Chicago Cubs: Just imagine Aaron Judge mashing at Wrigley Field
By Jake Misener
Last week, when asked about his future in the Bronx, Yankees slugger Aaron Judge praised the organization he’s spent his entire career with – but that doesn’t necessarily mean Brian Cashman and Judge’s reps will be able to hammer out a deal before he hits free agency next winter.
Given the Cubs’ complete lack of long-term financial obligations and the addition of the universal DH in the National League, Chicago may very well prove to be a potential suitor if Judge winds up testing the waters of free agency next winter. I’m still leaning toward him re-signing with New York based on what he said about his time in the Big Apple, but stranger things have certainly happened.
"“You know, leading into this, especially coming up through the minor leagues and rookie ball, you want to be a free agent, test the market a little bit and see what’s out there. But that’s one thing, I’ve been lucky enough to play in the best organization out of all of them, so who wants to go anywhere else? If we get an extension done before the season starts, that’d be great. I’d be completely honored to wear pinstripes for a couple more years. But if it doesn’t happen and this is my last year [as a Yankee], I had a lot of great memories.”"
Judge turned in a big 2021 campaign, racking up 6.0 bWAR and posting a 149 OPS+ in his best showing since his 2017 AL Rookie of the Year season. Staying healthy and on the field regularly has been a struggle, at times, during his career – but there’s little doubt: when he’s at 100 percent, he’s one of the best hitters in the league.
The Cubs seem likely to roll the dice with a mix of unproven commodities in the outfield in 2022, in hopes of assessing what (if anything) they have internally. Ian Happ needs to prove he can find that long-sought consistency at the dish, Jason Heyward’s back is against the wall after a horrendous 2021 and the rest of the mix comes with a lot of question marks, to say the least.
Cubs don’t have anyone near the caliber of Aaron Judge on the roster
Offensively, most of the team’s power comes from free-swinging third baseman Patrick Wisdom and fellow late-bloomer Frank Schwindel. As impressive as both were last year, there’s no guarantee either will repeat their showing in their sophomore campaigns. Willson Contreras has some pop – but could wind up traded before July – and Happ, while capable of getting scorching hot, can do the opposite just as easily, going ice-cold at the plate.
In other words, there’s nobody on this roster capable of impacting the lineup in the same way as Judge. He’s one of the game’s most prolific power hitters – and, according to our friends over at Yanks Go Yard, the Cubs are a very conceivable landing spot for the three-time All-Star.
"… the Cubs have no players signed long-term. David Bote is the only player guaranteed a contract beyond 2023. They do have an improving farm system, though, after moving up from No. 24 in August to No. 15 in February in Baseball America’s rankings. Another big city with sky-high expectations for Judge? He’d fit right in if the Cubs will have him."
We’re still months away from this scenario possibly coming to fruition. But when the 2022 season gets underway, Judge might be a guy Cubs fans want to keep an eye on as Jed Hoyer figures out who the first primetime free agent signing will be under his still-young front office regime.