Four games into the ALCS, Giancarlo Stanton has only played in one of them. In his lone game against the Houston Astros, Stanton went yard, and boosted his 2019 postseason triple slash to .300/.467/.600 in four games. When Stanton was playing, he proved he could have an impact in the 2019 playoffs.
However, an untimely quad injury has cast a pall over the situation. With the Yankees fighting for their lives in this ALCS and doing so with essentially a 24-man roster until Stanton is healthy enough to play, there has been talk that the Yankees should place Stanton on the injured list and call up a replacement.
Yet doing so would not only hurt the Yankees in a potential ALCS, but in the World Series as well. The MLB rule is that a player who goes on the injured list in the playoffs has to miss both the current round and the next round as well. As a result, replacing Stanton on the roster would completely end his abbreviated 2019 season.
Although the temptation to get another player on the roster is there, the Yankees shouldn’t pull the trigger on this. Not only are there signs that Stanton could be a player soon, but the potential “reward” is nowhere near the risk associated with this move.
First of all, Stanton is healing. Aaron Boone basically confirmed Thursday that Stanton is not going anywhere after Stanton ran a light jog around the bases. Per Boone, Stanton is an option to pinch-hit and possibly DH as of now, and could be in the lineup for Game Five tonight. So, even if placing Stanton on the IL was the right move, the Yankees won’t be doing it.
There are a couple of reasons for this. When Stanton is healthy, he lengthens the lineup and gives it a fear factor. Without him, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks have batted third, which is not ideal in the ALCS against Houston’s dominant pitching. Even if Stanton isn’t right, he forces pitchers to work around him, for fear that if they groove something over the plate, he’ll do something like this:
Stanton only has three hits in these playoffs, but has four walks. All told, he’s reached base seven times out of a possible 15. Even at limited capacity, he has the ability to impact a game in a way that few others can.
Therein lies the second reason why the Yankees shouldn’t move on from Stanton: who are they replacing him with? The version of Mike Tauchman who hasn’t played baseball in over a month? The current version of Luke Voit who hasn’t hit since early August? A versatile but very raw Tyler Wade? Do we trust the one good month Mike Ford had at the big league level?
None of these players can do what Stanton can do, even at their peaks and at his injury-affected low. Think about it – you’re replacing a feared middle-of-the-order on-base machine with someone who shouldn’t be batting higher than seventh or eighth. “Next man up” has been a great rallying cry and mindset for this team, but in the playoffs, you usually only go as far as your superstars take you. If anyone is taking the last at-bat for this team in a game, it might as well be the team’s highest-paid hitter, not a Triple-A call-up.
Furthermore, placing Stanton on the IL would eliminate him from potentially playing in the World Series. Now, not only would the Yankees not get the services of Stanton to attempt an ALCS comeback, but they wouldn’t get to play him in the championship round when he could be fully healed, should they advance that far. Unless the Yankees had another ace in the hole waiting to take his spot, it’s not worth it. The minimal “reward” the Yankees get by replacing Stanton on the roster with a bench player is not worth the risk of not having a healthy Stanton at the season’s most critical juncture.
Giancarlo Stanton has had a season from hell this year. Repeated injuries and bad luck have doomed what could have been a promising season from him, but now is when the team needs him most. Ending his season right on the verge of a return to health (and replacing him with a Triple-A call-up to boot) would not be the best course of action for the Yankees to take as they look for a miracle in these playoffs.