When he fills out his lineup card for tonight’s series opener against Toronto, Joe will have multiple options for right field. He can play a 40-year-old lefty hitter with a noodle bat and deteriorated defensive skills who can slap some singles here and there but do little else. He can play a 38-year-old former power hitter who’s apparently lost his bat speed and power to the degree that he’s nothing more than a platoon bat at the moment. Or he could roll the dice and throw his 37-year-old projected starting right fielder back out there even though he has a bone spur in his throwing elbow that caused him to miss 3 weeks and has only recently started throwing a ball again in an effort to limit the stress on the elbow.
Appealing options, aren’t they? Safe to say the Yankees’ plan to patch together right field for a year or 2 is already all but crumbled and fallen apart. Both Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano are in the final years of their respective contracts, and while one or both of them may try to stick around next year, I highly doubt they’ll be doing it as Yankees. Beltran, with what he’s shown when he has been in the outfield and now the elbow problem to consider, could be transitioned to full-time DH duty as soon as this season. That would leave another void in right, a position the team has struggled to fill with a reliable option since letting Nick Swisher walk. Enter Giancarlo Stanton.
The righty-slugging Miami Marlin is in the midst of his best career season so far in 2014. He’s fully recovered from last year’s injury problems and back to mashing at an elite level. He hit his NL-leading 19th home run last night and has a .303/.399/.594 slash line in 303 PA with an also NL-leading 56 RBI. He’s re-established himself as one of the best players in Major League Baseball and probably the most feared power hitter, and he would be the perfect answer to the Yankees’ right field problems.
Just think, a top notch MLB All Star wearing pinstripes BEFORE he hits his prime and not being signed to a gargantuan deal during or after it. This season marks Stanton’s 5th in his Major League career and yet he’s only 24 years old. To put that in perspective, Stanton is 2 years older than Aaron Judge, a little less than 2 years older than Tyler Austin, less than a year older than Slade Heathcott, and a little less than half a year younger than Zoilo Almonte. And he already has 136 HR and counting. Stanton would give the Yankees youth, excitement, personality, and some desperately needed right-handed oomph. He would be an absolute king in New York, the next “face” of the franchise after Derek Jeter retires and one who could conceivably be that face for almost as long as Jeter was.
One problem, the Marlins almost assuredly aren’t going to give him up now. Their cyclical plan of acquiring, developing, and calling up young talent stockpiled in fire sale trades appears to be cycling back into competitive mode this year. Even without their injured ace Jose Fernandez, they’re holding strong in the NL playoff races. They wake up today just 1.5 games back of the 2nd Wild Card spot (0 in the loss column) and 1 back of the AL East-leading Braves. The incentive for the Marlins to be sellers this year is very low, and even it wasn’t, what can the Yankees possibly offer them?
Seriously, what kind of package could the Yankees put together right now that could even keep the Marlins’ brass on the phone for more than 30 seconds? None of those outfield prospects listed earlier or their ceilings holds a candle to what Stanton is right now as a player. Mason Williams and his lack of hitting skill? They’ve got Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich. Gary Sanchez and his bad attitude? They just signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia. If Manny Banuelos was in Triple-A, fully stretched out, and not coming off TJS and Rafael De Paula was 3 years younger, maybe they’d have a shot. Maybe.
Which leaves the Yankees playing the waiting game with everybody else to see what happens with Stanton over the next few seasons before he hits free agency. He’s in his 1st year of arbitration eligibility this year and he’s making $6.5 million. That number is going to go way up after this season and even higher over the next 2. By the time he hits the open market in the 2016-2017 offseason, he’s going to be a $25-30 million player, and that’s if he even hits the open market. As cheap as they are, the Marlins could decide he’s one worth holding onto and follow the new trend of negotiating long-term deals to buy out a player’s arb years and lock them up before free agency even becomes a factor. That’d be the smart thing to do.
There are way many more reasons why Giancarlo Stanton won’t become a Yankee than there are reasons that he could. As much as he offers a short and long-term solution to a lot of their offensive problems, to the Yankees he’s the position player equivalent of the girl (or guy) you have a crush on in high school. You want them, you fantasize about them, you’d hack off your right arm just for the chance to spend 5 minutes with them, but in the end you know you can never have them.
Sucks. Doesn’t hurt to dream though, right?