Oh, Giancarlo Stanton.
Like your favorite dog just a step or two slower than when you were a kid, 2023 was the first year we saw Stanton really take steps back. The book on Big G as a Yankee has been “when he’s healthy, he’s good.” He did miss time this year, but when he was on the field, he stunk, being below replacement level for the first time in his career.
2023 Season Statistics: 101 games, 415 plate appearances, .191/.275/.420, 24 HR, 89 wRC+, .297 wOBA, -3 DRS, -0.8 fWAR
2024 Contract Status: Under contract through 2027, $25 million AAV
Now, Giancarlo, I’m going to do something called the compliment sandwich. It’s where we start with something good, talk about where we need improvement, and then end with something good. You hit 24 home runs, third on the team, a much-needed source of power in a lineup that was really feckless most of the year.
So, what needs improvement?
You don’t get enough hits, your walk rate dropped off, you seemingly cannot run. You’ve become increasingly easy to pitch to, only able to do real damage against four-seam fastballs. Any pitch that’s just off the heart of the plate — what we call the shadow zone — you make terrible decisions on, worth -29 runs on the year. You’ve been that bad before — in your first season with the Yankees you were -25 on such pitches. The difference was you were able to lay off pitches outside the zone, 13 runs better in 2018 than you were this year.
In a year where the Yankees asked you to play more outfield, we saw that your body probably can’t handle that kind of workload, as you missed six weeks with a hamstring injury. Brian Cashman should have been more tactful in his comments, but he’s not actually wrong. We’re at a stage where we’re baking in missed time every single year.
WAR for elite DHs or defensively-challenged outfielders is, I think, a little flawed. There are just so few hitters that can consistently put up a 160 or so wRC+ that adding them to your lineup is worth taking a WAR or $/WAR hit. You are no longer at that point as a hitter, and your negative WAR is well deserved.
Now, the upside is the very early 2024 projections think you’re more like your 2022 self than 2023. FanGraphs Depth Charts pegs a 114 wRC+ and slightly above replacement level when it comes to fWAR.
Should the Yankees make a couple outside moves to improve the lineup, Giancarlo Stanton at 115 or so wRC+ becomes quite a handy hitter in the seven-hole of a lineup. The $25 million is a sunk cost, the Yankees pay that whether he’s DFA’d or hitting in that slot. The problem comes if the club doesn’t make two or three moves to bolster the offense, and Stanton is still hitting fourth or fifth. Even if you’re buying those Depth Chart projections, he’s just not good enough to be a core part of the offense anymore.