Giancarlo: Part 1
by Cary Greene
January 12, 2023
Giancarlo Stanton’s Value to the Yankees
Every offseason in recent memory, there have been a number of pieces regarding the oft-injured Giancarlo Stanton. They call out Stanton for being injured too much, they conclude that his defense isn’t very good, and they lament that he’s a home run or bust player who strikes out too much, doesn’t hit doubles, runs too slow, makes way too much money, is untradeable, and ultimately, they often even suggest the Yankees should just plan on using him as the team’s defacto designated-hitter.
Wondering if all of the articles, fan comments and opinions that I read about Stanton could possibly be true, I decided to address this once and for all here on SSTN. Let the record below show that I found some surprising results and if you’re a die-hard Yankees fan like me who watches a ton of in-season Yankees baseball, I have a feeling you’ll generally agree with what your eyeballs tell you that you’ve been seeing for some time now with relation to Stanton’s performance and let’s fact it, due to his massive contract and the fact that he’s not getting any younger with each passing season, it’s pretty crucial for the Yankees to maximize the production they can get out of Stanton going forward.
In today’s installment, I’ll review Stanton’s injury history and examine whether or not he’s valuable defensively. Afterall, the Yankees don’t presently have a left fielder, so the obvious elephant in the room question is, can Stanton be part of a viable solution for 2023?
There was a time, prior to 2018, where many Yankees fans and bloggers alike would argue vehemently about Stanton’s durability, claiming that he was the victim of random accidents and that he actually didn’t already have an established injury-prone label/track record at the time Yankees GM Brian Cashman traded for the freakishly powerful and chiseled outfielder.
Marlins Injury Track Record
I think those arguments, at the time, weren’t as off-base as some may have thought as the major issues were generally very random. His main injuries by season with the Marlins were well documented, as he missed a total of 214 games in six full seasons, sitting out 22% of the Marlins games during his career in Miami. Over half were actually the result of two freak accidents (he got hit in the face by a pitch in once instance and in another, he swung so hard he snapped his wrist in two).
● 2012 - Missed 39-games with a knee-injury and an abdominal-strain.
● 2013 - Missed 46-games with shoulder, thigh and ankle injuries.
● 2014 - Missed the final 17-games due to getting hit in the cheek by Mike Fiers
● 2015 - Missed 88-games with broken wrist caused by swinging too hard.
● 2016 - Missed 24 games down the stretch, due to a hamstring injury.
● 2017 - Played the full season - Won the MVP award as well!
Was Cashman wrong in trading for Stanton, shouldn’t red-flags have been raised regarding his injury track record? At the time of the trade, Stanton was fresh off playing a full season and winning the MVP with one of the most impressive offensive performances of the decade. Whatever injury history he did have seemed to be outweighed by the impact he made on both sides of the ball. However, where there’s smoke there is often fire, and Brain Cashman may have been blinded a bit by Stanton’s gaudy 2017 stat sheet at the time he dealt for him.
Yankees Injury Track Record
Once he joined the Yankees, Stanton’s injury related misfortunes increased. This is also well known as he’s missed 239 games so far, while sitting out for 34 percent of the Bronx Bombers' games during this timespan. Unfortunately for the Yankees, the injuries have been so varied that it would be impossible to characterize any of them as one-offs and the truth is, Stanton is now viewed league-wide as an often injured player.
● 2018 - Played the full season and carried the team on his back.
● 2019 - Missed 144 games with a variety of injuries, from a left biceps strain, a left shoulder strain, a left calf strain, a strain of his right posterior cruciate ligament and a right quadriceps strain.
● 2020 - Missed 38 games with a hamstring injury.
● 2021 - Missed 15 games with a quadriceps strain and was mostly used as a DH in the games he did play in, appearing in the outfield for 16 games.
● 2022 - Missed 42 games with ankle and Achilles injuries
Stanton has played one fully healthy season since 2017 so there’s little solace in thinking he can avoid injuries and do so in 2023. However, Yankees fans can absolutely expect the team to continue to try to get him into the outfield at least on a part time basis.
Recently, Yankees manager Aaron Boone told MLB.COM's Bryan Hoch that, “I want to get him out there, but I see him more in right field in our ballpark, maybe on days where I give Judge a DH day.” Boone went on to say, “Or G can spell left field in other ballparks. Hopefully, physically, he’s in a space where he’s playing the outfield in spurts all year long. I put him in left field last year in a playoff game out of need, and he was ready for it.”
This news suggests that the Yankees may try to get back to playing Stanton similarly to the way they began to use him last season, with the “x-factor” certainly being his health. This means that in an ideal world, Stanton might play about a maximum of 35 percent of the time in the outfield with the main reason being that Boone and the Yankees must still feel very cautious about their defensive usage of Stanton, primarily due to a fear of him getting injured while playing the field.
Whether or not this approach is right or wrong remains to be seen, but it appears that this is the Yankees' plan. Personally, I’m not sure Stanton is all that valuable as a quasi-outfielder whose foremost purpose is to be the designated-hitter. This multiple part series on Stanton will answer this question definitively, but first let’s examine a few other possibilities.
Several weeks ago, I presented the notion that the Yankees should contact the Dodgers and the Padres and let them know that Stanton is available. My reasoning was that if he’s primarily a right-handed designated-hitter, why not move him to one of the teams he might actually agree to be traded to and thereby free up payroll for a run at Shohei Ohtani, who will be a free agent after the season?
This idea was met with some SSTN comments section blowback, which is to be expected when we consider the 2023 season and the amount of capital the Yankees have invested in what the franchise hopes will be a push to win the World Series. Since acquiring Stanton, the Yankees have had a hard time sandwiching strong, left-handed bats in between Judge and Stanton in the lineup.
