The MLB season started with Aaron Judge betting on himself after contract negotiations with the New York Yankees fell through. It's ended with an MVP award.
The Yankees star took home his first career MVP on Thursday after hitting an American League record 62 home runs in one of the greatest offensive seasons of recent MLB history.
Judge captured 28 out of 30 first-place votes from the BBWAA, with the other two going to Los Angeles Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani, last year's winner of the same award. Both votes were from writers based in Los Angeles. For much of the season, the AL MVP race was seen as a two-man race between Judge, on a historic home run pace, and Ohtani, arguably improving on last year's already historic two-way performance.
In the end, Judge surpassing Roger Maris for the AL home run record put him over the top (Ohtani also finished fourth in Cy Young voting). He finished the year hitting .311/.425/.686 with the aforementioned home run total plus league-leading totals in runs (133), RBI (131), OPS (1.111), walks (111), total bases (391) and bWAR (10.6).
He narrowly missed out on a Triple Crown as well, finishing five points behind Minnesota Twins infielder Luis Arráez's .316 mark.
To put Judge's value in perspective, the rest of the Yankees as a team hit .233/.312/.396, a collective .708 OPS. The closest MLB team to that mark: the 81-81 San Francisco Giants, who finished 20th in runs scored in MLB. The 99-win Yankees finished second in runs scored.
Where will Aaron Judge land in MLB free agency after MVP season?
Few, if any, contract years have ever gone as well as Judge's, and he is about to reap the rewards.
The Yankees' reported final offer was a seven-year, $213.5 million deal that would have gone into effect after this season, in which Judge played on a $19 million salary received in his final year of arbitration. Judge now figures to make much, much more than that.
It's impossible to say how much that will be, but various outlets have made their estimates and guesses. MLB Trade Rumors has him getting eight years and $332 million. ESPN, nine years and $324 million. Bleacher Report, seven years and $280 million. Fangraphs, nine years and $315 million. The Athletic, eight years and $330 million.
One important thing to remember with Judge is he is probably older than you think, as he will enter next season at 31 years of age. That's older than some other players when they received their recent mega-deals, but it's inarguable that Judge is one of MLB's top players right now.
The bigger question is where will Judge be playing next year. Conventional wisdom says never bet against the Yankees from keeping their marquee stars, but there are a number of other teams with deep pockets and a need for a star out there, including Judge's hometown Giants.
The New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers also have enormous financial resources, probably even more than the Yankees at this point, but the former is reportedly now under investigation for its lack of interest in Judge.
Paul Goldschmidt wins NL MVP
A St. Louis Cardinals first baseman was one of the biggest stories in baseball this season. A different one ended up winning MVP.
Paul Goldschmidt notched his first career MVP on Thursday after an impressive season at the plate, hitting .317/.404/.578 (an NL-best .981 OPS) with 35 homers and 115 RBI. Goldschmidt had already received the NL Hank Aaron Award as the league's top hitter, and now he's been recognized as its top player.
Goldschmidt received 22 first-place votes, while runner-up Manny Machado had seven and Nolan Arenado had one.
Alongside teammates Arenado and Tommy Edman, Goldschmidt formed one of the most effective trios MLB has seen in years. The Cardinals were the first team since the 2011 Boston Red Sox to have three different players posted at least six bWAR, per Baseball Reference, helping power them to an NL Central title.
The 35-year-old Goldschmidt had previously finished top 3 in MVP voting three different times, but now the honor is his.