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Aaron Judge: A conversation with Hal Steinbrenner saved everything at the last minute

In the past year, no player has been more talked about in MLB than Aaron Judge. The Yankees outfielder not only had a historic 2022 season in which he hit 62 homers, but the saga of his freelance rule captured attention.

And clearly, the fact that it operates in a market like New York has increased all that attention.

Recently, Ken Rosenthal published an excellent paper which relates in detail the end of the autonomy of the Judgewhich could have been GOOD different without a last-minute text message from Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner.

In the hours leading up to this message, Steinbrenner felt like he hadn’t been clear enough in his interactions with Judge to demonstrate his interest in keeping him. He knew other teams were courting him, but he felt he hadn’t done enough.

Brian Cashman had recommended that Steinbrenner manage the negotiations considering the importance of Judge, hence the fact that the owner was also involved in the file.

At that time, the Yankees were sticking with their offer, which was $320 million over eight years. What they didn’t know, though, was that at the same time, the Padres had just offered Judge around $415 million for at least 12 years.

That’s nearly $100 million more than the Yankees’ offer at this time.

On the recommendation of Yankees scouts, Steinbrenner (then in Italy) messaged Judge asking him to chat a bit. The outfielder sought the advice of his agents, who gave him some advice on how to prepare.

The two spoke on the phone in the middle of the night on the West Coast, and in the end, Steinbrenner agreed to give him a ninth grade in addition to offering him the captaincy.

We know the rest of the story: Judge accepted the Yankees’ offer, even though it was not as big as the Padres’ offer financially. However, Judge felt that his work in the Bronx was not done, so he preferred to return to the only club he had known.

But had Steinbrenner not sent that text message, Judge could very well have become a member of the Padres (or the Giants, but that was more unlikely) a few hours later.

And today, I feel like the Yankees owner doesn’t regret his decision in the least.

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