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Aaron Judge was the top of the free agent class this offseason, and unsurprisingly had several suitors for his services.
He eventually returned to New York on a monster 9-year $360 million deal, but the process took some unexpected turns.
ESPN posted a lengthy breakdown of what went happened as the Yankees sought to bring back their franchise icon.
Initial reports suggested that the Yankees had actually been outbid, and interviews with executives confirmed they were concerned.
“I had that feeling that we were going to lose him,” an unnamed executive said, according to ESPN.
Beyond the competition, team officials were concerned that Judge seemed to harbor resentment from earlier in 2022.
The Yankees leaked details of their spring training contract offer, which he brought up in a recent interview.
That sparked their concerns, but then Jon Heyman set them on fire.
‘Arson’ Judge Changes Everything
During the winter meetings in San Diego, Jon Heyman posted a tweet that sent shockwaves through the baseball world.
“Arson” Judge would be going to San Francisco, he claimed.
According to the article, when that tweet hit the internet, manager Aaron Boone got a one word text.”
“F***,” it read.
Things were so dire in the Yankees front office afterwards that one club official pulled up a movie scene as motivation.
Heyman’s tweet also forced rapid corrections across the baseball world. Giants GM Farhan Zaidi called him and said he had no idea if Judge was coming to San Francisco. Yankees GM Brian Cashman had to call Judge’s agent to find out it was false.
The Giants reportedly made an extremely competitive offer, similar to what Judge eventually got from the Yankees.
That was bad enough, but then the Padres jumped in, with their seemingly unlimited budget.
They reportedly had an offer that would have exceeded the Yankees numbers, although they never agreed to official terms.
After Judge’s meeting with San Diego, manager Aaron Boone called him to check in. He reported that Judge seemed down and unsure.
At that point, says the report, Yankees front office personnel were entirely unsure if they would get him back.
Cashman suggested owner Hal Steinbrenner call him personally from vacation in Italy to try and seal the deal.
In the early morning hours San Diego time, Steinbrenner agreed to increase the team’s offer by an additional year with some more money.
That was enough, and Judge agreed to return to the Bronx.
It’s unclear if he really would have left New York, or if the other offers were more leverage than serious considerations.
But Yankees officials were extremely uncertain about their chances, and Jon Heyman’s inaccurate tweet wasn’t reassuring.
Who knows though, maybe their initial panic after his post finally spurred Steinbrenner to close the deal?