The San Francisco Giants had a good plan. No, scratch that. They had an excellent plan, one that focused on the seemingly incongruous notion that Aaron Judge would be going home were he to turn his back on the Yankees. That he stood as the face of the league’s biggest franchise situated in the media capital of the world — and he that just claimed a piece of history in pinstripes — didn’t faze them. In fact, it emboldened them, steeled as they were by the fact that he felt compelled to first bet on himself before his should-have-been-grateful employers recognized his true worth.
And so the Giants went about wooing Judge by leveraging his California roots and childhood predilections. They tried to appeal to his emotions, and, for a while there, they looked close to sealing the deal. Because they knew negotiating in the spotlight would simply underscore the equity of the incumbent, they strove to keep his pre-Thanksgiving visit to the Bay Area out of the public eye.
Unfortunately, a walk through the lobby of the St. Regis, where he was billeted for the stop, turned out to be all that was needed for an ambush interview to hit social media. Which, in a nutshell, raised the profile of the sweepstakes even more and put the Yankees in win-at-all-costs mode.
To be sure, the Giants knew they were handicapped from the outset. All other things being equal, the competition would prevail. And although they were fully prepared to engage in a bidding war, they didn’t want to do so. Such a negotiating strategy would drive Judge’s price up and end in a Yankees win.
It’s why, in the end, they understood that the newly minted American League Most Valuable Player awardee would have to want to change addresses for reasons that went beyond the zeros on his paycheck. Whatever the non-material impetus that would move him to do so, they had to provide or highlight.
Perhaps Judge was going to sign with the Yankees no matter what. Perhaps the Giants were destined to be bidders that merely inflated the numbers. In any case, they had to swing for the fences. Notwithstanding the probability of their exertions ending in a whiff, they had to go all in — just as they did with other high-profile free agents in the past, and just as they will continue to do with targets in the future.
And if they turn out to be means to an end in just about every instance, so be it. In the final analysis, no one can say they didn’t try, and that they won’t keep trying.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.