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Are the Yankees Actually Better off Without $265M Man Giancarlo Stanton?

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2019

New York Yankees' Giancarlo Stanton reacts after striking out to Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Paul Fry during the eighth inning of an opening day baseball game at Yankee Stadium, Thursday, March 28, 2019, in New York. The Yankees won 7-2. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

At any given time during the 2019 season, the New York Yankees have had tens of millions of dollars worth of talent on the injured list.

A staggering 18 different players are currently on the shelf, including impact sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Luke Voit, 2018 Cy Young candidate Luis Severino and relief ace Dellin Betances.

However, the biggest name is Giancarlo Stanton.

The man with the infamous 13-year, $325 million contract has played a grand total of nine games this season with nine hits and one home run to show for a $26 million salary that makes him the highest-paid player on the team.

And yet despite his absence, the Yankees are in excellent shape. The Bronx Bombers currently hold a comfortable 9.5-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East standings with an 86-47 record that is tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best in baseball.

Furthermore, from an offensive-production standpoint, the lineup has seemingly not missed Stanton's big bat one bit:

  • BA: .272, third in MLB
  • SLG: .490, second in MLB
  • OPS: .833, third in MLB
  • HR: 244, second in MLB
  • R: 777, first in MLB
  • R/G: 5.84, second in MLB

The Yankees have done a nice job bargain hunting, and the production of Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin has gone a long way toward filling the Stanton void.

Tauchman, 28, was acquired in a trade with the Colorado Rockies in March. During limited MLB action the past two seasons, he had posted a forgettable .153/.265/.203 line for a 20 OPS+ over 69 plate appearances.

At the time of the trade, he looked like passable organizational depth.

Mike Tauchman
Mike TauchmanJim McIsaac/Getty Images

No one could have predicted he would hit .290/.370/.528 with 17 doubles, 12 home runs and 45 RBI in 77 games en route to an impressive 3.7 WAR. That trails only DJ LeMahieu (5.1) among all Yankees players.

By comparison, Stanton was worth 4.0 WAR in 158 games last season.

Meanwhile, the veteran Maybin was purchased from the Cleveland Indians at the end of April when the Yankees were short on outfielders, and he's enjoyed an extremely productive season as the fourth outfielder. 

The 32-year-old is hitting .297/.375/.500 with 23 extra-base hits and seven steals in 63 games, which has been worth 1.2 WAR to this point. He gives the team an added dynamic thanks to his speed and defense.

On the other end of the spectrum, the longest-tenured Yankees player has also helped pick up the slack.

Brett Gardner
Brett GardnerChris Carlson/Associated Press

While Brett Gardner joined the injury parade and missed 10 games at the end of July with a knee malady, he has returned strong in August with a .923 OPS and 14 extra-base hits in 22 games.

So where does that leave Stanton as far as playing time in the outfield is concerned?

The easy answer would seem to be slotting him in as the everyday designated hitter, but that spot in the lineup has also not lacked productivity. With an .809 OPS (fourth in AL) and 33 home runs (tied for third in AL), the Yankees have had one of the most productive DH spots in the American League.

Mike Ford has served as the team's primary DH of late, and he has earned his playing time with an .829 OPS and eight home runs in 111 plate appearances. The team has also used the DH slot as a way to keep everyday position players fresh when Ford doesn't start.

Add to that the fact that Edwin Encarnacion is also on the comeback trail and Stanton doesn't seem like an obvious upgrade at DH, either.

So that brings us to the big question: Are the Yankees actually better off without Stanton?

The 29-year-old with 306 career home runs and a 144 OPS+ is obviously one of the game's most dangerous sluggers when he's healthy and dialed in. And with the Yankees still on the hook for a staggering amount of money through the 2027 season, they will be banking on him returning to his MVP-caliber form in 2020 and beyond.

However, as far as the team's 2019 hopes and dreams are concerned, they've found a way to win without him, and there's no reason to think they can't continue to do just that going forward.

The Yankees might not truly be a better team without the veteran slugger available, even if he has no obvious spot in the lineup. But it's becoming clear they don't need Stanton to win the World Series, and that speaks to the impressive amount of depth they've assembled and the next-man-up philosophy they've adopted.

      

All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.