It’s good enough that Major League Baseball has Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge set to go toe-to-toe in pursuit of slugging accolades for many years to come.
Even better would be if their rivalry were also a face-to-face affair, with Stanton and Judge on opposite sides of the long-running feud between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
Stanton, the National League MVP, and Judge, the American League MVP runner-up, are gigantic right fielders who made impressive shows of launching 59 and 52 home runs, respectively, in 2017. It was hard not to think of them as two very big peas in a very big pod.
But with Stanton playing in the NL East with the Miami Marlins and Judge playing in the AL East with the Yankees, they were rivals much more in theory than in reality.
“It’s the kind of a thing where we both have to talk about all the time but don’t even know each other, or said hello,” Stanton said in July, per Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald. “It’s like the twin you’ve never met, I guess. Everyone’s comparing us to each other. We don’t even know each other.”
However, nothing can strike up a true rivalry like close proximity. That may be in the cards for Stanton and Judge.
Stanton and the remainder of his 13-year, $325 million contract are on the chopping block as new Marlins owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter seek to cut payroll. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the trade offers are rolling in:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 17, 2017
Per Jon Paul Morosi and Ben Weinrib of MLB.com, the St. Louis Cardinals have since joined the San Francisco Giants in making an offer for Stanton. The Red Sox haven’t yet, but are expected to.
After hitting an American-League-low 168 home runs in 2017, the Red Sox surely have a need for Stanton’s power. With young talent to deal and pockets deep enough for the $295 million remaining on Stanton’s contract, they also fit the profile of a team that can trade for him.
One catch is that the Giants and the Cardinals seem to be more aggressive in their pursuits of Stanton. There’s also the question of whether Stanton would waive his no-trade clause for the Red Sox.
A move to Boston wouldn’t be a homecoming for the Southern California native. He’d also be blocked from right field by Mookie Betts. Plus, projections from ESPN.com’s Dan Szymborski caution that Fenway Park wouldn’t actually be a boon to Stanton’s power.
As easy as it may be to imagine Stanton launching ball after ball over the Green Monster, that 37-foot wall gives death to hard line drives as easy as it gives life to high fly balls. That’s a potential issue for Stanton, who hits home runs at a lower angle (25.4 degrees) than the average hitter (28.0 degrees).
Still, nobody’s going to mischaracterize Fenway Park as a stadium that can utterly destroy Stanton’s power. No such stadium exists. Maybe he couldn’t keep chasing 60 homers in Boston, but he could keep chasing 50 homers without much trouble.
Since they’re coming off consecutive division titles, the Red Sox also have an advantage over the Giants and Cardinals regarding Stanton’s no-trade clause: a more direct path to the wins he so desperately craves.
All told, Stanton in a Red Sox uniform is a legitimate and exciting possibility. But even more exciting is how it would set up a big rivalry inside an even bigger rivalry.
Even if it’s a mighty stretch to label them as true rivals, it’s understandable if anyone looks at Stanton and Judge and wonders if they’re seeing double.
The two are separated by age (Stanton is 28; Judge is 25) and experience (Stanton has hit 267 homers in eight seasons; Judge just 56 in just over one season) but not much else. Both are massive, with Stanton checking in at 6’6″, 245 pounds and Judge at 6’7″, 282 pounds. Both pack their bulk into a heck of a punch. To wit, their first full shared season as major leaguers ended with them owning the list of 2017’s hardest-hit homers.
Sure, neither is perfect. Both can be made to swing and miss, and Stanton’s injury track record is arguably as big a red flag as Judge’s lack of a track record.
Even still, they’re singular talents. They’re also perfect avatars for the era that Major League Baseball now finds itself in. The game spent several years in the hands of hurlers. Fresh off a 2017 season with record-setting home run numbers, the game is now squarely in the hands of sluggers.
Every home run they launch has meaning to this extent. Putting them in the same division and ensuring their home runs also have meaning for the standings is a good way to up the ante.
Which, in turn, makes putting them in the AL East and on either side of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry the best way to up it.
The rivalry was an all-out war in the mid-2000s, but then faded in subsequent years as the Red Sox and Yankees took turns rising and falling. This past season marked the end of that period. Both clubs made the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and, per Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight, played their most meaningful games since 2005. Since each team is loaded with young talent, future seasons should contain more where that came from.
The only gripe is that the modern Red Sox-Yankees rivalry isn’t well-balanced in regard to power. While the Red Sox were busy finishing dead last in the AL in homers in 2017, Judge and the Yankees were busy hitting an MLB-high 241 homers.
Stanton alone wouldn’t balance those scales, but he’d give the Red Sox a leg up on paper. And, more importantly, a guy who could respond in kind when Judge is dropping bombs in head-to-head matchups.
At the risk of actually going there, picture Stanton as the Ted Williams to Judge’s Joe DiMaggio. Their individual rivalry would have that kind of epic feeling, and it could mean appropriately huge things in an ongoing Red Sox vs. Yankees battle for AL East supremacy.
Now all that needs to happen is for one little trade to go through.