Reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton Joins the Yankees, What You Need to Know
The new Bomber’s lineup will feature the defending home run champs from both leagues.
Reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton is now a member of the New York Yankees. In a blockbuster trade, the Marlins received All-Star second baseman Starlin Castro and a pair of minor leaguers, Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers. Miami is also contributing $30 million toward Stanton’s salary.
In 2017, Stanton led the NL with 59 homers and 132 RBIs. He slashed .281/.376/.631 and had a 1.007 OPS.
This was Stanton’s fourth time receiving MVP votes, but it was his first win. He had been the runner-up in 2014. Stanton is also a four-time All-Star and has won two Silver Slugger Awards.
A Veteran Power Bat
At 28 years old, Stanton is already an eight-year major league veteran. He carries a .914 OPS in 4,120 career plate appearances. He has bashed 267 homers since his debut in 2010. Only three players in baseball have hit more during that time frame.
For the briefest of moments, it appeared as if the Yankees might actually head into the 2018 season without a veteran power bat in the middle of their lineup. That literally hasn’t happened since before the arrival of Babe Ruth in 1920.
Ruth passed the torch to Gehrig, who gave way to DiMaggio, who turned it over to Mantle. There was always a veteran slugger in the heart of the Yankees batting order to provide protection and guidance to the younger talents.
Even in the rebuilding years which followed The Mick’s retirement, there were veterans like Joe Pepitone, Roy White, and Bobby Bonds to anchor the lineup. Reggie Jackson finally arrived in 1977, with Dave Winfield joining the fold in 1981. Then came Mattingly, Paul O’Neill, and Bernie Williams. They gave way to Giambi, Sheffield, A-Rod, Teixeira, Beltran, and Holliday. There was always someone. Now that someone is Giancarlo Stanton.
Defending Home Run Champs, United
American League MVP runner-up Aaron Judge won the junior circuit’s home run crown in 2017. His 52 dingers also broke the 30-year-old rookie mark in the process. Now, for only the fourth time in MLB history, the defending home run champs from both leagues will be united on the same team.
It’s the second time the Yankees can boast such a monopoly of power. Joe DiMaggio paced the AL with 39 homers in 1948, but was dealing with a nagging injury early the following year when the team acquired NL home run champ Johnny Mize from the crosstown rival Giants. Together, Joltin’ Joe and The Big Cat led the Bombers to their first of five consecutive World Series titles.
The unusual power union had also occurred two years before, when veteran Hank Greenberg was sold by the Tigers to a Pittsburgh Pirates team that featured a young slugger named Ralph Kiner. The 1975 Phillies brought back former star Dick Allen to join young slugger Mike Schmidt after the pair had won their respective league’s home run titles the previous year.
In each of those three cases, the pairings featured at least one veteran who was on his way out. What should terrify opposing pitching staffs is that both Judge and Stanton are still in their prime years of production.
The only time in major league history that a pair of teammates hit more than 50 homers in the same season was 1961, when Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle accomplished the feat. The arrival of Stanton in the Bronx sets up an epic home run watch that will begin on Opening Day and will be exciting to follow as the season unfolds.
Castro out, Torres in
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman had previously announced that Gleyber Torres will compete for the starting third base job in spring training. But including Starlin Castro as part of the package to acquire Stanton creates a path for Torres to become the Yankees starting second baseman entering the 2018 season.
Torres was the prized prospect New York obtained in the deal that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs at the 2016 trade deadline. The 20-year-old is currently MLB’s number-two overall prospect.
Although he was drafted as a shortstop and played there exclusively while in Chicago’s minor league system, Torres has played 25 games at second and 15 at third since being acquired by the Yankees. The highly touted prospect’s scouting report shows that he has great hands and a plus arm. He projects to be a top defensive infielder.
In 1,611 professional plate appearances, Torres slashed .288/.368/.426 during 374 games. He rates high for his speed, having been successful in 64 of 102 stolen base attempts. His power is developing as well. Torres belted three home runs in 11 Arizona Fall League games. Overall, the right-handed hitter has 26 homers, 208 RBIs, and 218 runs scored across all professional levels.
