Lukewarm Stove: How Much Judge is Seeking, Haniger's Market Expands, Predictions Don't Love the Cubs, More

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Lukewarm Stove: How Much Judge is Seeking, Haniger’s Market Expands, Predictions Don’t Love the Cubs, More

Chicago Cubs

Last night, free agent outfielder Aaron Judge was spotted arriving in San Francisco, where he is expected to meet with his first non-Yankees suitor this week, the San Francisco Giants. This morning, Mark Feinsand (MLB.com) was able to add some additional context to his trip, including the fact that he’s actually meeting with the Giants today and that Dodgers could be next.

He also had a sense of how much he’s seeking for his free agent contract, and hoo boy. It’s a lot. Let’s start there.

How Much Judge is Seeking

According to Mark Feinsand, Aaron Judge is believed to be seeking a deal of “at least eight years, with an average annual value exceeding $40 million.” So basically, that’s a MINIMUM of eight years and $320M, which … wow.

Morosi was slightly softer on this point, but not by much. He sees a total package of $300M+ and a chance at $40M/year.

That would be a $10M per-year increase *PLUS* an extra year over the 7-year, $213.5M deal Judge rejected from the Yankees last spring. The Yankees have reportedly upped their offer this offseason, and owner Hal Steinbrenner has met with Judge multiple times since the end of the season, but I don’t see them (or anyone, really) going to quite this range.

Let’s take a quick look at history to confirm.

Biggest total dollar guarantees (in new money)

  1. Mookie Betts: 12 years, $365M
  2. Mike Trout: 10 years, $360M
  3. Francisco Lindor: 10 years, $341M
  4. Fernando Tatis Jr.: 14/$340M
  5. Bryce Harper: 13 years, $330M
  6. Corey Seager: 10 years, $325M
  7. Giancarlo Stanton: 13 years, $325M
  8. Gerrit Cole: 9 years, $324M
  9. Manny Machado: 10 years, $300M

Of the nine players who’ve gotten $300M or more in new money, only one (Cole) went fewer than double-digits on the years. As such, most of them are in that $30-$35M range in terms of average annual value.

Biggest Average Annual Value:

  1. Max Scherzer: $43.3M
  2. Gerrit Cole: $36M
  3. Mike Trout: $35.5M
  4. Carlos Correa: $35.1M
  5. Anthony Rendon/Stephen Strasburg: $35M

And so far, only one player (a pitcher) has topped $40M in AAV, and that was a pretty unique situation with an older ace (Max Scherzer) and the deepest pockets in MLB (Steve Cohen’s Mets). Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom *might* get close on equally short deals this winter, but they’re also (1) older (2) aces, and, again, they’re both pitchers. Speaking of which, the next guy on the AAV rankings, Gerrit Cole, is also a pitcher.

My point here is that Aaron Judge, entering his age-31 season, wants to get something in the range of the sixth-highest guarantee of all-time ($320M+) *and* the highest ever average annual value for a position player (by a lot), and second-highest all-time otherwise? Nah. Ain’t happening. Maybe he’s worth the total dollars *or* the AAV, but not both at the same time … at age-31.

WITH THAT SAID, when you’re being chased by the Giants, Dodgers, Yankees, and Mets (which he is), anything is possible. In any case, this is just his initial ask. I’m guessing the final contract ends up less Judge-friendly than that, while still being a nice big chunk of change. Most expect the guarantee to easily top $300 million.

For what it’s worth, seven ESPN experts were asked to predict Aaron Judge’s outcome, and here’s where they landed:

  • Bradford Doolittle: 9 years, $340M (Yankees)
  • Alden Gonzalez: 8 years, $352M (Giants)
  • Joon Lee: 10 years, $360M (Yankees)
  • Kiley McDaniel: 9 years, $325M (Yankees)
  • Buster Olney: 9 years, $360M (Yankees)
  • Jesse Rogers: 10 years, $370M (Yankees)
  • David Schoenfield: 9 years, $332M (Giants)

My guess? Nine years, $320.4 million. That gives him his $300M deal and tops Mike Trout in average annual value by $100K ($35.6M).

ESPN Predictions Not Loving the Cubs

Speaking of those ESPN predictions, note that they’re truly just educated-guesses, not exact rumors. And I remind you of that for good reason: Those seven ESPN experts were tasked with predicting the outcomes for each of the big four free agent shortstops, and it wasn’t NEARLY as Cubs-heavy as you’d want to see. The only Cubs-connections of the 28 guesses?

Doolitte: Bogaerts to the Cubs, six-years, $180M
Rogers: Bogaerts to “Giants (or Cubs),” six-years, $180M
Gonzalez: Swanson to Cubs, six-years, $150M

That’s it. Two definite guesses, one shared projection, and zero ties to Trea Turner or Carlos Correa.

Now, this isn’t entirely surprising, as Jesse Rogers has pretty much led the charge on the Cubs *not* over-spending or over-committing on years for one of these free agent shortstops this winter. And, to be sure, getting Bogaerts on six/$180M would hardly be the end of the world (that would actually be awesome, even if it isn’t my top choice).

But still. I hoped to see a whole lot more than that. Good thing these are just predictions, eh?

Mitch Haniger’s Market

According to Ken Rosenthal (The Athletic), the Rangers are showing interest in free agent outfielder Mitch Haniger, but they’re not alone. The Giants are also involved on Haniger, as are the Dodgers and Angels (per Jon Morosi), as are the Braves and Twins (per Joe Doyle).

That’s a healthy market for Haniger, 31, who missed more than three months in 2022 (sprained ankle), did not play in 2020 (multiple surgeries + shortened season), and got into just 63 games in 2019 (ruptured testicle, torn adducator muscle).

Of course, when he was on the field full-time in 2017, 2018, and 2021, he was a great hitter:

  • 2017 (96 games, 410 PAs): .282/.352/.491 (129 wRC+); 2.3 WAR
  • 2018 (157 games, 683 PAs): .285/.366/.493 (137 wRC+); 4.8 WAR
  • 2021 (157 games, 691 PAs): .253/.318/.485 (121 wRC+); 2.1 WAR

As an older righty with corner outfield limitations, I don’t see him as a fit for the Cubs, who could use a left-handed hitting center fielder. Haniger ranks as the 47th best free agent according to FanGraphs, with a blended projected contract in the 2-3 years $8-$12M AAV range.

Odds and Ends

  • The Red Sox and Yankees have also “made contact” with the representatives of free agent starter Kodai Senga (per Jon Morosi). So you can add them to a list that definitely includes the Giants, Mets, Cubs, Padres, and Rangers. That list is likely a lot longer, though, as Mark Feinsand reports that “at least a quarter of the league,” if not more has already been in touch with Senga’s representatives.
  • Feinsand also added that Trea Turner is “probably” the Phillies top target this offseason. We’ve heard that one before.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami