On Thursday night, the New York Mets finally got back in the win column as they defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-1. It was a special Fox Sports broadcast to celebrate the legacy of Roberto Clemente, and Francisco Lindor put his stamp on the occasion in a special way. The Puerto Rico native smashed his 24th home run of the season, a new single-season record for a Mets shortstop. During the broadcast Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal, in the midst of the offensive outpouring, painted a picture of what it would be like if the Mets added another star to their lineup during the offseason: Aaron Judge.
Judge of course is making headlines this season as he chases down a different type of home run record. The 30-year old is chasing down the ghost of Roger Maris, who currently holds the record for most home runs in a single season in American League history. This is coming off the tails of an offseason where Judge feels like the New York Yankees low-balled him with a contract extension offer, and he bet on himself to increase his value. In addition to his home run mark of 57 at the time of this writing, Judge has knocked in 123 RBI and has a batting average of .310. He’s making a serious pursuit of the American League Triple Crown, which means that the bet he placed on himself has worked out quite nicely.
All of this sets the stage for a serious high noon-esque showdown between Judge and the Yankees. Should the Yankees’ pursuit to resign Judge fail, would it make sense for the Mets to sweep in and steal the likely MVP? Much like anything, there’s pros and cons to the Mets signing Judge. Starting with the pros, you’d be looking at a lineup next year that consists of Judge, Pete Alonso, Lindor, Starling Marte, and Jeff McNeil. That is a top five that rivals just about any lineup in Major League Baseball, and adding Judge into the fray would give manager Buck Showalter even more freedom to mix the top five up like he has been lately.
From an organizational standpoint, it would mean a couple of other things as well. For one, it would draw even more fans into Citi Field, since Judge is as much of a blockbuster talent as there currently is. There’s also the comfort of knowing that Judge can perform in New York at an extremely high level, since when healthy, that’s all he’s done with the Yankees. Perhaps bigger than both of those however is the potential shift of power that would be felt in New York baseball. As petty as it may be, the feeling of Cohen outbidding the Yankees for their home-grown talent is too sweet to not think about, and it would be a signal that New York has transitioned into a Mets town.
Once you remove your head from the clouds about how sweet of a feeling signing Judge could be, you realize that signing him would impact several aspects of the roster. Judge is going to demand a lot more than the $213 million total he was offered by the Yankees this offseason, which would all but guarantee the Mets would not be able to retain Jacob deGrom, who has made his intentions clear that he is going to opt out of his current deal with the Mets. Although it may seem like Cohen has all of the money in the world, he’s not likely to blow the amount of money it would take to not only sign the top slugger in the game, but also retain the league’s premium ace on the mound.
Not only would the Mets have to concede deGrom, but it is likely that they would not have the means left to re-sign Brandon Nimmo or Edwin Diaz. Losing Nimmo would take away their leadoff hitter who has turned into a solid center fielder, and the subtraction of Diaz would mean losing the best closer in the game. The other qualm to signing Judge is the question of where to put him in the field. Sure, he’s played a competent center field for the Yankees this season, but how would that hold up in the more expansive Citi Field outfield? And would the Mets really want to send Judge, who has been injury-prone up to this point in his career and will be on the wrong side of 30 come May of next season, out to center field every day after investing hundreds of millions of dollars on him? The solution would most likely be a rotating outfield featuring the likes of Marte and Mark Canha. When Judge would DH, McNeil could slide into the left field spot. Either way, it would take a lot of maneuvering to fit Judge into the lineup. But when adding a star like Judge, it is worth the hassle of maneuvering.
The Mets will most likely ring Judge’s line this offseason, because that is what top-spending teams do. Will the conversations be serious? That depends on whether or not the Mets are willing to take the risk of becoming top-heavy offensively at the expense of losing the best pitcher in baseball, and probably the best closer as well. The reward however could be potentially the most electric and powerful lineup in team history. Yes, the Mets certainly are in the thick of contention right now and that is where the focus should remain. Still, it is hard not to think about what will be one of the most impactful free agency periods of the Cohen era.
As of the writing of this, Judge has 57 home runs
Judge turned down a $213 million extension from the Yankees
deGrom is likely to opt out of his current deal with the Mets