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MLB: Where next for Aaron Judge?

With Aaron Judge the reigning American League Most Valuable Player and now hitting free agency, where will he be plying his trade next?

Last spring, Judge turned down a seven-year $213.5 million extension to his New York Yankees contract before the pair settled on a one-year arbitration deal at $19m.

Now Judge has hit free agency and, as the reigning American League MVP, he is likely to attract a lot of suitors, but where will he end up?

Why does Judge want to leave the Yankees?

The big question is that does he really want to leave New York? After all, the superstar was drafted by the Yankees, they gave him his education in the minor leagues and six years in the majors leagues. Is it that elusive World Series ring that is missing? To win the Fall Classic in 2023, the Yankees are 10/1.

Judge can, essentially, play poker with the Yankees. He was under contract previously, but now he is a free agent he can speak to whomever he wants, and who is going to pay him the big deal he desires.

Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman spoke about Judge and free agency in the past to the New York Post saying: "I have no anticipation for anything in free agency. Everybody does what they want to do. Whether they want to do it because they are interested or do it because it's leveraged, I don't know."

Are the Giants the favourites?

Judge is a boyhood San Francisco Giants fan. He is 30 years old and he is from the bay area, so a move back home would be desirable. Judge has been in contract talks with San Francisco and is top of their list in the off-season.

The Giants have room on their payroll having shredded quite a bit in the past with a desire to challenge and back up their National League West Divisional title in 2021, which ended a run of the Los Angeles Dodgers' dominance. They had a poor 2022, but they are ready to be the rivals in the West, rather than the San Diego Padres.

San Francisco's payroll commitments are currently estimated around $133 million. The long-term books are bare which is a good thing for a potential Judge deal. In order to entice Judge to San Francisco further, the Giants could be in the market to add further high-price players to their roster in a bid to go all-in.

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Are any other clubs interested in Judge?

There were strong rumours that the Los Angeles Dodgers could enter the market for Judge. They would probably be forced into moving Mookie Betts from the right-side and place Judge there. Betts would be willing to move elsewhere, probably to second-base if Judge was to be enticed by coming to LA.

There were outside rumours that the New York Mets were interested, however it would appear that owner Steve Cohen has priorities elsewhere at the moment. The Mets are trying to sort out a deal to keep their star pitcher Jacob deGrom, and while financially it wouldn't stop the Mets making a go for Judge, they appear to be trying to build a firm pitching base first as a priority.

We aren't ruling the Yankees out though?

Judge has been in San Francisco, visiting family and talking with the Giants. He may also have just been on holiday and making a courtesy call. Lots of pundits are predicting a return to the pinstripes of New York.

Some estimates are that Judge will earn a huge contract with the Yankees, upward of nine years, worth £325 million. Pundits are saying that the Yankees will blow anyone out of the water with a deal for Judge, as they need him more than anyone else.

Judge has had such a great season and the last thing they want is their best player leaving when they know they can afford him. That would frustrate the fanbase immensely and they would never forgive the Yankees front office.

The Yankees have such a long history and Judge is a modern icon, that they would rather see him in Yankee pinstripe more than anywhere else. Judge knows that he could create even further history with the Yankees.

It's likely he wants guarantees though, and while New York have been competing, they are yet to reach a World Series since 2009 despite reaching the fall classic 40 times and, for this iconic franchise, it's a huge disappointment.

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