Giancarlo: Part 3
By Cary Greene
January 17, 2013
Giancarlo Stanton’s Value to the Yankees
In the Giancarlo: Part 1 and Giancarlo: Part 2 articles that preceded today’s piece (the final in this trilogy) I reviewed Giancarlo Stanton’s injury history and went in depth on Stanton’s defensive acumen, illustrating that he is and always has been a mostly average defensive player. Then, Stanton’s previous deployment history was looked at, and it was determined that he’s a significantly better offensive performer when he’s playing the field opposed to being relegated to DH duty.
Next, the Yankees 2024 payroll percentage was also brought into focus, showing the Bombers had by far the highest dollar amount allocated to their outfield of any MLB team ($81.8-million), even crushing the Mets in this area by a walloping $28.4-million. Soberingly, the Yankees 2024 outfield has a higher payroll than 13 Major League Teams do!
Given the staggering investment committed to Judge, Stanton, and to a lesser extent Aaron Hicks, it’s clear the Yankees are looking to inject minor leaguers into the outfield mix in 2024 and it’s easy to see that Hal Steinbrenner chose to pump the brakes regarding a free agent upgrade like Brandon Nimmo or others. Steve Cohen doesn’t seem to care about blowing past the $293 Tier-4 barrier of the CBT, but obviously, Steinbrenner doesn’t want to go there.
Seeing as how Cashman couldn’t slash payroll by trading Aaron Hicks or Josh Donaldson, he’s presently got a tough nut to crack with regards to upgrading left field.
As I covered in the Part 2 article, Brian Cashman basically has four choices:
The first is the easiest - Estevan Florial could simply make the team out of Spring Training and take over for Aaron Hicks, who would likely have to be DFA’d since Cashman has found it impossible to move him this offseason.
The second choice Cashman has is to trade at least one of Dominguez or Pereira and/or numerous other prospects like Volpe, Peraza, Austin Wells, Trey Sweeney or possibly others still to secure a player who would be a significant upgrade in left field and who is also a longer term fit - like Bryan Reynolds for example - then shed payroll like mad to keep the payroll below the apparent budget of $293-million (as set by team owner Hal Steinbrenner).
But, this option interferes with the Yankees partial youth movement. The price, in terms of prospects, for a player like Reynolds is also incredibly steep and the Yankees don’t even match up well with the Pirates as they’re looking for high-end pitching prospects so it doesn’t seem very likely that the Yankees pull the trigger on what would certainly be a blockbuster of a trade for a left fielder.
The third choice is to stay with the current plan/roster and try to cobble together a solution as best as possible, dumpster diving to find depth options like Rafael Ortega, Billy McKinney, and Michael Hermosillio - “holding the fort” until such time as a top-prospect can play his way into the Yankees' outfield. Cashman is clearly adding depth pieces to prepare for this scenario and it seems likely that he’ll continue to do so as the 2023 season approaches. Hopefully, he can hit the scrap heap jackpot like he did last season when he signed Matt Carpenter a little over a month into the 2022 season.
Unfortunately, a plan like this is very risky because it relies too much on the often injured and underperforming Aaron Hicks and it means the unproven Oswaldo Cabrera, who’s projected to be a 105 wRC+ player in 2023, is a starter instead of being a utility player - which is truly a better use of his versatility and talent level. Unless - the Yankees went for it and experimented with Stanton playing three or four days a week in the outfield. Could he hold up, and if yes, who would replace him as the DH?
DJ LeMahieu could slot in at third base for the lion’s share of the playing time, while alternating with Aaron Judge and Josh Donaldson mixed in at DH. A plan of this nature just won’t move the needle for a team who’s bottom third of the lineup has turned into its Achilles heel.
The fourth and final choice Cashman might elect to pursue is to trade for a player who would represent a moderate upgrade and also fit the 2023 budget (not an easy task), which Cashman has been tip-toeing around ever since he signed Aaron Judge.
Today’s article focuses on what the Yankees 2023 plan for the outfield should be.
Unfortunately, the cost in prospects is simply too steep for the Yankees liking to make a move for the Pirates Bryan Reynolds, though he’s certainly an upgrade as you can see in the chart from my private archives below.
Don’t let StatCasts OAA below fool you regarding the impact Bryan Reynolds could make defensively because since 2017, he’s logged 591 attempts in left field and he’s rated as zero OAA, so he’s actually average in left field while below average in center field. His above average sprint speed (75th percentile) and his above average arm strength (80th percentile) make up for his well below average jumps (23rd percentile), so he’d easily be able to man the position for years to come while also spot starting in center field as needed.
Using all advanced metrics, it’s fair to project that Reynolds would be significantly more impactful than the production the Yankees would garner from either Hicks or Cabrera. Reynolds is a switch-hitting nightmare for both opposing lefties and righties alike. There are no weaknesses in his approach and he’s exactly the kind of player the Yankees presently lack, but again, the price of acquisition is very high.
