Let’s just get this out of the way — this is coming from a Giancarlo Stanton defender (and sometimes apologist). The Yankees’ issues stretch far beyond Stanton, who has the second-best OPS on the team, a 162-game pace of 36 homers, and has actually done pretty well in clutch situations, despite some false narratives derived by WFAN callers.
See? I told you I’m a Stanton defender and apologist.
But what’s indefensible is how Stanton being a full-time DH is holding back the Yankees lineup from being at their best.
Now, their best obviously isn’t great, or good, or even just below average, this year, but him being a literal one-dimensional player has had a tremendous trickle-down effect.
It affects the rest of the lineup
Gerrit Cole throws to Kyle Higashioka. That’s it.
(Maybe Cole, who hasn’t been great since the sticky substance crackdown, can figure out how to throw to Sanchez, but that’s another article for another day).
Every fifth day, with Gary Sanchez being red-hot for well over a month now, either Sanchez or Stanton has to sit, because Aaron Boone might as well write down “Higashioka” in permanent marker on every fifth scorecard.
Of course, catchers can’t play every day. But the Yankees found themselves in a spot last week, after an off-day, where they easily could have had Higashioka (who is still the superior option defensively) behind the plate and still have Sanchez and Stanton in the lineup
But they can’t do that, because they are deathly afraid of an injury to the slugger (more on that below).
With one of their best hitters at this point in Sanchez riding the bench, that has forced the Yankees to have another .200 (or worse) hitter in either Brett Gardner or Clint Frazier in the lineup — sometimes both — along with Higashioka, whose true colors as a hitter have shown.
And, at this point, even though it’s been almost two years, it’s not totally out of this world to think Stanton would a better outfielder than Frazier or Miguel Andujar.
Aaron Judge can never DH
Aaron Judge has had his share of injuries in the past, despite leading the team in games played this year.
But an off day for Judge, because of Stanton, is a true off day, unless he’s a pinch-hit option late. The only way to take Judge, who would be an MVP candidate if not for Shohei Ohtani and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., off his legs, is to leave him out of the game entirely.
Judge is the closest thing to a five-tool player on the Yankees — but he can almost never DH unless if Stanton has an off day which, as a full-time DH, is pretty ridiculous anyway.
Honestly, do they even need Stanton?
Look, Stanton getting hurt is not ideal for the Yankees. When healthy, he produces over the long haul. Always has.
The Yankees go how Stanton goes. When Stanton is in a slump, it coincides with a cold streak for the Yankees. Here is proof:
In the Yankees’ first 18 games, they went 6-11. Stanton hit .158/.238/.333 in that stretch. Then, the Yankees won 14 of their next 20 games. Stanton’s slashine in that span? .378/.432/.689.
From May 28 to June 13, the Yankees went 4-11, as Stanton was a .200 hitter with a .723 OPS.
In their following 7-2 stretch, he had a .929 OPS and was hitting .321. In their latest nine games (they are 2-7), he has an OPS of just .694.
But we’re missing some games — a 9-4 stretch while Stanton was on the injured list.
Small sample size? Sure. But was it a small sample size in 2019 when the Yankees won 103 games, and Stanton played in just 18?
If Stanton stinks, the Yankees stink. If Stanton is good, the Yankees are good. It’s been a repeating pattern for 83 games.
If Stanton is out … the Yankees are still good.
The point is — if Stanton gets hurt as soon as he touches grass for the first time since Sept. 28, 2019, is it the end of the world? All signs point to no.
He doesn’t even have to play the outfield every day. Just when you want to DH your best overall player in Judge, and when you can leave Sanchez in the lineup despite Cole on the mound. Twice a week. Tops.
This isn’t a “trade Stanton for whatever you can” plea, because thinking Stanton has no value is a pure lack of baseball IQ.
But it’s time for the Yankees to “risk” it. The trickle down effect has cost the Yankees too much, and it’s time for the payroll to live up to the nine figures.