The mania surrounding Home Run Derby champ Aaron Judge appears to have reached a new high. ESPN’s Darren Rovell reports that Judge’s game-worn MLB debut jersey sold for $157,366 on Sunday, eclipsing the price of any other game-worn jersey since 2002. That record doesn’t just encompass all MLB jerseys, but those across every professional sport in the U.S., including one of Steph Curry’s jerseys from the 2017 NBA Finals.
There’s no telling how long Judge will continue to mash home runs and obliterate single-season records, and while his league-best 33 homers and dazzling .305/.428/.638 batting line have turned heads, there’s a chance he’s due for a sophomore slump next year. That uncertainty, coupled with the rookie’s undeniable popularity, has continued to drive up the price for jerseys, rookie cards, bats — anything anyone can get their hands on. In addition to Judge’s MLB debut jersey, which went to merchandiser Steiner Sports, Rovell lists several other pieces of memorabilia that could fetch a hefty price:
Memory Lane recently acquired a Judge-used Double-A uniform that it is hoping to sell for $25,000. Goldin Auctions, in its next auction, has a Judge game-used jersey and signed game-used cleats, while SCP Auctions is auctioning off a jersey worn by Judge at Fresno State.
Of course, the opposite could be true. Should Judge continue to flourish with the Yankees, these will all look like bargain-bin prices by the end of what very well might be a long and illustrious career.
Update: The total price of Judge’s debut jersey reached $160,644.05 with commission.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.