Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced Wednesday Giancarlo Stanton has a grade one right calf strain and could miss the start of the 2020 regular season. The 2017 National League MVP suffered the injury during workouts on Tuesday.
Stanton was limited to 18 games last season due to a left biceps strain and a right knee sprain. He returned in late September just in time for the postseason but during Game 1 of the ALCS, he suffered a quad strain which forced him to miss four of the next five games. 2019 was a lost season for Stanton after he hit 38 homers and drove in 100 runs during his first year with the Yankees in 2018.
The 30-year old outfielder/designated hitter is under club control through the 2027 season. He can opt-out of his deal after 2020, but would be forfeiting more than $200 million remaining over seven seasons. The odds of Stanton opting out are slim.
When healthy, Stanton is one of baseball’s best power hitters. From 2014-2018, Stanton’s 188 home runs were the second-most in the majors. Only Twins DH Nelson Cruz (203) had more over that span.
So, now what will the Bronx Bombers do without their big bopper at the heart of the order? Stanton was likely going to see a lot of time as the DH before this incident. Expect that to be more of a permanent thing going forward once he returns. Given his recent propensity for injuries, I believe the Yankees are best suited to keep Stanton out of the field as much as possible. New York acquired him for his bat, not glove.
Until his return, look for Miguel Andujar to see most of the time at the DH spot. Andujar seems to have lost his third base job to Gio Urshela. No one doubts Andujar’s abilities at the plate. He finished second to Shohei Ohtani in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2018 thanks to 27 home runs, 92 RBI and a .855 OPS.
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The 24-year old was limited to 12 games last year due to a right labrum tear. New York will also spend the rest of the spring trying out Andujar in left field and first base. So far he looks like he’s going to be capable of playing multiple positions which is great because when Stanton returns, the club will need to find a way to keep Miggy’s bat in the lineup as often as possible.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge each getting the occasional starts at DH as well, especially early on in the season. Catching is always grueling and Boone will want to give his backstop some rest while keeping his bat in the lineup. Meanwhile, Judge is dealing with a right shoulder issue and isn’t expected to make his spring training debut until next week.
An early-season IL stint for Stanton could also open the door for Clint Frazier to make the opening day roster. Fraizer likely would have been the odd man out in an outfield that consisted of Judge, Stanton, Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman (plus Aaron Hicks when he’s healthy).
That’s not even including any playing time Andujar could see in left field. Stanton’s strain could be Frazier’s gain, at least for the start of the 2020 campaign.