Will SF Giants lose top free agent target to hated rivals?

Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge / Elsa/GettyImages

Imagine: it's the evening of April 10, 2023. The first inning of a game between longtime rivals, played at Oracle Park in San Francisco. Up steps a hulking, 6-foot-7 slugger fresh off winning the American League's Most Valuable Player award for a season in which he broke the circuit's single-season home run mark. As he digs into the right-handed batter's box and hears his name announced by Renel, SF Giants fans serenade him...with a chorus of boos. Because Aaron Judge is wearing Dodger blue.

Now, wake up from that nightmare. Most likely, it won't happen - but there's a chance. According to MLB Network and New York Post baseball insider/columnist Jon Heyman, the Giants' bitter rivals from Southern California are planning to "make a run" at the 30-year-old outfielder.

Will Aaron Judge leave New York?

It was always going to be difficult to pry Judge from the New York Yankees, who drafted him in the first round out of Fresno State in the 2013 amateur draft, with whom Judge won the Rookie of the Year award in 2017 and has earned four All-Star nods and who might have the deepest pockets in the league. The backlash in New York if Judge signed anywhere but the Bronx could be monumental.

But ever since Judge turned down the Yankees' contract extension offer in April and turned in a season for the ages, the Giants have been believed to have a decent chance at bringing him in to anchor the lineup for the next decade.

The sentimental pieces fit: Judge grew up in Linden, California, just outside Stockton, as a Giants fan who especially enjoyed watching Rich Aurilia hit and play shortstop. He went to Fresno State while the Giants were in the midst of their dynasty, before the Dodgers became an NL West powerhouse and the San Joaquin Valley was suddenly inundated with blue hats and shirts brought out of mothballs.

In fact, the last time the Yankees visited Oracle Park, Judge was disappointed that he was hurt and unable to finally play in the stadium where he grew up attending games and heckling opposing pitchers, as he told The Athletic (subscription required) at the time.

So is Los Angeles really interested in Aaron Judge? Sure. Any team that isn't would be a fool. The degree of interest is what will separate serious teams - some will get into a bidding war, others might figure they have nothing to lose with an offer but not expect to hear back.

As Heyman noted in his tweet, the Dodgers have a lot of money available, but they have a lot of holes to fill. It's entirely possible they're putting rumors out without actual intent, just to drive up the price for the team that does sign the star outfielder - especially if he ends up in Orange and Black but isn't joined by others standouts because the budget was too small.

Months remain until Spring Training begins. Aaron Judge will make his decision on his gigantic contract at some point before then. Most feel that the Yankees won't be outbid, but the Giants aren't going to go away quietly. The Dodgers signing him isn't out of the question, but it seems unlikely considering the other factors. Let's cross our fingers and hope Judge isn't in the opposing dugout on April 10th.