How Aaron Judge's return to Yankees impacts Cubs, Correa


SAN DIEGO — When Aaron Judge rendered his decision Wednesday, it might have unleashed the jury and executioner on the Cubs’ pursuit of top-of-the-market shortstop Carlos Correa.

The Cubs remain very much in the mix for Correa and Atlanta shortstop Dansby Swanson, according to multiple sources — one of several teams with offers on the table for Correa.

But when Judge returned to the Yankees on a nine-year, $360 million deal, it meant the other top cash-waving team in hot pursuit of Judge — the Giants — started waving the hundreds of millions burning a hole in their pocket at a new top target: Correa.

That’s not to say the Cubs don’t have the means to compete against any team for either shortstop — even after spending $85.2 million on pitcher Jameson Taillon and centerfielder Cody Bellinger Tuesday.

But as the Cubs’ top executives began heading home from San Diego on the final day of the Winter Meetings Wednesday, the job of landing the ideal-fit Correa started looking a lot more expensive, which made a pivot to Swanson start looking more likely.

Either way, both markets only got hotter with the news late Wednesday night that the big-spending Padres — the third team involved in the Judge bidding — landed Boston's Xander Bogaerts on an 11-year, $280 million deal.

That left just the Cubs' targets standing among this year's four elite free agent shortstops.

Correa already looked like a strong candidate to better the 11-year, $300 million deal Trea Turner got from the Phillies on Monday — as the youngest (28) of the four and the only one not tied to a qualifying offer (and consequent draft-pick compensation for signing him).

And then came the Bogaerts deal that exceeded every outside projection of the market.

Swanson? The 2021 World Series champion is getting married to Chicago Red Stars player Mallory Pugh on Saturday and might want to have an idea where he’ll land before his honeymoon.

Carlo$ or Dan$by?

The bigger questions involve how many dollar signs and commas in the final offers.

Sidebar, your honor?

“There’s a lot of really good free agents still on the market, and we knew everyone’s not signing while we’re here,” said Cubs president Jed Hoyer, who also said he didn’t think Judge’s decision impacted the market.

“It wasn’t like the market was bottled up before that,” he said.

But sources said the Yankees did not plan to engage with the top shortstops regardless of whether Judge returned — unlike the Giants and Padres, both of whom refocused quickly in that direction.

The Cubs weren't among the bidders for Bogaerts by the time this week's Winter Meetings began, so his signing didn't mean they lost out on a targeted player, only that it likely raised the price on the players they are targeting — perhaps even more than Turner’s deal Monday did for that remaining group.

Make no mistake: The Cubs need to land one of them. Or they might as well kick the can down the road for another year on getting serious about being competitive.

RELATED: Cubs need to go big at Winter Meetings or go home

As nice a signing as Taillon might be, he’s another contact pitcher in a pitch-to-contact rotation, and the Cubs’ incumbent infield is not good enough to make that work at a consistently competitive level — especially with the ban on extreme infield shifts coming next year.

“Some deals take more time,” Hoyer said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of offseason left. I feel that I’ve been conditioned [in recent years] to think the offseason goes until spring training. Maybe this year that’s not the case. But there’s a lot of time and a lot of good players out there.

“We still have a lot more work to do. The offseason’s far from over.”

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