The veteran slugger had yet another forgettable year in New York, batting just .191 in 101 games. The 24 home runs almost don’t matter. Stanton just turned 34, is clearly declining, and is due $118 million through 2027.
But Yankees manager Aaron Boone seemed optimistic about Stanton’s upcoming season. The former MVP is reportedly “lighter” and Boone has repeatedly said to expect a “big year” from Stanton. He even went a step farther and said Stanton, despite a history of soft tissue leg injuries, would play some outfield and not just DH.
Pretty high praise for an aging home run hitter whose health has always held him back. Particularly just weeks after general manager Brian Cashman verbally sparred with Stanton’s agent Joel Wolfe in the press over that very subject.
Why the sudden making nice and singing “Kumbaya” together? This sure doesn’t seem like a second honeymoon.
Realistically speaking, the Yankees are probably hyping Giancarlo Stanton for a couple of reasons. The first is just some light brown-nosing. Wolfe also represents international superstar and top Yankees free agency target Yoshinobu Yamamoto. By praising Stanton, Cashman and Boone look supportive and not all buttoned up and business-only a la “The Yankee Way.”
The second is simpler and probably the more likely of the two: The Yankees are thinking of trading Stanton at some point.
Granted, this seemed inevitable the moment Stanton arrived in New York in December 2017. Sure, he was fresh off an MVP season, but numbers don’t lie. He was still a huge injury risk and, barring a health miracle, his contract would eventually become a burden.
Now, let’s shift the conversation to the newly acquired Juan Soto. He’s in his contract year and could earn over $30 million in arbitration. The Yankees would probably love to re-sign him to a long-term contract next offseason. That’ll take a lot of money, and don’t forget Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge’s contracts are each worth well over $300 million.
But, then again, what if Giancarlo Stanton stays healthy all year and is otherwise himself? That means 30 or more home runs and over 100 RBI, plus a respectable batting average. Better yet, what if he produces those numbers and then has a strong postseason, perhaps even winning the World Series?
Suddenly, four years and $118 million doesn’t sound too bad for a guy entering his age-35 season. Especially if he can produce at or near All-Star levels. Taking that contract on suddenly doesn’t sound so daunting so long as Stanton is healthy. Even less so if the Yankees foot some of the bill and then add top outfield prospect Spencer Jones.
This is all a big “What if” and there are no signs the Yankees are looking to move Stanton. However, the tea leaves heavily imply it. Just ask former Yankee and journeyman outfielder Cameron Maybin, now a broadcaster. He offered his own unique take on Stanton last month in this exchange with WFAN’s Keith McPherson:
You know I agree with everything you said except the big G part…. And I’ll leave it there. Im not putting words in his mouth but not so sure he wants to finish his career in the pinstripes.. I’m sure he’d like to finish somewhere that actual appreciates how’s he’s handle every…
— Cameron Maybin (@CameronMaybin) November 9, 2023
And if a trade doesn’t work? Guess what, it’s not the end of the world. The Yankees can cut their losses and release him like they did Aaron Hicks and Josh Donaldson. Or maybe Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner decide to Bobby Bonilla their way out of trouble and convert the remaining salary to annual deferred payments.
No matter what happens, this trade for Juan Soto led to an unexpected Yankees storyline:
Keep an eye on Giancarlo Stanton in 2024.