If not Reynolds, what about some of the other options that might be realistic gets for the Yankees? How do they compare to what’s in the cupboard and also, how do they look on the shelf compared to Reynolds and what the back of his package says the Yankees would get?
First up is “Mystery Player A.” We read a lot about this player being linked to the Yankees several weeks ago. Though he’s never played left field, he’s a superb right fielder who can also play center field, but he’s virtually unplayable against left handed pitching, though against right-handed pitching he’s a small upgrade from the switch hitting Oswaldo Cabrera - who happens to hit left-handed pitching very well too.
With a $7.6 MTV trade price tag, Mystery Player A could be obtained reasonably enough, acquiring him would cost an Austin Wells or Trey Sweeney level prospect. But, since Wells could very well be the Yankees left-handed power bat of the future at DH, and he might also play a little left field and some emergency catcher to boot, it doesn’t seem wise to pull the trigger on a player of… Max Kepler’s status.
Kepler doesn’t move the needle enough to justify trading for him. If his trade value was half of what it is presently, he might be an interesting target, but presently the Yankees may just want to go with the in-house brand of Cabrera and Hicks and save the prospect capital for the future.
This bring us onwards to “Mystery Player B,” who is a barely above average defender in left field. He represents a marginal upgrade from Cabrera or Hicks against right handed pitching, but he’s so horrendous against left handed pitching that he’s not even playable. The cost of acquiring Player B is $10.2 MTV, so the Yankees would have to be comfortable surrendering Clarke Schmidt in a deal for Player B. Seems like kind of a high price for a platoon player who’s barely an upgrade over Oswaldo Cabrera, doesn’t it?
Suffice it to say, Seth Brown is probably not the player to trade for. Though he does bat left-handed and despite his intriguingly high Barrel Percentage (13.0%), with Frankie Montas now shelved for who knows how long, I’m not sure giving up a pitcher and playing an analytics hunch for platoon player is the right move here.
This brings us to “Mystery Player C,” who’s a tiny bit worse defensively than Cabrera or Hicks, yet he represents a sizeable upgrade against right handed pitching (equivalent to Reynolds actually) but is unfortunately not going to playable against left handed pitching.
If the Yankees did want a platoon player though, Mystery Player C would be a better choice than either Kepler or Brown. Since most pitchers are right handed, Player C would probably find himself in the Yankees' lineup an awful lot. Acquiring Player C would cost only $2.6 MTV and since he makes only $4.3 million and is signed for only one-year, the Yankees might actually be comfortable trading a prospect as valuable as say, Minor League righty Will Warren.
If the Yankees wanted a solid left-handed bat, someone to perhaps platoon with Hicks or Cabrera, trading with the Tigers for Austin Meadows might make sense. The two teams actually line up pretty well.
Enter “Mystery Player X,” who is a tic below Hicks and to a lesser extent, Cabrera, but who still plays almost league average defense in left field. He runs strong routes to batted balls and he’s got a very sure glove. Offensively, Player X represents a significant upgrade from only all of the other mystery players we’ve discussed so far and he’s even hands down better offensively than Bryan Reynolds while being just as good defensively.
Player X is a borderline All-Star against right-handed pitching and he’s otherworldly good against left-handed pitching, so this player wouldn’t need to platoon much at all.
This player, the best option, is, of course, Giancarlo Stanton.
Another added bonus regarding Giancarlo Stanton, is that he’s already on the roster, so the Yankees would actually be able to keep Warren, Schmidt and Wells or Sweeney as they could all be part of the future plan! Obviously, the key making what Yankees fans dreamed about in the 2018 season actually happen, is to get the Big G - Giancarlo Stanton, healthy enough to play as much as possible in the outfield.
In the SSTN comments section during the course of this article, there’s been debate revolving around whether or not the Yankees could pull off a plan that centers around having Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge finally both playing in the outfield. Stanton could handle playing right field in Yankee Stadium, while playing in left field in certain ballparks that made sense, when the Yankees were on the road. He’d also likely still need to split time at DH, just to keep him healthy and all, but a plan that bumps Stanton’s projected playing time up a few notches remains, on paper, the best possible solution.
However, there are two problems with this plan. First, Stanton can’t stay healthy and secondly, the Yankees don’t really have a DH that would warrant moving Stanton to the outfield. Not a lot would be in a plan like this from the Yankees perspective. I’d wager that until the Yankees get a big left-handed bat, a plan like this really isn’t a top priority and as such, based on the way this offseason has shaken out to date, trading for Detroit's Austin Meadows is clearly the best play presently.
Are Yankees fans who want to see more of Stanton in the outfield dreaming? Is it wishful thinking to hope that Stanton’s WAR could double if he played the field even 60 percent of the time? I turned to PECOTA’s player comps to attempt to provide answers to these questions. PECOTA is usually very on the money with their player comps. The names that stared back at me on the screen when I clicked the button were pretty amazing, I’m not going to lie.
