In a perfect world, Giancarlo Stanton would be the New York Yankees starting left fielder in 2023 and the DH position would offer flexibility to manager Aaron Boone. But fans understand that's not going to happen. They know the story ever since Stanton arrived back in 2017.
His debut season in the Bronx came in 2018 and it was his best campaign with the team to date. That year, Aaron Judge missed 50 games due to injury and Stanton still only played 72 of his 158 games in the outfield (just 46%!). It's clear the Yankees have always had an agenda with the oft-injured slugger.
Since the start of 2019, Stanton has logged just 77 games on defense out of 290 (27%). He's a full-time designated hitter. It's just the way it is. He can't stay healthy and the Yankees are overly protective of his usage because they likely fear the more that he's used in that manner, the greater the likelihood they run into a situation where he's forced to miss extended time.
Throw in the fact that his last two injuries in 2022 and 2020 that kept him out of action for a total of 89 games were a result of swinging in the batter's box and running the bases, and you can understand why he's been a last-resort option on defense.
So when Boone tells us in spring training that Stanton is "very much in play" to fill in at left field, we simply don't believe it. It's never been part of the team's plans and it's hard to believe there will be a change beyond the status quo as Stanton heads into his age-33 season coming off another significant injury (Achilles).
Giancarlo Stanton an option in left field for the Yankees? Nope.
Boone wouldn't commit to Stanton playing left field at Yankee Stadium (something he hasn't done since 2019), but did say "my hope is that the outfield is very much in play." At the very least, there could be a world where Stanton plays right field for some home games with Aaron Judge getting DH reps when he needs a bit of a breather.
But even this approach feels pipe-dreamy. The moment Stanton exhibits any sign of breaking down or fatigue, the Yankees will quickly pull back on this "hope" and toss the slugger right back into the full-time DH role.
The upsetting part is that Stanton is a good outfielder. He also performs better offensively when he's seeing time on defense. Though we don't know for sure, we'd like to think it helps him take his mind off slumps or struggles because DHing naturally creates a one-dimensional approach.
Believe us, we'd love to see more Stanton in the outfield. It's something the fanbase has clamored for since the start of 2021. At the very least, we're glad Boone is "hoping" for a change in narrative here.
There's just no sense in being optimistic because there's nothing to suggest anything will be different as Stanton ages and continues to deal with dicey health issues.