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Giancarlo Stanton’s home run force is elite and important to the Yankees

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There are many reasons to be excited about 2023 New York Yankees. Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo were re-signed. Carlos Rodon was brought in to help ace Gerrit Cole nail what appears to be a stellar spin. Tommy Kahnle would assist an already high-quality bullpen. On the other hand, abuse is a slightly different story. He will be anchored by Judge and hopes for rebounding seasons from several veterans and the emergence of some key prospects.

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Yes, the Yankees are again true championship contenders, even if anticipation and hope for rebounds are not the defining qualities of a championship. World Championship Preferred. However, there is one player whose production and importance is seemingly overlooked.

Giancarlo Stanton is the MVP of the 2023 Yankees Championship.

Sure, it’s the team of Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo that’s a good bet to match last year’s production. Gleyber Torres is better than he’s got, and Harrison Bader should hit just enough to make himself an everyday solid player. But Josh Donaldson is looking for a rebound season. DJ LeMahieu must prove he’s healthy. The shortstop position is in flux and the player may or may not be left on the roster. Can the young prospect succeed over the course of a full season?

There is uncertainty throughout the lineup. Barring the judge, only Giancarlo Stanton is confirmed for 2023. He’s an elite hitter with elite production when healthy. Despite hitting 66 home runs over the past two seasons, Stanton is, to many fans and pundits, simply “not our guy.”

It’s not the first Yankees acquisition to be handled in this way.

Not Our Man: The Eighties Edition

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In December of 1980, the New York Yankees signed Dave Winfield to a record-breaking 10-year, $23 million contract. Winfield was entering his 29-year-old season and was a star with the San Diego Padres. The Yankees were paying a premium to pair him with their current star Reggie Jackson and, in just three years, their new star Don Mattingly.

In the past, Winfield gave the Yankees exactly what they were paying for. He pitched eight full elite-level production seasons before being traded in 1990. Over those eight years, Winfield averaged .291/.357/.497 with 29 doubles, four triples, 25 home runs, 102 RBI, and 10 stolen bases for all season. He would be the backbone of the 1980s Yankees team that led the decade in regular season wins.

The key phrase was “later”. Anyone who grew up in the ’80s knows that Dave Winfield was never treated like a true star of the team. First, there was Reggie. And then, there was Donnie Baseball.

Winfield would not be seen as “the guy” on any of his teams, or anything close to it. In 1984, the city publicly rooted against him in favor of Don Mattingly during the famous batting title race. Mattingly became MVP in 1985 and became a superstar of the game; Winfield continued producing in his shadow. Winfield was the most consistent hitter in the Yankees lineup for eight years and was named to the All-Star Team each season in the pinstripes.

When we think of Dave Winfield now, we think of the Hall of Famer and “Great Yankee,” but he certainly wasn’t treated as such while he was actually playing. Everyone knew it was good, but the attention and adoration was always directed elsewhere.

History repeats itself

In December of 2017, the Yankees traded three players for Giancarlo Stanton, the team’s MVP who hit 59 home runs on 132 runs and slugged . The trade was a classic pay dump for the Marlins, who signed Stanton to a 13-year, $325 million contract in 2015, with $250 million still owed to him over 10 years at the time. The deal was reloaded for three years before escalating to $25 million and beyond in 2018. Obviously, the Marlins didn’t want to push the escalating contract, but instead chipped in $30 million to help New York take on the larger commitment.

Many fans, who had just gotten over Alex Rodriguez’s contract, thought the Yankees had another contract, a deal that might have prevented them from signing homegrown star Aaron Judge. From the perspective of the winter of 2022, the Stanton contract no longer seems onerous.

Like Winfield before him, Giancarlo Stanton was coming to the Yankees for someone else. This was now Aaron Judge’s team permanently. And like Winfield, Stanton has produced at a high level since joining the Yankees with little fanfare or being considered one of the best hitters in the game.

This perception is probably due to the 2019 and 2020 seasons which saw Stanton play in only 41 games in total due to injuries. That may be due to his unfortunate second half of 2022, when injuries pushed his WRC+ from 134 before the All-Star break to 68 afterward. But in each of his three full seasons, Stanton hit 30 or more home runs. He ranks 129th in wRC+ as a Yankee and the game’s 25th among players who have appeared on multiple plates.

Stanton is vital to hosting the 2023 World Series

Aaron Judge is coming off a historic season. He could win the MVP award for the second time in a row, but even an elite year from the judge will lead to some setbacks. A healthy Giancarlo Stanton is needed if the Yankees are indeed a World Series contender as he is the only hitter capable of producing near knockout level.

Stanton, of course, played like the MVP of the past. He is, entering his season at 33, still one of the best hitters in the sport. His 66 home runs over the past two seasons ranks 11th in Major League Baseball. 247 ISO is tenth best. His . 492 slugging percentage is 26. Since 2021, 33 of his 66 home runs have either tied or given the Yankees the lead. Last season, 17 out of 31 guys did it. There’s little difference that Dodgers make in the game. Yankees are two of them.

Certainly, there are concerns about Stanton’s decline. Last season, despite his 31 home runs, he hit just . 211/. 297/462, the worst marks of his career. He had a career low 74.7 percent contact rate while throwing pitches for strikes. His total call rate was just below his career average of 68.3 percent, resulting in a labor strike rate of 30.3 percent. However, this was not much higher than his life rate of 28.2 percent.

Despite those potential red flags that could all stem from his Achilles tendon injury and overcompensation rather than regression, Stanton remains one of the toughest hitters in the sport. He owned 14 of the 62 hits in the majors whose exit speed was at least 115 mph. His BABIP was only 0.27, well below the league average, indicating some bad luck.

Like Hall of Famer Dave Winfield before him, Giancarlo Stanton is one of the most important hitters in the lineup and one of the game’s no-hitters. Despite playing in the shadows of other stars and failing to gain the full embrace of the Yankee Universe while playing, Stanton will join Winfield as one of the Yankees’ greatest and possibly inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The Yankees 2023 lineup has many questions to answer. Giancarlo Stanton is just one of two definite answers, even if he’s not treated as such.

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