Karpin: Are Yanks a Better Team with Stanton?

A good friend asked me a question concerning the reported agreement that will relocate Giancarlo Stanton to the Bronx. Are the Yankees a better team with Stanton?

It’s a “no-brainer” to say yes, correct? On paper, there is no doubt that this is now a very scary and intimidating lineup, but if you pan the “Steinbrenner era” of the franchise history books, some of these “star player” acquisitions have not panned out.

That aside, Yankees GM Brian Cashman knew the timing was right to make this kind of blockbuster trade. Just as he measured the market correctly when he dealt highly touted relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller for a number of top notch prospects, Cashman had the Marlins by the “you know what” and struck while the “iron was hot.

Marlins owner Derek Jeter did not conspire with Cashman to make this deal as a favor to his old team. The Giants and Cardinals had offers on the table (Miami was amenable to either one) but Stanton used his leverage and refused to waive his no trade clause.

Former Yankee and Marlins teammate David Phelps told MLB Network Radio that he wasn’t surprised that Stanton ended up in the Bronx. “One thing you learn really quick by playing in New York, they’re gonna leave no stone unturned to get better,” Phelps said.

So exactly how does Stanton make the Yankees a better team?

For one thing, the Yankees were second in the American League in runs scored last season without Stanton. That number was misleading because of the way the Yankees’ offense performed away from the friendly dimensions at Yankee Stadium. The bubble burst, so to speak, in the ALCS when they didn’t win a game in Houston.

A look at the Yankees’ team batting splits from last season show they hit 39 fewer home runs and scored 44 fewer runs overall in road games. The inconsistency between home and road production also contributed to the Yankees’ 18-26 record in one-run games last season. It wasn’t only the pitching that cost them those close games as we came to see in the post season. Stanton’s mere presence in the lineup should help improve those numbers.

New Yankee manager Aaron Boone will have the enviable task of putting a lineup together. Of course,all of us will put our “two cents” in for lineup suggestions. One of those other “suggestions” had Didi Gregorius hitting fourth and Greg Bird was batting sixth. I found that a little ridiculous. Bird will be relied on to balance out, what is predominantly, a right handed hitting lineup. Bird’s absence last season may also have contributed to the above, so if he’s healthy, that’s a big boost in itself.

Here’s my $0.2. Since Stanton hit second last season, I can see the Yankees using him in that slot to start. With that in mind, Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez could hit third and fifth or vice-versa, with the lefty Bird batting between the two other right handed sluggers. The way those four line up will be a huge challenge for any pitcher to negotiate through but any comparisons to the famed “Murderer’s Row” of the 1920’s is a bit premature.

The Yankees sent second baseman Starlin Castro to Miami which could mean they are ready to give Gleyber Torres a chance to win the job in spring training. Ronald Torreyes provides insurance if Torres is not ready and I think the Yankees will go out and get another back up, middle infielder.

Here’s another fringe benefit of Stanton’s addition. Not that they needed anything else to make them more attractive, but the Yankees sent a tremor throughout the American League with what they pulled off. You can bet free agent pitchers like C.C. Sabathia (who has a good chance of returning) and Alex Cobb have taken notice. No matter how well Stanton fits into the lineup, the Yankees still need pitching and you can bet they will address that need at the Winter Meetings.

So everything appears to be as if the Yankees are laying out a clear path for a return to the World Series. Not so fast.

There’s still a little matter of Stanton’s health. The NL MVP has not exactly been known for dbeing durable throughout his career. The countermove in case of an injury is that the Yankees probably have enough depth to handle Stanton being out for a short time.

Lest we forget the expectations and the enormous pressure that will be attached to this acquisition. As we all know, baseball plays differently in New York than it does in South Beach. How will he deal with the expanded media corps? Last season, he seemed to be a little testy with the media after a game at CitiField. To be fair, it was mostly the New York media but it can be unnerving for a player who is not used to the scrutiny. Phelps said, “He’s a superstar, the talent, he’s gonna play wherever home is home. I don’t think that’s ever going to be an issue.”

Are the Yankees a better team with Stanton? The answer is yes. Are they a championship team with Stanton? That remains to be seen.

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