Aaron Judge in Queens? Boston? 7 teams that could challenge the Yankees for the biggest possible free agent in the MLB

A refrain that’s often thrown around about free agents in baseball is that it only takes one aggressive owner to change everything. Arte Moreno swooped in to sign Albert Pujols for the Angels. The Mariners, in need of a franchise restart at this point, surprised other clubs by signing Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million deal. The Mets’ Steve Cohen, hell-bent on winning a World Series, landed Max Scherzer last winter for a record $43 million salary.

Assuming Aaron Judge hits free agency, as there are no ongoing contract talks between him and the Yankees, and the two sides are scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Friday after failing to agree on his 2022 salary, he can inspire that kind of frantic response from one or more owners and land a contract way beyond the $213.5 million offer the slugger turned down in the spring.

Judge is having the kind of monster season that could tick just about every box a billionaire owner could have. Yes, his production makes a difference; he is one of the leading candidates to win the American League Most Valuable Player award. Yes, he’s a strong defender, with the kind of athleticism that can help keep him effective deep in a long-term contract. Yeah, he’s got quite the brand, literally the greatest player in Major League Baseball history, someone who has worked and thrived in the biggest market in the league. Yes, he is perceived as a very nice guy, a good teammate; he most likely gracefully handles the responsibility of being the face of any franchise. He would probably make any meeting with any interested owner.

And yes, he has remained relatively injury-free, at least through 2021 and through the first third of 2022. The last time he was on a non-COVID-related DL was in September 2020.

With all that in mind, here’s an assessment of which teams might be willing to shake up the salary picture with a big offer for Judge.

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