Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Death, Taxes, & Stanton to the IL...


Giancarlo Stanton & Nasty Nestor Cortes, Jr (Photo Credit: @Giancarlo818, via Instagram)

Giancarlo Stanton heads to the Injured List again...   

When the Yankees lineup for Sunday’s game was posted early in the morning, social media was abuzz about Giancarlo Stanton’s absence from the lineup a day before a scheduled day off. Shortly thereafter, before game-time, Manager Aaron Boone announced that Stanton had been placed on the 10-day Injured List which accounted for why he was not in the lineup.

Here we go again. Every year, it is something. I remember the excitement of the evening of December 11, 2017, when it was announced the Yankees had acquired Stanton for Starlin Castro, José Devers, and Jorge Guzmán. When the Marlins-Stanton trade rumors had started swirling, the destinations appeared to be, first, San Francisco, and then, St. Louis. Yet, GM Brian Cashman was able to swoop in and land the talented reigning NL Most Valuable Player for a pittance. It looked like a steal. In retrospect, I wish the Giants or Cardinals had been more aggressive in their pursuits.

I like Giancarlo Stanton, and when he is healthy, he is a major threat in the batting order. This is not an Aaron Hicks situation where I believe the player has worn out his welcome, but I do think the Yankees would have been better off by passing on Stanton. His presence, or more notably, his contract, has caused the Yankees to pass on major free agents in recent years. Well, excluding those not named Gerrit Cole.

Stanton’s first season, 2018, was fine. He played 158 games, only one less than he had played during his preceding MVP campaign. 38 home runs and 100 RBIs, while hitting .266/.343/.509 (.852 OPS). Not quite his MVP numbers, but respectable. Then the injuries arose. He played 18 games in 2019 and 23 games in the pandemic-stricken year of 2020. He rebounded for 139 games in 2021, dropped to 110 games last year, and is now 13 games into the new season…Poof! 

When I initially heard about Stanton’s latest trip to the IL, my first thought was he would find a way to extend his stay beyond the prerequisite ten days with some mysterious ailment. The Yankees are generally not very transparent when it comes to Stanton’s health. Stanton had injured his hamstring while slowing down after hitting a double in Saturday’s game against the Twins. An MRI revealed it is a Grade 2 Hamstring Strain (left leg). Initial reports show he will be out for 4-6 weeks. When it comes to Stanton and games missed for injury, always take the Over.

I am disappointed. This is a losing proposition for the Yankees. They certainly are not going to cut him. When healthy, Stanton remains a force. If they trade him, the return might be even less than the paltry sum the Yankees paid the Marlins plus they would have to back up the Brinks trucks to help his new team pay his contract. All things considered; the Yankees are better just riding this thing out. I had hoped the overhaul of the team’s training staff a few years ago, including the addition of Eric Cressey, the Director of Player Health and Performance, would improve the Yankees’ performance with injury avoidance. C’est la vie. Hoping a player’s health improves as he ages is like hoping for the winning Powerball numbers in the latest lottery.   

Stanton is 33 and under contract through 2027. The Yankees hold an option for 2028 but it seems unlikely it will be exercised. So, buckle up for five more years. Hopefully, this does not become as painful as the final years of the Jacoby Ellsbury contract. 

The Yankees recalled infielder Oswald Peraza to fill Stanton’s roster spot. Peraza, the loser of the shortstop competition with Anthony Volpe during Spring Training, is only expected to be with the big-league club for a few days. Third baseman Josh Donaldson is expected to be activated later this week (or was, latest reports indicate a setback) and it is assumed Peraza will grab a bus headed for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA. I would be surprised if Donaldson remains a Yankee the entire year. If he continues to underperform with the bat, it will hasten his departure, but I doubt the Yankees are ready to pull the trigger yet even if the team is stronger with DJ LeMahieu at third base, and Peraza at second base and Gleyber Torres at DH. I would play Peraza at short and move Volpe to second, but that ship has passed. 

I think the Yankees will be fine without Stanton for the six…cough, cough…eight to ten…cough, cough…weeks. Harrison Bader, another frequent contributor to the IL, should be back soon. Pitching reinforcements will arrive next month with Carlos Rodón and Luis Severino. I doubt the hot start by the “Franchyse”, Franchy Cordero, is sustainable, but it is fun while it lasts. Stanton’s absence also creates opportunities for guys like Peraza to show they belong in the Bronx. 

It has been a slow start, despite the stolen bases, for Anthony Volpe, but I do believe the game is starting to slow down for him at the Major League level. He will make the necessary adjustments to become a force in the lineup in the not-so-distant future. Keeping DJ LeMahieu healthy is a must. Aaron Judge will help power everyone in the batting order as he always does. The Yankees are better with a healthy Stanton, but they remain a very strong team without him. 

So, hold off handing the AL East to the Tampa Bay Rays or the Toronto Blue Jays. A World Series has never been won in April. The Yankees have time to get healthy. Giancarlo Stanton will be back crushing the life out of baseballs in a month or two. The summer in the Bronx figures to be incredibly bright.

Get healthy, G.   

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