LAS VEGAS — Myriad topics will swirl about during the annual general managers’ meetings, which officially begin here Tuesday.
One topic loomed above the rest Monday as the GMs and their underlings continued to arrive at the Conrad Las Vegas at Resorts World: Aaron Judge.
During the World Series, Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said of Judge’s free agency: “I think the whole league will be following it.” He added, “He’s the MVP of the league and he’s a free agent, and not often the MVP is a free agent.’’
They’ll be following it just as closely at the executive level. The overwhelming feeling among a straw poll of executives reflects what has been the industry-wide prediction all season among players, managers and coaches: Judge ultimately will end up back with the Yankees.
The negotiations may drag, there likely will be other suitors, there could be some tense moments, the cost will be immense in both years and dollars — but the feeling is that Judge will be back in pinstripes.
The executive here most responsible for that outcome, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who arrived at the Conrad late Sunday night, knows what the overwhelming number of fans of his club expect.
“We’d love to be able to bring Aaron Judge back and have him maintain being a member of this franchise, and the career path he’s currently on is Hall of Fame-like,” Cashman said Friday at his end-of-season news conference. “Certain individual players transcend the team, and everything stops when they’re at the bat or if they have the ball in their hand, and he’s one of those types of talents.”
Speaking specifically of the Yankees’ fan base, Cashman said: “[Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner] wants to make them happy, and he’s always been driven that way, to try and make our fans happy. Hopefully we’ll have some positive conversations that lead to the outcome we want, but we’ll see.”
Expect Cashman, who is scheduled to officially address the media Tuesday, to touch base with Judge’s representation at various points during the meetings. Significant news on that front during these meetings, which Cashman in years past has described half-jokingly as “a necessary evil,” is unlikely, though.
There have been exceptions, but these meetings usually don’t produce much in the way of newsy headlines. They do lay plenty of groundwork for future deals as general managers meet among themselves and with player agents.
The biggest news to come from here likely would be if word breaks of another team having serious interest in meeting with Judge this offseason. A handful of teams — the Giants (whom Judge grew up rooting for), the Dodgers, the Mets and the Red Sox, to name a few — can afford the kind of contract the outfielder is expected to land.
It’s difficult to find anyone who thinks that contract will be worth anything less than $300 million, and it’s possible that it will be for quite a bit more than that.
Judge, who will be 31 in April, turned down the Yankees’ $213.5 million extension offer just before Opening Day, then embarked on a historic regular season in which he hit an American League-record 62 homers, breaking the mark of 61 hit by Roger Maris in 1961. He batted .311 and drove in 131 runs. The playoffs were a different story, though. Judge went 5-for-36 (.139) with two homers and a .490 OPS in nine games, including 1-for-16 as the Yankees were swept by the Astros in the ALCS.
The Yankees did make some news as the meetings got underway, picking up the $15 million option on righthander Luis Severino, a move Cashman said Friday would be “an easy yes.”
Anthony Rizzo declined his player option for $16 million for 2023 and became a free agent.