Aaron Judge New York Yankees
Vincent Carchietta | USA TODAY Sports

It never made much sense that only two teams would partake in the Aaron Judge free agency sweepstakes. Sure, the Yankees — who re-signed the American League home run king Wednesday — and Giants were always the obvious top contenders. But you have to be in it to win it, no?

Sure enough, it was not a two-horse race in the end. It was three. The Padres were the mystery team that went undetected and entered the conversation at the last moment. And they reportedly offered more than the Bombers (nine years, $360 million), according to NJ.com:

The Padres had an offer of a whopping $400 million out to Judge, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

Some quick thoughts:

• We’re not surprised the Padres got in the mix, but we are surprised it took this long.   We don’t understand how exactly they have all this money to throw at free agents, but they apparently have it.

• Judge was never going there on a long-term deal. Because you cannot actually trust that this sudden leap into the sport’s upper financial echelon is going to be sustainable. That said, if the Padres had offered Judge a market-shaking short-term deal — something like three years and $150 million — that would have been a potential game-changer.

• It’s the cynic in us. But this does seem a bit convenient, no? Judge just finished wringing every penny possible out of owner Hal Steinbrenner. And after he, by all indications, came very close to leaving town. And now that he has his deal, he can suddenly get word out that he took a hometown discount to stay in pinstripes? That’s a bit on the nose.

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James Kratch can be reached at james.kratch@xlmedia.com

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.