It's all but official that the New York Yankees aren't getting Manny Machado. They almost certainly won't be getting Bryce Harper, either.
It's a good thing they already have a dynamic duo ready to hit them, oh, say 100 home runs in 2019: Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
If this sounds familiar, it's because such a notion held firm in the public consciousness in the months after the Yankees acquired Stanton from the Miami Marlins in December 2017. He was coming off a National League MVP-winning season fueled by 59 home runs. Judge, meanwhile, had broken out with 52 homers en route to a runner-up finish in the American League MVP race.
Had Judge, 26, and Stanton, 29, been on the same team, they would have combined for 111 home runs. As Cliff Corcoran of Sports on Earth noted, they would have been only the sixth pair of teammates ever to combine for more than 100 long balls. Likewise, they would have been only the second pair of 50-homer teammates after Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in 1961.
This, of course, didn't happen.
Although the 2018 Yankees paced a 100-win season with a single-season-record 267 homers, they got "only" 65 homers out of Judge (who hit 27) and Stanton (who hit 38). Moreover, what would have been a combined 1.028 OPS in 2017 slipped to an .880 OPS in 2018.
It was far from the only reason, but Judge and Stanton falling short of expectations is one reason why the Boston Red Sox outpaced the Yankees by eight games in the AL East.
Throw the Red Sox's eventual World Series victory onto the pile, and you get a decent-sized heap of reasons why Yankees fans were clamoring for a big splash on Machado or Harper in free agency.
Well, Machado has agreed to a reported $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres. Harper is still available, but Yankees general manager Brian Cashman effectively shut that door in December. Per the latest reports, New York doesn't seem to be anywhere near the bidding for the 2015 NL MVP.
Still, the Yankees' fruitless pursuits of Machado and Harper will be quickly forgotten if Judge and Stanton become in 2019 what they were supposed to be in 2018. To this end, guess who the early favorites to lead Major League Baseball in home runs are:
Based on appearances, this isn't unreasonable. At 6'7" and 282 pounds, Judge is the most imposing slugger in baseball history. At 6'6" and 245 pounds, Stanton only looks small when standing next to Judge.
Not so coincidentally, the two feature heavily atop the leaderboards for the farthest (504 feet for Stanton, 495 for Judge) and fastest (121.7 mph for Stanton, 121.0 for Judge) home runs of the Statcast era.
Good health is all Judge needs to bring his awesome power back to the forefront in 2019. Unlike a year ago, it helps that he isn't going into spring training fresh off left shoulder surgery. He also insists he's over a broken right wrist that sidelined him for 50 games last season.
"I feel nothing," Judge said Tuesday, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. "That was the thing that I was surprised about, especially during the season...that pain lasted a little longer than three weeks. In the offseason, I was a little worried about it, but it's 100 percent. It feels like nothing even happened, which is a good thing. Nothing to worry about there."
Though it didn't completely drain his power, Judge's broken wrist did have an impact on his ability to generate exit velocity:
If Judge's wrist is indeed healthy, a return to the former number figures to be in order. That would be great news for the Yankees, because said number was the best in MLB. He was also on a 43-homer pace at the time.
Stanton had his own battle with the injury bug last year, as he played through a tight left hamstring in the second half of the season. But the biggest drag on his production was the return of a strikeout problem that he had previously gotten under control in 2017.
That had a lot to do with with Stanton's strike-zone discipline, or lack thereof. He got his chase rate below the MLB average in 2017, only to have it zoom right back to above-average territory in 2018.
On the bright side, that problem was at its worst early in the season when he was still getting comfortable in his new American League surroundings.
"Everything is more comfortable in that aspect, in terms of facing some of these guys and teams again and more often," Stanton said Monday, according to James Wagner of the New York Times.
It's also noteworthy that Stanton was curiously ineffective at Yankee Stadium. It had been safe to assume that he would benefit from getting out of Marlins Park and into a more hitter-friendly park, as Christian Yelich ultimately did while winning the NL MVP with the Milwaukee Brewers. Instead, Stanton posted his worst home OPS since his rookie season in 2010.
Was that fallout from the early boos Stanton heard at Yankee Stadium? Possibly. But whatever it was, it doesn't take a great leap of faith to assume he won't be so easily contained by the park's tight dimensions again in 2019.
At worst, Judge and Stanton should be an 80-homer slugging duo in 2019. They can easily traverse the distance between there and the century mark if their power stays true and they keep the pitfalls that swallowed them in 2018 at bay.
Among other things, one result would be nobody feeling like the Yankees missed out on this winter's selection of sluggers.