Four Free Agent Press Conferences Highlight A Unique Week In New York Baseball

When fans recall the baseball events in New York, they can proclaim this the week of the baseball free agent press conference.

While no official research exists, it seems likely this week in the lengthy history of baseball free agency there had never been a combined four introductory press conferences on four consecutive days within the history of the two New York teams.

Yet, this was the case for fans or observers salivating for the start of spring training and the 40 to 50 degree days during season openers in late March or early April. So far there have been a combined five introductory press conferences and there will be a sixth at some point when the stunning move by the Mets to get Carlos Correa as their new third baseman becomes official after Christmas.

The free agent press conference follows a usual script.

The player is on the dais in a press conference room of the stadium, a brief introduction is made others on the dais. Then a team executive speaks, there’s an opening statement from the player being feted by a brief question and answer session for the public watching on YES Network or SNY.

This week the players playing starring roles in the week of the baseball free agent press conference were in order of appearance were Kodai Senga, Justin Verlander, Aaron Judge and Carlos Rodon. It is a quartet costing the New York teams a combined $713.7 million totaling 22 years and those contracts were hashed out before the Mets added $315 million to the mix for 13 years of Correa.

Each press conference produced its share of memorable moments.

On Monday, Senga introduced himself in English with a “Let’s Go Mets” as part of his opening statement. Then he revealed he decided to wear No. 34 after engaging on social media with numerous fans, who suggested he wear Noah Syndergaard’s former number from 2015 to 2021.

After the dais portion of the proceedings, Senga offered more with his outgoing personality. When asked about what hitters he looks forward to facing the most, Senga said in English “the Phillies lineup”. It was not an offhand comment but a matter of fact serious remark that gave the impression of knowing the significance since he signed with a 101-win team whose playoff run lasted three games in the expanded postseason while the Phillies were an 87-win group who reached the World Series.

Verlander, who helped defeat those Phillies Senga is anticipating, was next. And his reason for signing can be deduced to one word: “Steve” as in the willingness of owner Steve Cohen to personally call him and use the financial resources that go along with being baseball’s richest owner to invest in talent.

“It really wasn’t a baseball call. It was just a `Hey, this is Steve,” Verlander said while his wife Kate Upton said in the first row in front of a few media members. “You’re Justin. Let me get to know you a little bit,'”

And this was after Verlander concluded a season where he went 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA, a mark that was his career-low but also the lowest in a full AL season since Pedro Martinez produced a 1.74 ERA in 2000 during the peak of his career with the Boston Red Sox.

A day after the Mets introduced two of their new starting pitchers, the Yankees kind of took centerstage on Wednesday by officially announcing Aaron Judge was retained on a nine-year, $360 million contract.

It was a press conference that was about two weeks in the making after some anxious moments at the recent winter meetings in San Diego. At that point, it seemed Judge might return to his native San Francisco Giants, given their willingness to be aggressive and the fact he grew up during the Barry Bonds years.

Instead, it took a phone call from Hal Steinbrenner, who was so anxious to get the deal completed, the managing general partner pulled over at a road stop somewhere in Italy to finalize matters.

“He shot me a message earlier about, `What’s the holdup? What’s it going to take to get this to the finish line?'” Judge said.

It turned out the money was not necessarily the sticking point but the length of the deal and somewhere during the call with his star, Steinbrenner added the ninth year, matching the length of Gerrit Cole’s contract signed in Dec. 2019.

“What’s important to your parents, to your wife and to you?” Steinbrenner said while remembering the call. “It was apparent to me that the ninth year was very important to him, that he felt like he could be very productive for at least that.”

Along the way there was conversation about making Judge captain, a fact that always seemed somewhat apparent assuming he re-signed and about 25 minutes in Wednesday’s press conference, Judge was anointed as the 16th captain.

Of course, there was a sense in some segments that the Yankees were being upstaged by the Mets because of what unfolded around 3 am. There was a time when the Mets fired manager Willie Randolph in June 2008 but this time 3 am was approximately the hour when reports of Correa reaching an agreement with the Mets surfaced.

Originally Correa was supposed to get his press conference with the Giants after they lost out on Judge. They reportedly were there to finalize a 13-year, $350 million deal but the Giants backed out due to a medical concern but instead Boras called the Mets, whom he engaged with before the San Francisco contract and Cohen was willing to sign him.

“He was at a dinner, which was 10:30, 11 o’clock,” Boras told reporters at Yankee Stadium about how Correa became the new third baseman for the Mets. “He just mentioned he had a martini, and I said, do you have three olives for a great third baseman? That’s kind of how we began our process of working through this, and a lot of back and forth of discussions of many alternatives. Around 12 midnight, we were able to reach an agreement.”

Those comments were made while Boras was on the dais for Rodon, whose six-year, $162 million deal was finalized Thursday.

Rodon’s last appearance at Yankee Stadium was a 13-strikeout showing for the White Sox on May 21, 2021 but he emerged as a Giant. The Yankees copped to trying to get him at last year’s trade deadline before pivoting to Frankie Montas and on Thursday, Rodon was there without his beard discussing shaving along with the excitement of becoming a Yankee.

“I was like, screw it. I might as well shave now because I know in about a week if I tried to shave and I have razor bumps, it’s not going to look great,” he said.

“You’ll get used to it. There’ll be days you push the envelope a little bit and I got to walk up to you and say, `What’s going on here?'” manager Aaron Boone quipped.

The answer to the what’s going on question was this was the busiest week in free agent press conference history in New York baseball and it simply built the anticipation for another fun summer of 162 one-game seasons.