New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton will face more pressure to stay healthy and carry the club's offense if Aaron Judge departs in free agency.
The Yanks can only wait as Judge, who set the American League record with 62 home runs this year, goes through his free-agent process. Nothing indicates he's leaning toward leaving the Bronx, but tension will remain until he announces his decision.
Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported Thursday the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants remain the "biggest threats" to lure away the superstar outfielder, though the Yankees continue to hold the edge in the high-profile pursuit.
While New York appears to remain in a strong position to retain Judge, the question of what happens if he leaves is still part of the equation.
Some additions, either via trade or free agency, would be necessary to fill the massive void, but a healthy year from Stanton would also provide a massive boost.
The 33-year-old five-time All-Star made 158 appearances during his first season with the Yankees in 2018 but hasn't reached that number over the subsequent four years:
- 2019: 18 games played
- 2020: 23 (60-game season)
- 2021: 139
- 2022: 110
That equates to 53.1 percent of the Yanks' games since 2019.
Stanton's power numbers were strong in 2022. His 31 home runs equate to a 45.7-homer pace over a full 162-game campaign. His other numbers were underwhelming, however, including a career-low .297 on-base percentage.
It'll be important for the 2017 National League MVP to post an OBP closer to his career average (.354) should he slide up the order, likely to the No. 3 spot, if Judge exits. Paired with continued pop, that would help the Yankees offense remain afloat.
New York ranked second in runs scored (807) and fourth in OPS (.751) in 2022.
The Yanks would have no way to directly replace Judge if he lands in L.A., San Francisco or elsewhere. It'd require a team effort to make up for his MVP-level production. That effort would start with a monster campaign from Stanton.
The Yankees will hope it's a storyline they never have to explore and that Judge is back in pinstripes to open the 2023 season.