Before anyone gets carried away, no… there is almost no chance the Atlanta Braves will sign Aaron Judge this offseason. If you look at the general sentiment out there now, Aaron Judge is going to have a deal of at least eight years and over $300 million.
The Yankees want him back, the Giants are interested… There’s no shortage of teams with deep pockets that will be bidding for his services, and the Braves are facing a luxury tax in 2023 and they still haven’t come up with a quick fix just yet. It won’t (most likely).
Still, it’s fun to think about what the Braves would look like with Judge in their lineup, and it’s also sad to think about the fact that the Braves had their chance to catch him in 2013.
The Atlanta Braves could (should) have re-drafted Aaron Judge in 2013
The 2013 MLB Draft class was fun. Headlining the class was John Gray, Chris Bryant, and the infamous bust/redemption story, Mark Abel, at the top with a slew of future big league players like Austin Meadows, Clint Frazier, Hunter Renfro, JB Crawford, Tim Anderson right there. Hell, Cody Bellinger was a fourth rounder in that draft and Jeff McNeal wasn’t selected until the third day.
Judge was a 6’7 rusher out of Fresno State and was ranked by Baseball America as a top 30 prospect in the draft. The Braves didn’t have their usual first-round pick because they signed BJ Upton the previous season (this is where the pain starts), but they did get a compensatory pick in the 31st thanks to Michael Bourne signing elsewhere.
As you can see from the draft board in the photo above, when the Braves picked at the 31st, the judge was still on the board and that was about the range he was supposed to be picked. Instead, the Braves selected Jason Horch of Oklahoma State. Hursh converted to being a reliever in the minors, racked up a mediocre total of 11 games to bad appearances in the major league (all with the Braves), and was out of the major leagues by 2017.
As for Judge, the Yankees picked him right after the Braves picked him, and you know the rest.
It would be nice to see the judge in a brave costume
It’s hard sometimes not to daydream about what it would have been like to have Judge with the Atlanta Braves over the past several years. There are too many unknowns in terms of opportunity cost/time travel issues assuming what would have happened if Judge had been with the Braves…. batter level.
What we do know, however, is that Judge has been one of the game’s leading power hitters since winning Rookie of the Year in 2017 hitting 52 homers and 8.0 rWAR and cementing his status as the game’s most elite player with an AL MVP campaign in 2022 where he hit 62 home runs for the Yankees and was worth an astonishing 10.6 rWAR. Just to help daydream, here’s a sprinkler chart from Judge’s home run superimposed on Truist Park.
Not so fast
When we put together our list of potential free agent options for the Braves earlier this month, we included Judge. However, Stephen correctly pointed out that Judge’s contract requests are not conducive to a deal with the Braves given the current state of their payroll, their reluctance to deliver high-profile long-term AAV deals, and the fact that they have a more pressing need at shortstop.
As a result, it’s fun to think about what the Braves might have looked like if they had drafted the judge and how much he would have helped the team so far. It’s also fun to think about what the 2023 Braves will look like with Judge. I just wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.