The Giancarlo Stanton trade stands out as one of the most fun nights I’ve had covering the Yankees. I remember exactly where I was as the news unfolded. I was at Barnes & Noble on December 8th, doing a little Christmas shopping, when I stopped to grab a cup of coffee. I pulled out my phone while in line and saw Jon Heyman tweeted that the Marlins would have to accept a lesser deal from the Yankees or Dodgers if they wanted to move the reigning National League MVP. That’s fun, I thought. I didn’t expect an imminent trade, though.
Fast forward four hours, and Ken Rosenthal changed the game with a single tweet.
#Yankees in play for Stanton, sources tell The Athletic.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 9, 2017
The Bombers landed Stanton in exchange for Starlin Castro, Jorge Guzman, and Jose Devers. It was a coup for the Yankees, one that fulfilled many fans’ wishes. “What’s better than one giant power-hitting slugger?” I asked last November, “Two of course. Imagine a lineup that has Judge and Stanton.” That exact scenario played out! Did it live up to expectations though?
2018 Statistics: 158 games, 705 plate appearances, .266/.343/.509, 38 home runs, 100 RBI, 102 runs, 34 doubles, 4.2 WAR, 127 wRC+
2019 Contract Status: $26 million, signed through 2028 (may opt-out after 2020 season)
Stanton made his presence felt on Opening Day. He swatted two home runs against the Blue Jays, including one off J.A. Happ in his first at-bat in pinstripes. It made for a memorable debut, but the good feelings didn’t last long. Stanton plunged into a month-long slump that saw him hit .230/.313/.425 through the end of April. He slugged five home runs, but posted an exactly league average 100 wRC+. The Yankees didn’t trade for average.
Thankfully Stanton silenced the steady chorus of boos he received by returning to elite form at the plate. From May 1st through August 31st, he played like the Stanton of old. He slashed .288/.360/.549 and crushed 28 home runs. Over this period of time, he owned a 142 wRC+. Stanton was a force with the bat and solidified the middle of the Yankees’ order.
This stretch becomes even more impressive when one considers the Bombers went without Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge for significant portions of this run. Stanton single-handedly carried the team, and he did so with a bad hamstring! For most of the summer he played at the game’s highest level, and without Stanton’s contributions, there’s no telling where the Yankees would be.
Unfortunately another slump defined the closing phase of his season. Stanton crawled to the finish, hitting .213/.306/.436 with a 30.6% strikeout rate. It was ugly, but thankfully the Yankees had the heavy artillery to absorb his disappearance.
The postseason didn’t treat the 29-year-old kindly, either. Stanton hit .238/.273/.381 across the two series. He did, however, hit a moonshot home run off super-closer Blake Treinen during the Wild Card Game. The ability to hit those kinds of tape-measure homers separates Stanton from the rest of his peers.
Interestingly enough, the Yankees primarily used Stanton as a designated hitter. He only played 648 innings in the outfield. Not only do the various defensive metrics say he can still play, they give him great marks. The team would probably be best served incorporating him into the outfield rotation more next season. Obviously his hamstring had something to do with that, but a healthy Stanton is still quality defender.
The bookend slumps ultimately earned Stanton a B. To another batter, this season would grade out as an A. Expectations, however, played a role in grading. The Yankees expected big production from Stanton, and he delivered during the summer months. Hopefully next season he can perform at that level all year long.