Giancarlo Stanton's Injuries Could Spiral Into $265 Million Yankees Nightmare

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2019

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 24: Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the New York Yankees takes the field against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on June 24, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
Michael Owens/Getty Images

This season, Giancarlo Stanton and the injured list have gone together like peas and carrots, Jif and Smuckers, Tango and Cash, etc. And that's a serious problem for the New York Yankees.

Stanton has played only nine games in 2019 and is headed back to the injured list after he suffered a PCL strain in his right knee on a slide into second base, Yankees skipper Aaron Boone told reporters Wednesday.

Despite Stanton's largely MIA status, the Yankees are fourth in baseball with a .799 OPS and tied for second with 447 runs. On Wednesday, they extended their MLB-record home run streak to 29 games. They own first place the American League East.

Yet, Stanton's IL propensity is terrible news in the long term.

After earning $25 million in 2018, he's owed $26 million this season and another $26 million in 2020, per Spotrac. After that, he can opt out. If he doesn't, he'll make $29 million in 2021 and 2022 and $32 million annually between 2023 and 2025.

Then—deep breath, we're not done yet—he'll earn $29 million in 2026, $25 million in 2027 and another $25 million in 2028 with a $10 million buyout.

By then, he'll be 38 years old.

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 22: Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the New York Yankees in action against the Houston Astros during a baseball game at Yankee Stadium on June 22, 2019 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the the Astros 7-5. (Photo by
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Let's assume Stanton doesn't pull the opt-out ripcord after the 2020 campaigna fairly safe assumption in a frugal MLB free-agent market where decorated players such as Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel had to wait until June to find employment.

If he opts in for the duration of his deal, the Miami Marlins will pick up $30 million of Stanton's remaining tab. Those were the terms agreed upon when the Yankees acquired him from the Fish in December 2017 for a package that included veteran second baseman Starlin Castro and minor leaguers Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers.

Even with that cost-cushioning provision, the Yankees will wind up paying Stanton $265 million over the life of his gargantuan deal.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, it seemed worth it. In fact, it almost felt like a steal, albeit an expensive one.

After the 2017 season, Stanton was a generational slugger who clubbed an MLB-leading 59 home runs with a 1.007 OPS for the Marlins and won National League MVP honors. He was entering his age-28 season.

In his first go-round in pinstripes, he played 158 games and swatted 38 home runs with 100 RBI, though he also struck out a career-high 211 times and heard boos at times from the Bronx contingent.

This season, it's been one injury after another. 

On April 1, Stanton landed on the injured list with a biceps strain. On April 22, he received a cortisone injection in his left shoulder. Calf issues flared up during a rehab assignment on May 21. Now, we have the knee trouble.

At what point is it fair to apply the injury-prone label and wonder if Stanton will ever consistently stay on the diamond?

Nick Wass/Associated Press

General manager Brian Cashman told reporters Stanton likely won't play at all in July. If he's back by August, he could aid the Yankees' postseason push. But who believes he won't suffer another setback?

Granted, he's on the right side of 30. But this is a disturbing pattern of disparate injuries that points to a player whose body is betraying him.

"[I'm] frustrated for him knowing how much he's worked to get back," Boone told reporters.

"Frustrated" being the operative word.

If Stanton doesn't opt out after 2020, New York will pay him an absurd sum of money and hope he holds up for close to a decade.

Again, the Yankees are winning without Stanton for now. And they've historically been willing to swallow albatross contracts.

But the days of New York as the franchise with bottomless pockets appear to be over. Ownership and the front office didn't sign any top-shelf free agents such as Bryce Harper or Manny Machado this winter, opting instead for ancillary additions.

That strategy is working at the moment. But the gaudy money owed to Stanton over the next nine years could significantly impact the Yanks' ability to ink marquee players.

In other words: What once looked like a dream deal could turn into an injury-marred nightmare.


All statistics current entering play Thursday and courtesy of Baseball Reference.