SAN DIEGO -- There was a mystery team in the Aaron Judge sweepstakes after all: The San Diego Padres.
On Tuesday night, the Padres met with Judge in San Diego and made a late push to sign the star right fielder, sources told MLB.com. Ultimately, Judge agreed to a reported nine-year deal worth $360 million to remain in New York.
It has been an eventful hometown Winter Meetings for the Padres, to say the least. They were somewhat surprising contenders to sign shortstop Trea Turner, even making an offer that was reportedly worth more than the deal he eventually took from Philadelphia.
“Two players that we’ve met with here in the last few weeks, they’re two of the best players in the game,” said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. “Ultimately, we think we have a really good team, a team that can play in the postseason. Any time you get an opportunity to at least sit down with two of the best, that doesn’t come often. Guys of that caliber in free agency -- you don’t see that every season.”
Preller, it turns out, was playing it coy with the "two players" mention. He struck a deal hours later with option No. 3 when free-agent shortstop Xander Bogaerts agreed to leave Boston for an 11-year, $280 million contract on Wednesday night, according to sources. The Padres have not announced that deal.
The Padres’ pursuit of Turner was far more advanced than that of Judge, according to sources, reaching the point where the two sides exchanged specific figures. It never reached that stage with Judge, despite reports that San Diego had offered 10 years and $400 million. No such formal offer was made, sources said.
Still, the Padres made it clear to Judge they were interested. Once Turner chose Philadelphia, sources said, the natural next move was to gauge Judge’s interest. That’s when Preller first called Judge’s camp, and the meeting came about quickly. The star right fielder, who launched an AL-record 62 home runs in 2022, flew to San Diego on Tuesday and met with team officials at Petco Park for nearly three hours.
“We went into that meeting just open-minded, kind of seeing what was going to happen,” Preller said. “From both sides, we talked about our situation, what we were looking to do, and hear what may be important to him. It really didn’t progress much past that.”
It remains unclear just how serious Judge was about the possibility of signing in San Diego. Preller was quick to note, “We wouldn’t have taken the meeting if we thought there was no chance.”
This much is clear, however: The Padres should be considered major players for the top free-agent hitters.
They were looking to add a bat to a lineup that already featured some serious star power but was a bit too top-heavy. Clearly, no player was out of their price range in that search. Turner and Judge were considered the top two available stars in a loaded free-agent class.
Bogaerts turned out to be option No. 3.