News: Aaron Judge leads MLB in slugging and OPS again.
Views: Beyond being the best hitter in baseball and quite likely the best all-around position player, too, Aaron Judge is that superstar rarity: a $360 million bargain.
In the free-agent frenzy that was the 2022-23 winter, not all of the spending looks wise so far. Yes, it’s only one-third of the way through the first season of those mega contracts that last until the players are pushing 40, or in a few cases past 40, but so far, Judge stands tall — and alone — among the biggest of the big deals. (Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to judge, but that’s what we do here.)
Trea Turner, a shortstop with a rare speed-power combo, received a $300 million deal, and he has an 84 OPS plus, which means he’s hitting at a below-average level. Folks around the Phillies say he’s chasing pitches like never before, so perhaps it’s just a matter of trying to justify his monster deal.
Xander Bogaerts, a consistent offensive force with “the best bat-to-ball skills” of the free-agent shortstops (via one rival general manager), shocked the world when he received a $280 million, 11-year deal for the very determined Padres, who are said to have offered $342 million to Turner and discussed a deal with Judge for $415 million. While Bogaerts is playing superb defense for the shockingly mediocre Padres, a recent slump has dropped his batting average to .254.
(If Bogaerts doesn’t have the best contract in baseball, it may be Manny Machado, who got a $350 million, 10-year deal from the Padres to circumvent an opt out in his original $300 million deal. While the first deal worked, Machado played terribly by his standards before going on the IL.)
Carlos Correa ultimately signed back with his old Twins team for $200 million and six years after deals twice as long were scuttled with the Giants ($350M, 13 years) and Mets ($315M, 12 years) following issues found with his right foot and lower leg. Now there are issues with his left foot (plantar fasciitis and a muscle strain) and his 93 OPS plus is barely better than Turner’s mark.
That is not to say those aren’t great players or that those deals won’t ultimately work, but Judge, who leads MLB with a .630 slugging percentage and 1.032 OPS, is in a completely different category. While his was the highest free-agent contract (at least until Shohei Ohtani signs this winter), it was an obvious underpayment. Beyond the marketing advantages Judge brings, his play should have put him in a totally different category than those other players following his record 62-homer performance — not $10 million more than Machado or the first Correa deal, but at least $100 million more, and probably much more than that.
“You’ve got to appreciate it every day with him, the home runs, his baserunning, his defense, the way he prepares every day, him wanting to be in the lineup for the 11:30 [a.m.] game and not wanting a day off. It’s all of it, the total package,” Anthony Rizzo said. “We have a front-row seat, so we try not to take it for granted.”
Good thing they didn’t. Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner made the call to go from $320M to $360M by adding that ninth year, and he told us on The Post podcast “The Show” that he couldn’t recall much dissension over the decision. Perhaps not, but there was at least serious discussion, according to folks around the team. Anyway, credit Steinbrenner for ultimately making the right call.
There’s little doubt Judge could have gotten more money from the Padres or Giants, who already had offered the $360 million the Yankees were forced to match. It felt as if the Giants were just getting started (and would have gone higher), but Judge obviously wanted to remain a Yankee. There are obvious advantages to remaining in pinstripes from a historical and also a marketing standpoint.
And Judge is a loyal guy. He stuck with his medium-time agent when any of the big-time guys would have been thrilled to take him on. Judge was only looking for a fair deal, which is commendable (and surely different), and the Yankees got what looks like a relative bargain.
Vientos needs more ABs
News: Daniel Vogelbach and Tommy Pham keep playing while Mark Vientos is on the Mets.
Views: Vogelbach is popular, he isn’t a bad hitter and he has a guaranteed contract. But Vientos might be a star and he should play.
Vientos tore up Triple-A Syracuse to the tune of a 1.104 OPS, he’s a real prospect (whether he’s quite held in that regard or not) and he should be playing every day because he has a chance to be great.
He hasn’t done as well so far with the Mets as Syracuse (he has two hits in 14 at-bats), but he’s playing only sporadically, and usually only against lefties.
He should be DHing every day against lefties and righties. “[The Mets] have cooled him off by not playing him, not the other teams,” one NL scout said. “He needs to play every day to be effective.”
Manager Buck Showalter, who indicated Friday he plans to play Vientos the next three games, is in a tough spot because Vogelbach has hit about as well as expected (99 OPS) and isn’t deserving of a demotion.
But his greatest skill is walking, and he’s a base clogger.
It’s time to find out if Vientos can be great, and occasional at-bats against lefties won’t do it.
Boone’s antics just for show
News: Aaron Boone was ejected a third time in 10 games.
Views: Boone, who was suspended for Friday night’s game against the Padres following his latest ejection, looks like a crazy man at times. This isn’t him. I’ve seen him for 35 years (though admittedly only a few times 35 years ago, when I covered his dad Bob Boone’s Angels teams in the late 1980s) and I’ve never seen him angry outside of a game. My guess is it’s all a show with a strategy in mind.
He was a TV guy before he came to the Yankees to manage. On TV, sometimes you need to put on a show. And Boone puts on a great one, even when he doesn’t refer to anyone as a “savage.”
His tirades can tend toward the savage, but I suspect it’s all an act, not for fans, but for umpires who may be influenced. All his histrionics led to a change in Judge’s strike zone. Judge used to get the most wrong strike calls in baseball — almost all below the zone. He still gets some wrong strike calls, but not as many as before. Boone probably deserves an assist for that. Or an Academy Award.