offer.
The Yankees made a reasonable bid. But now Judge’s own $ 36 million estimated salary ask seems more than reasonable.
“He’s a $ 40 million player,” claimed one expert. While negotiations didn’t go perfectly, 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 expecting someone to leave, Freeman appeared near tears upon his return to play as a Dodger in Atlanta. Regardless, Los Angeles got him for about the same money (or even a bit less if you figure California taxes and large deferrals 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 demeanor, he’s the opposite. As serious as Girardi seems, that’s how loose Thomson is. The change has worked wonders, as the Phillies have worked their way into 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, amended when team doctors thought they saw something. Now, the Cy Young favorite will obviously use 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 release; Rangers sign Martin Perez for $ 4M; Orioles, Mariners and Royals promotions of 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 raise from his $ 10 million salary di lui, is a year from free agency and had begun to struggle. While his struggles by lui only worsened in San Diego, it was like a bomb had been dropped on the Brewers’ clubhouse.
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. A complete thumbs down in Detroit.
3. The Marlins sign Avisail Garcia for $ 53 million over four years.
Garcia was apparently the fallback choice for ex CEO Derek Jeter, who reportedly first sought Nick Castellanos, but zeroed in on Garcia when other Miami execs were said to be “lukewarm” on him. Big mistake.
4. The Phillies sign Castellanos for $ 100 million over five years.
Good thing the Marlins didn’t get him, too. Castellanos can hit, but he hasn’t done it well enough to make up for his defensive shortcomings di lui.
5. The Red Sox fail to extend Rafael Devers or Xander Bogaerts.
While giving Trevor Story $ 140 million, Boston failed to make realistic offers to its two best players.
The Devers bid reportedly was patterned after Matt Olson’s $ 168 million deal, so it probably came up short by half. They didn’t even come that close on Bogaerts, offering only to add another year at an under-market $ 20 million.
Dishonorable mention: Fernando Tatis injuring himself on one of multiple motorcycle rides; Tatis failing his PED test.