Yankees’ $98 million outfielder facing pivotal season that could define his future

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a world where the Yankees decide to simply move on from Giancarlo Stanton after the 2024 season, assuming he puts together another lackluster performance.

With Spencer Jones and Jasson Dominguez waiting in the wings, Stanton’s future with the team could be more of a liability than an asset. At the end of the day, the Yankees would have to eat a significant amount of money to release him, but simply opening up a roster spot for some of their top young prospects may be more beneficial.

The Yankees Still Owe Stanton a Ton of Money

The team still owes Stanton $98 million until his 2028 buyout option, so the front office is desperately hoping he can turn back the clock and offer the team a much better offensive performance compared to 2023.

Last season, Stanton hit .191/.275/.420, including 24 homers and 60 RBIs. His 29.9% strikeout rate and 9.9% walk rate certainly didn’t trend in the right direction, and he posted an 89 wRC+, indicating he was a below-average hitter for the first time in his career. His numbers have been deteriorating over the past three consecutive seasons, and his spring training metrics this off-season certainly don’t suggest he’s looking any better.

Of course, it is important to take spring training results with a grain of salt, but we’d like to see some upside from Stanton and make better contact. He has only one hit over 13 at-bats but has only struck out twice, suggesting he’s been putting the ball in play. While he has failed to catch up to a few fastballs up and away, the Yankees know that Stanton is a rhythm hitter, and he needs to see plenty of pitches to find his groove.

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Stanton Can Work Wonders in the Batting Order

Ultimately, Stanton providing his usual production would completely change the dynamic of the offense. For now, the team likely has him slated as the cleanup hitter behind DJ LeMahieu, Juan Soto, and Aaron Judge.

With that being said, his value behind those three hitters can’t be understated, and the Yankees know it could be a special combination at the top of the order. However, if he struggles and becomes more of a liability, we could see Anthony Rizzo move up the batting order to support the top three.

Regardless, Stanton is expected to spend little time in the outfield defensively, which severely limits his value.

With Jones taking big developmental steps forward and Dominguez projected to return over the summer, there’s a world where Stanton could be playing for a different team in 2025, which would leave the Yankees with a substantial salary to take on.

Alternatively, they could try to offload his contract to another team and pair it with a prospect, eating some of the money but saving a chunk in the process. That might be easier said than done.

One way or another, Stanton needs to see 100 at-bats before we can begin to break down his metrics and if he’s trending in the right direction, but staying healthy will continue to be the critical puzzle piece in his equation. Having slimmed down this off-season but maintained his strength, the hope is that he can quell any muscle injuries and increase his mobility.

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