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Yankees mailbag: No, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton aren’t overrated

The big baseball boys are indeed very good.

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Morning, folks, hope everyone had a nice week! We have two question in the mailbag today, and they’re somewhat related. Hope you enjoy. As always, send in your submissions to our weekly mailbag call, or to our email address, pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Henry asks: What do you think the likelihood is that Aaron Judge’s career ends with the same statement as Eric Davis. “Such a shame so gifted but...”

It seems like everyone’s down on Judge now, huh? Weird. I mean, I get it, the broken rib is taking a while to heal. Some people are just slow healers, though, and that’s okay. Everyone’s different. And if there’s one thing the Yankees have right now, it’s time. There’s no need to rush him back to swinging.

I think we can all use a reminder that Judge stands out as arguably the premiere power threat in baseball. Consider where he ranks among 445 qualified batters since 2017:

wRC+: 157 (third)
Home runs: 106 (eighth)
HR/FB: 33.5% (first)
Hard%: 48.6% (second)

Obviously he leaves something to be desired in terms of strikeout rate (30.9%) and total plate appearances (1623), but the Yankees will take that level of performance all day. He’s so talented that he can help the team without having to play ever day. Judge probably won’t earn an Iron Man nickname, but hey, I’m sure he’ll settle for Destroyer of Baseball Worlds.

Michael asks: Can we stop complaining about Giancarlo Stanton’s contract? His AAV is only $22 million per year.

I’m sensing a theme in this mailbag. and I like it. This is the one where we dispel the notion that great players aren’t actually great. Take Stanton for example. He, like Judge, had an injury-marred campaign in 2019 and got hurt again earlier this spring. Combine a few ill-timed strikeouts in an otherwise very good. 2018, and a large contract, and voila. You have a player the typical Yankees fan hates. We went through it with Alex Rodriguez in the mid-2000s, and now we’re back for the sequel.

Of course, Stanton has a large contract. He signed a 13-year, $325 million extension following the 2014 season, which means he has the third-largest commitment in all of baseball.

1. Mike Trout, $426.5 million
2. Bryce Harper, $330 million
3. Giancarlo Stanton, $325 million
4. Gerrit Cole, $324 million
5. Manny Machado, $300 million

That’s total value, though. Now consider the annual average value, the factor that goes into calculating the luxury tax. This is where the dollars count, if you will.

1. Gerrit Cole, $36 million
2. Mike Trout, $35.5 million
3. Stephen Strasburg, $35 million
4. Anthony Rendon, $35 million
5. Justin Verlander, $33 million

Where does Stanton rank? He sits 28th on the all-time list. His two compeers, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, have an AAV of $30 million and $25.3 million, respectively. When you look at it that way, Stanton’s deal isn’t so onerous after all.

The Yankees have demonstrated that they care about the AAV more than the total contract. The Aaron Hicks extension is the perfect example. They happily traded extra years for a manageable AAV hit. The Bombers have the money to pay out a full contract—-or swallow it when it goes south, like Alex Rodriguez or Jacoby Ellsbury—but they want room to be flexible in baseball’s de facto salary cap structure.