The Yankees could have Torres compete with Tyler Wade and possibly Ronald Torreyes in spring training for the starting nod at second base. Or they could just hand the keys to Torres. Either way, it is apparent that the decision to deal Castro was designed to pave the way for Torres. Barring a shocking setback, Gleyber Torres will be the Yankees second baseman in 2018.
Defensively, Stanton is the team’s fourth best outfielder behind Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, and Judge. Although a right fielder by trade, Stanton is unlikely to supplant Gold Glove finalist Judge at that position. I also don’t see the two splitting time evenly, as some have suggested. Since both Hicks and Gold Glove winner Gardner have superior range, while the former has a plus arm, it appears that Stanton may be slotted in as the club’s primary DH.
But unlike other recent Yankee designated hitters who were either defensive liabilities or couldn’t play in the field at all, Stanton is more than capable with a glove. This gives rookie manager Aaron Boone tremendous flexibility.
Boone could start Stanton in the field a few games a week, giving each of the others a half-day off while serving as DH. A straight-up four-man rotation between the designated hitter and outfield spots could also be possible. Either way, Boone has an embarrassment of riches with which to work, enabling him to provide each player with ample rest throughout the long season. Plus, when playing in a National League park, whoever doesn’t start offers Boone a powerful bat off the bench.
The odd men out here are Clint Frazier and Jacoby Ellsbury. Prized prospect Frazier will likely get the start when one of the prime four need a full day off, but he doesn’t have a path to significant playing time unless one gets injured.
Ellsbury, meanwhile, appears to have no role whatsoever. The Yankees have been trying to trade him for some time, but his enormous contract, reduced productivity, and no-trade clause have made it difficult. Stanton’s acquisition gives the club extra impetus to find a new home for Ellsbury as soon as possible.
A Formidable Lineup
Until Friday night, the Yankees appeared poised to head into the 2018 season with basically the same lineup that put them within one win of the World Series. That wouldn’t have been bad at all, considering the Yankees had one of the most potent offenses in baseball last year. Plus, the Bombers were also looking forward to a full season with a healthy Greg Bird in the lineup.
The addition of Stanton, though, gives the Yankees an even more formidable lineup which is arguably the best in baseball. Although slightly heavy with righties, there are enough left-handed hitters to give Boone some interesting options. Here is one of many possible lineups that the Yankees could deploy on Opening Day, with each player’s 2017 stats:
Stanton is owed $285 million over the next ten years. His contract also includes a $25 million team option for the eleventh year, with a $10 million buyout. The annual value escalates to a peak of $32 million per year over a three-year period beginning in 2023. It then decreases in stages to $25 million in the final year. Stanton can opt-out following the 2020 season.
In 2018, Stanton will earn $25 million, while the average annual value of the departing Castro’s contract is around $8.6 million. The Marlins are also paying $30 million toward Stanton’s contract at the rate of $3 million per year. Miami does not have to pay anything if Stanton exercises his opt-out, but the $3 million per year is still subtracted from the Yankees payroll for purposes of calculating the luxury tax. The bottom line is, the Stanton trade will only add about $13.4 million to New York’s 2018 payroll.
Ninja Cash Strikes Again
Although I wrote weeks ago that the Yankees should make every attempt to reel in Stanton, there was no evidence that they were actually engaged in discussions to make it happen. Earlier in the week, the Marlins reached tentative deals with both the Giants and Cardinals to trade the MVP. There was absolutely no mention of the Yankees in connection to Stanton.
Everything changed overnight. First, Stanton used his no-trade clause to veto the two proposed deals. Next, word spread that there were only four teams that he would approve a trade to. The Yankees were one of them.
There was anticipation that the quartet of ballclubs on Stanton’s list would submit proposals and a bidding war might ensue, but it never happened. Then, suddenly, word came out late Friday that the Yankees had landed the big fish.
The blockbuster will go down as one of the biggest trades in Yankees history. It is reminiscent of Brian Cashman’s deals to acquire Roger Clemens in 1999 and Alex Rodriguez in 2004. And as with most of his best deals, “Ninja Cash” performed his magic without anyone seeing it coming.