The Yankees have been among the biggest spenders in baseball this offseason. Bringing Aaron Judge back by signing him to the richest deal in franchise history will do that. Despite that, as well as signing Carlos Rodon to join the rotation, New York still has a significant question mark in left field ahead of Opening Day.
The Yankees’ newest captain has a proposition to mitigate this issue.
General manager Brian Cashman has been searching for a left-field upgrade most of the winter. The ideal player would be to acquire Bryan Reynolds, but that’s not happening. Not now, at least. New York has also bolstered that area of the roster’s depth chart with minor-league signings. This includes Willie Calhoun, among others.
But since they haven’t been able to create payroll space from the Steve Cohen tax limit, they’re likely stuck trying to make things work with guys currently on the roster. Oswaldo Cabrera could force his way into regular playing time, but it may also mean more Aaron Hicks than most Yankee fans would probably prefer to see.
Or, maybe not? NJ.com’s Randy Miller reported on a conversation Judge had with manager Aaron Boone over the offseason. The chat first included the reigning AL MVP lobbying for some time in center fielder despite the presence of Harrison Bader. Judge played a fair number of games there throughout 2022.
Boone didn’t like the idea. But then, the single-season AL home run king said the following that intrigued his skipper:
Put me in left. I don’t mind it. I don’t mind switching around to have Bader and me and big G [Giancarlo Stanton] out there.
The Yankees have shied away from putting Stanton in left field consistently in the Bronx because it’s a lot of ground to cover. But if they put Judge there and Stanton in right, that could work. Here’s what Boone had to say about it:
I’m open to things like that, especially in the home ballpark. It’s something that I would say I’m at least considering and it’s on the table. We’ll just kind of see how that goes in letting that play out and getting guys reps in different spots. So no decision on that yet, but it’s something on my board.
Stanton has spent the majority of his time as a designated hitter for the Yankees in an effort to keep him healthy and in the lineup. The right-handed slugger does like to play the outfield because it keeps him in the flow of the game more naturally. And if we look at his split stats from 2022, he’s more productive.
He racked up 287 plate appearances as the designated hitter last year. Stanton hit 19 of his 31 homers in that scenario, but it was also accompanied by a .189/.290/.438 line. In 142 plate appearances as a right fielder, his triple slash was a much healthier .258/.317/.531 with 11 dingers.
So, this potential solution could not only get more production out of Stanton, but it could limit exposure for Aaron Hicks or any other non-preferred left-field option during home games. If he doesn’t show he’s primed for a bounce-back campaign this spring, at least.
Since Cashman couldn’t find a legitimate solution this offseason, Juge’s idea is at least worth a shot during Grapefruit League action. He hasn’t played left field since 2016 in Triple-A. But Judge is still at the point in his career where he’s versatile enough and can cover a lot of ground. He did it last year in center. It’s not outrageous to think he can do it in left this season.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.