Cashman signed Anthony Rizzo this offseason and that helps a lot, considering his batted-ball pull-rate of 48.1-percent should play well in 2023, especially with the shift being outlawed. Still, the Yankees don’t have a strong left-handed hitter to protect Stanton and this gives an opposing manager an opportunity to saw through several right-handed batters with right- handed starters or relievers at various points in games.
The notion of trading Stanton most likely amounts to a non-starter as both the Dodgers and the Padres also are also Ohtani suitors. Why would either of them want to take on Stanton’s salary this season when both appear to have well defined financial priorities presently. The Dodgers are very clearly trying to reset the CBT and the Padres have to think about extending Manny Machado and also need to at least consider resetting the CBT.
Stanton’s is Virtually Untradable
According to Baseball Trade Values, Stanton has a negative $107 MTV and of course, he also has a full no-trade clause. His tremendous negative trade value is mostly attributed to his current contract, which still has five-years remaining and is owed a balance of $150-million. His AAV is more than the entire payroll of the 2023 Oakland A’s presently projected payroll.
Back in 2017 when the Marlins were in the process of trying to trade Stanton, it was reported that he’d only approve being traded to the Astros, Dodgers, Cubs or Yankees. His reasoning may have had something to do with those teams being winners at the time, who knows if he’s willing to add the Padres to his list of teams he’d consider and also, one wonders if his list has changed slightly from 2017 - are the rebuilding Cubs a team he’d still consider?
Any notions that he might agree to waive his no-trade clause to go to any team other than those two is pure folly and wishful, wholly and fully unsubstantiated conjecture. In all likelihood, the Yankees are stuck with Stanton, for better or for worse, until in five years when they surely will part!
Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze So Far?
Considering that Stanton made a whopping $29-million last season and was predominantly a one-way player, who’s main value was mostly attributed to his bat, Stanton was the biggest waste of payroll allocation on the Yankees roster. In fact, since Stanton was acquired by Brian Cashman and the Yankees, his performance equates to a player who, if he were a free agent, would have been worth $68.4 million. The problem is that he made $96.8 million. Therefore, based on his on-field performance, the Yankees have vastly overpaid Stanton to the tune of $30.2 million. It should also be noted that much of Stanton’s sunk cost is related to missing almost the entire 2019 season.
It’s also important to note that without Stanton playing the outfield much, he just hasn’t been all that valuable. Perhaps most concerningly of all, over the past four-seasons collectively, a span in which the Yankees have been forced to use him mostly as a designated-hitter, Stanton has barely equaled his 2018 single season f-WAR of 4.2 in 2018. As he ages, I’m afraid this usage of Stanton just isn’t sustainable. Considering how much money he makes, the situation is turning into a disaster.
Today’s article will be concluded with a brief look at Stanton’s defensive aptitude because Yankees fans surely must wonder, if he is healthy, is it worth playing him in the field - is he still a passable Major-League outfielder?
Stanton’s Defensive Aptitude
When we evaluate defense these days, we get confused easily. Gone are the days when a player’s fielding-percentage told us everything we needed to know, but for what it’s worth, Stanton has a career fielding percentage of .980! Thinking back several decades to a time when things were far simpler, does an outfielder with a career .980 fielding-percentage sound like a bad fielder?
Older fans will remember how great Carl Yastrzemski played balls off the Green-Monster at Fenway Park for the Red Sox. “Yaz” was a very good overall fielder and guess what? His career fielding-percentage was a .981 - so we need to understand that Stanton has always been a very solid defensive outfielder. Last season by the way, Stanton had a .983 fielding-percentage.
This notion that Stanton isn’t very good defensively is further dispelled by modern analytics. Stanton has always been a very average outfielder. In fact, StatCast’s Outs-Above-Average even says this is true. Stanton was -2 outs-above average last season, to put that in perspective, Tim LoCastro was -1. If anything, StatCast would say that while Stanton gets well below average overall jumps on balls (-2.8), mainly due to slow reaction-time (-1.4) and that his burst (-1.9) when accelerating from standing to full speed is slow, he actually runs above average routes (+0.6) that help him play very serviceable overall defense.
Considering Stanton’s overall footspeed is in the bottom 5 percent of all MLB players and considering the slow overall jump Stanton gets on balls surprisingly barely costs the Yankees any runs (and it never has) because his average arm, his solid and experienced glove, and his above average route running offsets his shortcomings.
Is he as superb as Steven Kwan? Of course not, but when we consider that only eight MLB left fielders with 50 attempts or more were rated 1 Out-Above Average last season, Stanton is absolutely playable in either left or right field and it’s not even debatable. Below is a summary of Stanton’s outs-above-average:
FanGraphs also rates Stanton as being a solid outfielder. He’s saved 45 runs and has a 5.3 UZR/150 rating. Even last year his UZR/150 was a 5.8 - so anyone who wants to suggest that Stanton isn’t currently at least an average outfielder is simply flat out wrong.
Considering that Stanton actually is a perfectly acceptable defensive player by any metric we’d care to use, the four questions this series of articles need to answer now become:
1. Is there any benefit to playing Stanton in the outfield opposed to instead using him as the de facto designated-hitter?
2. Are the Yankees better off protecting Stanton from incurring fielding-related injuries by utilizing him as a primary designated-hitter?
3. Can Stanton physically be more than a part-time outfielder going forward?
4. Should/will the Yankees pursue other left field options prior to the start of the season and if so, what are the present options and how do they compare, both in terms of the budget and also from a performance aspect - do they make sense?