Jump into the vault, head back to 2021, and this would be the perfect take. But now that almost two years have elapsed, New York Yankees fans and pundits should have many different bones to pick with general manager Brian Cashman.
That's why when WFAN came in hot with a Giancarlo Stanton contract take this week after the Red Sox swept the Yankees, it was important to clarify that widely discussed topic and also recognize the many other factors that have contributed to the Yankees' demise in recent years.
On the surface, of course Stanton's lack of availability and $325 million contract have played a role in limiting what the Bombers have been able to do. His absence in the 2019 postseason continues to be a point of contention, since it's still worth wondering if he really couldn't DH for the remainder of the ALCS against the Houston Astros. The quad injury was that bad?
Well, the past is the past. And that's exactly the point here. When Stanton was acquired, his injury history was well documented. The Yankees knew what they were getting into. And they've since experienced the worst of it. They've gotten two full seasons out of the slugger, who has played in 474 out of a possible 781 games.
Giancarlo Stanton and his contract are only part of the Yankees' larger problem
"[Stanton] has probably been the biggest reason why they haven’t been able to become the team that Brian Cashman envisioned because of his injuries and his struggles. His money that has been brought over from that trade…having another $300 million player on the roster that prevented them from doing other things because Hal Steinbrenner was very luxury tax conscious, that has held them back from doing what they want to do and being the team they want to be."- Gregg Giannotti, WFAN
Gio said it without explicitly saying it. The problem has been Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner stopping there, assuming the issue would rectify itself as they worked their hardest to avoid escalating luxury tax payments.
In recent seasons alone, the Yankees passed on Corey Seager, Freddie Freeman, Marcus Semien, Kevin Gausman, Kyle Schwarber, George Springer, JT Realmuto, Michael Brantley, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and that's being conservative, based on who the fans wanted. The list goes on and on in regard to high-profile names that were continually passed up.
Instead, they looked to cut corners (Josh Donaldson trade). They opted not to upgrade despite knowing the complicated Stanton variable (and the fact he was very clearly becoming a full-time DH), even before they added another $300 million contract in Judge.
Stanton isn't the problem. The philosophy is the problem. The Yankees exist and (should) operate under the assumption they can right $100 million wrongs. Do they have to do that with every bad signing? Not at all. But after 2020, when Stanton couldn't even stay healthy for a 60-game campaign, that should've been the final straw.
Yes, this team should win with a $290 million payroll, you're right. But if the roster isn't constructed properly, then Steinbrenner shouldn't have a problem shelling out an extra ~$75 million to fix it, instead of watching it wilt as fans pick the wrong scapegoats.