The Los Angeles Dodgers were among the teams always believed to be "in" on Aaron Judge once the slugger hit free agency, but when the time came, it was clear that had just been insiders and pundits making the link solely because of LA's spending power.
Judge never even met with the Dodgers. In fact, before Judge eventually returned to the New York Yankees, he had only met with the division-rival San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres -- the latter of whom reportedly offered him a massive $415 million contract.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers slashed payroll and made, at best, additions at the margins. At the onset of free agency, fans were expecting bigger offseason overtures, especially after it was reported that Mookie Betts was willing to move to second base to accommodate Judge, who also plays Gold Glove-caliber defense in left field.
Turns out, that wasn't just a report, either. Betts admitted to Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci that he indeed told the organization just that ahead of free agency. And it's not like Betts would've only needed to be utilized at second, either. Here's the full quote:
"'Yes, that sounds probably like something I said. But hey, that was going to be a tough get.' Asked whether he made a recruiting pitch to Judge, Betts says, 'No, I don’t do that. I want guys to do whatever’s best for them and their families.'"- Mookie Betts via SI
Should Dodgers have taken Mookie Betts seriously with Aaron Judge offer?
The Dodgers don't really have a center fielder. So, realistically, Judge and Betts could've always been on the field together if they alternated between right and center with Betts mixing in some second base.
Though Judge more than likely always wanted to remain a Yankee (and ended up taking less to re-sign and hold the Captain title), will passing on Judge end up being a regret for the Dodgers' front office? Let's say a 10-year, $400 million contract got the job done. That would've set LA up with three of the best hitters in the game for the next five-plus years. Those in opposition would say that'd be a whole lot of regression for the Dodgers to pay for, but with the plentiful talent coming through the pipeline, they likely would've been able to weather that storm.
The dissenters would also add that the Dodgers were saving their money for Shohei Ohtani next offseason. True. They probably are. But is that a sure thing? Recent buzz suggested the two-way star could land a $600 million contract. You know Steve Cohen won't hesitate to pay that. Will the Dodgers get in that deep? Hardly a guarantee. And what's the difference between Judge for 10 years and Ohtani for 12 years? You'll be paying for the same regression as they approach their 40s.
Additionally, if the Dodgers were never going to dip below the tax threshold, then why not pay $40 million AAV for Judge in 2023 instead of $6.5 million on David Peralta, $10 million on JD Martinez, $5 million on Miguel Rojas, and a combined ~$4 million on Shelby Miller, Alex Reyes and Jimmy Nelson? Obviously that's six players for a fraction of the cost as one, but it's not like those guys are going to put the Dodgers over the top heading into an underwhelming 2023.
Maybe the Dodgers never stood a chance with Judge, but if they did and got this offer from Betts ... ugh. Makes you wish they took a page out of the Padres' book of financial aggression/carelessness.