Everything we know about Aaron Judge’s contract talks, including a late pitch from Padres

SAN DIEGO — Aaron Judge agreed to return to the New York Yankees early Wednesday morning on a landmark nine-year $360 million deal, but only after a last-minute push by a surprise entrant in the free-agent slugger sweepstakes — the San Diego Padres.

Pending a physical, Judge’s deal earns him the highest average annual value for a position player in major league history, beating Mike Trout’s previous mark of $35.5 million by nearly $5 million. The deal is two years longer and worth $146.5 million more than the seven-year, $213.5 million extension offer that the judge rejected by the Yankees at the end of spring training.

Judge, who turns 31 on April 26, added to his worth by compiling baseball’s all-time best walk year and hitting 62 home runs to break the American League’s single-season record. He will now be tied to the Yankees through his season at age 39. He is expected to become captain of the team as part of the deal, ensuring he will likely retire in the only uniform he has ever known.

The Giants were putting heavy pressure on Judge, and at one point Tuesday seemed to be gaining momentum in their efforts to sign him. Looking for a big-name slugger, they are now expected to pursue one of the remaining three shortstops in the free-agent market – Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts or Dansby Swanson.

The Padres lashed out at Trea Turner Monday but, as has often been the case under general manager AJ Preller, were unwilling to stop swinging. Club officials met face-to-face with Aaron Judge Tuesday night at Petco Park in San Diego, according to four sources on the matter the athlete. However, it is believed that they never had the chance to make a formal offer.

A meeting with Judge signaled that Preller and owner Peter Seidler were seriously considering the pivot of all pivots. Before Turner agreed to a $300 million deal with the Phillies, the Padres offered the shortstop a $342 million guarantee stretching for at least 11 years, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions . Now that they’ve lost Judge, they could start a more serious pursuit of Bogaerts, which industry sources say Preller remains interested in.

However, Judge was a better fit for the Padres than Bogaerts or Turner. Signing him would give San Diego arguably the best outfield in baseball, with the American League home run king and Juan Soto patrolling the corners. It would also have allowed Fernando Tatis Jr. to stay in the infield after returning from his suspension on performance-enhancing drugs on April 20, in any combination alongside Jake Cronenworth and Ha-Seong Kim.

The Padres would have become the first major league team to promote three $300 million players – Judge, Tatis and Manny Machado. Instead, that award will go to the Yankees, who have pitchers Gerrit Cole on a nine-year, $324 million contract and Giancarlo Stanton on a 13-year, $325 million contract, which they acquired from the Marlins.

With Judge’s return, the Yankees intend to accelerate other free-agent activity. Left-hander Carlos Rodón, outfielder Andrew Benintendi and Japanese outfielder Matsataka Yoshida are among the players they are interested in. The team have already signed first baseman Anthony Rizzo and reached an agreement with reliever Tommy Kahnle.

the athlete‘s Andy McCullough contributed to this story

(Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

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