Hal Steinbrenner realizes it may take record price to keep Aaron Judge

Getty Images
0 Comments

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner realizes there is a chance the price may be going up to sign Aaron Judge to a long-term contract after the star slugger’s outstanding first half.

Judge turned down an eight-year contract worth $230.5 million to $234.5 million, cutting off talks ahead of the April 8 opener and saying he wouldn’t negotiate again until after the season. Judge’s representatives wanted a nine-year deal in excess of the average annual value of Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout‘s contract, which comes to $319.6 million, a person familiar with the negotiations said then, speaking on condition of anonymity because Judge’s stance was not made public.

“Is it a possibility? Of course it’s a possibility,” Steinbrenner said during his midseason media availability. “But cross that bridge when I come to it.”

Judge, eligible for free agency after the World Series, leads the major leagues with 29 homers. He is second in the AL with 60 RBIs and is batting .281, a big reason the Yankees began Wednesday with a major league-best 58-23 record and a 13-game lead in the AL East.

“Aaron is a great Yankee and he’s very valuable to this organization,” Steinbrenner said. “He’s a great leader. Obviously, he’s performed extremely well this year, which we’re all thrilled about. So, look, any great Yankee, yes, it’s something we’re going to be looking at and talking about seriously. It means a lot to the organization. Nobody’s going to deny that.”

After the Yankees made their long-term offer public in April, Judge and the team agreed last month to a $19 million, one-year deal that avoided an arbirtation hearing. Steinbrenner said even if talks do resume during the season, the team wouldn’t publicly discuss negotiations until after the Yankees’ season is over.

“We made an offer that I feel was a very good one,” Steinbrenner said. “It was based on the numbers, of course, but it was also based in part as what he means to this organization. It was a combination of both. And we just didn’t get a deal done. We had less time, of course, this offseason than we would normally because of lockout and all. But there’s no regrets. We’re going to be having discussions at some point.”

Steinbrenner expressed satisfaction with the team’s offseason makeover, which included trading catcher Gary Sanchez, acquiring shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, third baseman Josh Donaldson and catcher Jose Trevino, and hiring hitting coach Dillon Lawson. New York didn’t try to sign a premier free-agent shortstop, such as Carlos Correa or Trevor Story.

“To be a great team Gene Michael always used to say defense up the middle, right? That’s something we definitely improved upon,” Steinbrenner said “I didn’t spend $300 million to do it, but I think most people are pretty happy with Isiah and the job he’s done.”

As the Aug. 2 trade deadline approaches, New York may seek a corner outfielder. Joey Gallo began Wednesday with a .165 average, nine homers, 18 RBIs and 89 strikeouts in 194 at-bats.

“It’s been difficult for him, there’s no doubt about it. But there’s a lot of baseball to be had this season.” Steinbrenner said, “I still expect great things out of him. … I am hesitant to give up top prospects. I always have been. But we’ve done it in the past. and all that will be on the table, too.”

Steinbrenner anticipates the path to a title will include a matchup against Houston, which beat the Yankees in the 2017 and 2019 AL Championship Series.

“We all need to be concerned about Houston. They’re a very good team,” he said. “But it’s going to be a challenge for them, too, make no mistake.”

He wouldn’t mind a Subway Series against the Mets, who entered Wednesday with the second-best record in the NL at 50-31.

“I’m all for it,” Steinbrenner said. “Means I’ll be there.”

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
0 Comments

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.