For the New York Yankees, the could-have-been acquisition of the stellar lefty Bryce Harper remains a lingering thought. Back in 2019, as Harper transitioned from the Washington Nationals to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Yankees had a golden chance. With Harper’s consistent high-octane performance in baseball, the Yankees’ decision to divert their path towards Giancarlo Stanton in 2018 raises eyebrows, especially given the age gap – Stanton being three years Harper’s senior.
Stanton’s Struggle vs Harper’s Dominance
Stanton’s recent performance reflects a significant decline. Over the past two years, his average stands at a paltry .191, with an on-base percentage (OBP) of .275. His stats further read: 24 home runs, 60 RBIs, a strikeout rate of 29.9%, a walk rate of 9.9%, and an 89 wRC+. Despite his slugging holding its ground, his sub-30% OBP for two consecutive seasons is a red flag. His role as the Yankees’ cleanup hitter, combined with recurring injuries, has somewhat cast a shadow on his once-illustrious career.
In contrast, Harper continues to bask in his prime with the Phillies. His recent season stats boast a .293 average, .401 OBP, and a slugging rate of .499.
Additionally, he’s clocked 21 homers, 72 RBIs, a 21.8% strikeout rate, a 14.7% walk rate, and a wRC+ of 142. As for this year’s postseason, six games in, Harper is batting .368 with a .538 OBP, including three home runs and five RBIs. Undoubtedly, he remains one of baseball’s premier offensive talents, evidenced by his contract that averages $25.4 million a season till 2031. On the flip side, Stanton bags an average of $32 million annually, with his contract set to expire in 2028, factoring in a club option and a $10 million buyout.
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Cashman’s Pivotal Choice That Changed the Yankees
In the decisive 2019 off-season, Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman chose to stray from the Harper route. He pinned his hopes on Stanton, who, before donning the Yankees’ uniform in 2018, had an impressive average of .281 and an OBP of .376, coupled with 59 homers and 132 RBIs. Cashman’s bet on Stanton, hoping for the Midas touch, did see moments of brilliance but never quite matched Harper’s consistent brilliance with the Phillies.
Health, of course, plays a pivotal role. Stanton’s recent years have been marred by injuries. Harper too had his challenges, playing 99 games in 2022, but rebounded commendably with 126 in the following season. Reflecting on this transaction, Cashman might harbor some regrets. This, combined with some questionable choices like Joey Gallo, Frankie Montas, Josh Donaldson, and arguably Carlos Rodon, paints a picture of the Yankees’ challenging recent past.