Stanton’s PECOTA player comps are Hank Aaron, Dwight Evans, and Jack Clark. Looking at each player’s age 33 season was quite an interesting endeavor. Aaron put up a 7.3 fWAR when he was 33 years-old during the 1967 season, during which he split time in both left field and right field for the Braves while slashing .307/.369/.573 with a .410 wOBA and a 163 wRC+ in a season that he just missed capturing the coveted Triple Crown. He finished third in home runs (39), fifth in RBI’s (109), second in doubles (37) and seventh in OPS (.943).
Evans meanwhile posted a 4.0 fWAR when he was 33 years-old, playing exclusively in right field for the Red Sox as he slashed .263, .378, .454 with 29 home runs, a .371 wOBA and a 128 wRC+.
Clark had a pretty solid age-33 season himself, posting a 4.2 fWAR with a .242/.410/.459 with 26 home runs, 94 RBI’s and a .386 wOBA, paired with a 151 wRC+.
All three of Stanton’s PECOTA comps were two way players and I took note of this because, what if, Stanton’s just managed to string a few injury riddled seasons together in a row (from 2019 to 2021). What if he could rebound like the stat geniuses at PECOTA thinks he can and will? If that’s the case, perhaps Stanton can get back to playing more in the outfield, at least for the 2023 season. The Yankees would like him to do this of course, but they need a real reason to do it. They need a left handed power bat that they just can’t keep out of the lineup.
Presently, the Yankees don’t have that. I hate to scrape metal claws on my chalkboard right now, but I can’t resist. 2022’s top left-handed hitters in baseball were both targets of the Yankees last season - Matt Olson and Freddie Freeman. Cashman chose to not sign Freeman and he passed on trading for Olson. Imagine how either one of these players might have helped the Yankees lineup - nothing against Anthony Rizzo by the way because I’m a big fan of Riz and if it's any consolation, Rizzo was the sixth best left-handed bat in the game last season.
Are there players out there who would be excellent fits to the Yankees roster in 2023, players who could function as effective stopgaps while providing excellent left-handed hitting? Yes, Austin Meadows might be the most affordable one. Another that I haven’t mentioned might be the Dodgers' Max Muncy, but he signed a 1-year, $13.5 million deal with the Dodgers this offseason - complete with a club option for 2024.
Trading for Muncy would be a longshot though, not only are the Dodgers counting on him to be their third baseman as they gauge whether or not rookie Miguel Vargas has what it takes. More than likely, Vargas is better suited to play some first base and will also see time in both corner outfield spots. Muncy does have a palatable $1.5 MTV though, so acquiring him is more of a payroll conundrum and I just don’t think the Yankees could fit him into their 2023 budget. He might be a deadline target to keep an eye on though and certainly, he’s a player to watch in 2024.
The thought of paying most of Josh Donaldson’t salary and sending him off to the Dodgers, along with a prospect or two, for Muncy has crossed my mind though, but I doubt the Dodgers would be interested as Donaldson represents a significant dropoff from Muncy. I also thought about offering DJ LeMahieu instead of Muncy, as a way to get the Yankees more left-handed. LeMahieu has a similarly awful negative $18.9 MTV to Donadlson’s negative $20.3 MTV but he’s a lot more positionally flexible than Donaldson and he might appeal to the Dodgers a tad bit more.
Unfortunately, LeMahieu still has 4 years of $15 million AAV remaining on his contract, so the trade just doesn’t match up with the suddenly cost conscious Dodgers and since the Yankees aren’t in a position to be eating any payroll, with their backs against the apparent Hal Steinbrenner imposed Tier-3 ceiling of the CBT, acquiring premium left-handedness is a very tough ask given this off-season’s 2023 MLB landscape.
Therefore, my vote is to trade for Austin Meadows, or simply play Oswaldo Cabrera as much as possible while trying to get Stanton back into the outfield and really putting a priority on the development of Austin Wells, who checks a lot of the boxes that are currently needed by the Yankees. If Wells can quickly move through Triple-A this season, he could be a big help in the second half. Finding a 2023 version of Matt Carpenter seems like a longshot, so this will be my position at this juncture of the offseason.
It will be interesting to see what Brian Cashman will wind up doing here, but I’m in on Meadows and out on all other trade targets and I’m simply dying to get some looks at Wells in Spring Training. He may not ever be a big league catcher, but boy could the Yankees use his left-handed pop in 2023 - if he’s ready and able of course.
Ultimately, the Yankees have some projectable outfield talent moving somewhere between Double-A and Triple-A as both Jasson Dominguez and Everson Pereira look like pretty fantastic corner outfield options who may also be able to both play at least “some” centerfield in their youth. I’m all in favor of the Yankees holding the line as they try to make it through the 2023 season by keeping left field warm for either of these two near blue-chip prospects, but the team definitely does need to find a way to get a bit more left-handed and a stopgap outfielder who checks that box is needed.