Aaron Judge returns to Yankees; Kenley Jansen chooses Red Sox

AP file photo by LM Otero / New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, after hitting an AL-record 62 home runs on the way to being named league MVP this past season, has returned to the team on a record-setting deal after exploring free agency.

SAN DIEGO — Farhan Zaidi got a text message from Aaron Judge's representatives early Wednesday morning, and just like that, it was over.

It was time to move on.

With Judge returning to the New York Yankees on a $360 million, nine-year contract, the San Francisco Giants are mulling over their next move after they missed the playoffs this past season and missed out on the record-setting slugger in his tour of free agency.

"We always knew this was a possible outcome, and so we've done a lot of work on our other options," said Zaidi, president of baseball operations for the Giants. "We'll kind of reevaluate our board and (are) still looking for ways to improve the next team."

Zaidi kept his cards close to his vest, but plenty of intriguing possibilities remained on the market as Major League Baseball's winter meetings concluded Wednesday.

All-Star shortstops Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson are still free agents, along with left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodón after his terrific year for the Giants. Speedy center fielder Brandon Nimmo could be a nice fit for San the expansive outfield at Oracle Park in San Francisco.

"We have the support of ownership, but we're not being mandated to get to a certain level, payroll wise," Zaidi said. "We have the flexibility to do that if the opportunities are right."

Judge's contract — MLB's biggest free agent deal ever — dominated the conversation at the winter meetings Wednesday, but pitchers Kenley Jansen, José Quintana and Jameson Taillon all joined new teams, and the Philadelphia Phillies took U.S. Navy aviator Noah Song in the Rule 5 draft.

Jansen and the Boston Red Sox have agreed to a $32 million, two-year deal, a person familiar with the deal told the AP, speaking Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the agreement was pending a physical.

The 35-year-old Jansen went 5-2 with a 3.38 ERA in 64 innings for the Atlanta Braves this year. The three-time All-Star led the National League with 41 saves, helping the Braves win the club's fifth straight NL East Division title after signing for $16 million in March.

Jansen spent his first 12 seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, winning the World Series in 2020, and his 391 career saves rank second among active players (behind Craig Kimbrel's 394) and eighth in MLB history.

Quintana agreed to a $26 million, two-year contract with the New York Mets, adding another veteran arm to the team's rotation, and Taillon joined the Chicago Cubs, agreeing to a four-year contract that is worth roughly $68 million. In each case, a person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the deal on condition of anonymity because it was pending a physical.

The New York Mets also finalized their two-year contract with ace right-hander Justin Verlander, who turns 39 in February, worth $86.7 million. There also is a vesting option for 2025.

"Justin Verlander is, by every standard, one of the game's most accomplished players," general manager Billy Eppler said of the nine-time All-Star who helped the Houston Astros win the World Series last month and soon after won the American League Cy Young Award for the third time.

Judge, who hit an AL-record 62 homers for the Yankees this past season, will earn $40 million per year, the highest average annual payout for a position player. A person familiar with the deal confirmed the move to the AP on condition of anonymity because the AL MVP's contract had not been publicly announced.

The Northern California native visited with the Giants last month, and he also met with the San Diego Padres in the past few days.

"From an organizational standpoint, we're disappointed," Zaidi said. "But I think from the standpoint of the industry, you've got a great player and a great franchise who's got a chance to be there his entire career, and I think there's a lot of good in that for the game.

"That was a pretty strong force that we were up against."

San Diego also met with Trea Turner before the All-Star shortstop agreed to a $300 million, 11-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, who reached the World Series against the Astros. The Padres lost to the Phillies in an NL Championship Series between two wild-card teams.

"From our standpoint, you want to explore and make sure we're looking at every possible opportunity to get better," Padres general manager A.J. Preller said. "We've got a real desire to win and do it for a long time."

Judge was selected by New York in the first round of the 2013 amateur draft and made his MLB debut in 2016, homering in his first at-bat. The four-time All-Star has 220 homers and 497 RBIs in seven seasons.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman declined to confirm the agreement but said he was "optimistic that we're in a good place," and he credited Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner for the team's position.

"The hope is that (Steinbrenner) is the Mariano Rivera of these negotiations and was able to close something out, put us in a great position," Cashman said. "But I can't officially say that's happened just yet."