Aaron Judge says Rays made ‘very respectable’ offer in free agency, but here’s why he returned to the Yankees

Getty photos

It’s been more than a year and a half since Aaron Judge ended his free agency and rejoined the New York Yankees on a nine-year, $360 million contract. At the time, the Yankees were believed to be competing with the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres for Judge’s services. As it turns out, there was another team that was actually interested in Judge—unlikely: the Tampa Bay Rays.

Judge discussed the Rays’ interest with Kristie Ackert of the Tampa Bay Times ahead of Tuesday’s game between the two American League East rivals.

“It was a very respectful (offer) and I appreciate that they reached out to me and thought well enough of me to do it,” Judge said. “And I respect their team. I respect what they’ve built here. They’ve got a good clubhouse and their team is tough.

“But it was so hard to think about (playing for them) because I spent my whole career planning to play against them and trying to beat them.”

According to Ackert, the Rays “were willing to talk about a contract of about 10 years and $300 million.” While that’s a huge amount by Rays standards, it was a distant fourth among the known offers. The Padres reportedly offered Judge more than $400 million, according to The Athletic, and the Giants put $360 million on the table.

Judge, 32, lives in the Tampa Bay area, which makes it likely he wanted to stay through the season. Instead, he decided to return to the Yankees, with whom he has since hit .286/.415/.643 (189 OPS+) with 69 home runs in 197 games.

It should be noted that the Rays made similar efforts with Freddie Freeman, currently the first baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers, during his extended free agency. The Rays’ offer for Freeman was reportedly in the region of $140 million.