Sports | November 29, 2022 10:28 am

Who’s the Top MLB Free Agent Not Named Aaron Judge?

Twenty front-office executives responded to a poll conducted by MLB.com, choosing two shortstops and two pitchers

Aaron Judge at the American League Championship Series. He's the top MLB free agent, but who are the players next in line?
Aaron Judge sounds like he might be on the move.
Elsa/Getty

With the MLB hot stove churning away, the Houston Astros made a big splash by signing Cuban slugger Jose Abreu away from the Chicago White Sox with a three-year deal that will pay the power-hitting first baseman $58.5 million. The Astros were reportedly interested in free agent Anthony Rizzo, but he opted to return to the New York Yankees for $40 million over two years and is hoping Aaron Judge, who has been linked to a plethora of teams that don’t wear pinstripes, will do the same.

With the Yankees and the rest of MLB waiting for Judge to decide whether he’s returning or leaving after a 62-homer season for the Bronx Bombers, MLB.com conducted a poll of 20 front-office executives across pro baseball to determine who the No. 2 target in free agency is after Judge.

Interestingly enough, the consensus was that the top MLB free agent behind Judge is somewhat of his opposite: speedy shortstop Trea Turner.

A two-time All-Star who won the World Series with the Nationals in 2019 and spent last season with the Dodgers, Turner has hit close to .300 throughout his career and is an elite runner on the basepaths. While perhaps not quite as slick with the leather as some of his counterparts, Turner is still a solid defensive shortstop who has shown he has what it takes to play well for a contender in the midst of a pennant race.

“He’s just so dynamic on both sides of the ball,” a National League general manager told MLB.com. “It’s hard to find a better two-way player. He’s an elite, championship-level player that would fit anywhere. I don’t care how good you are; he’s going to make you better.”

Turner got nine votes, followed by Carlos Correa (shortstop) with six, Jacob deGrom (pitcher) with four and Justin Verlander (pitcher) with one. Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, a four-time All-Star who hit .307 last season and scored 84 runs for Boston, did not receive any votes despite being potentially as valuable as Turner or Correa. As for the top prize of the 2022 free agency class, one GM confirmed it’s not really a contest.

“It’s Aaron Judge,” the GM told MLB.com. “I’d be surprised if anybody gave you any other name. This might not be the most interesting story you’ve ever written.”

Expect the rumor mill to keep spinning until team executives, agents and even some players converge when the winter meetings lead off on Sunday in San Diego. “A lot of stuff doesn’t kick in until the winter meetings in December,”  Judge said earlier this month. Expect the dominos to start falling after Judge makes up his mind.