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Stanton trade hangs over Yankees' offseason

Bombers' prized acquisition went 5-for-21 in first career postseason
October 10, 2018

There is a giant shadow over the next Yankees' offseason, cast by the man who was the giant name of the last Yankees' offseason: Giancarlo Stanton.Stanton, who came by trade to the Yankees the way another giant name, Alex Rodriguez, did in 2004, has the same kind of rich, long-term

There is a giant shadow over the next Yankees' offseason, cast by the man who was the giant name of the last Yankees' offseason: Giancarlo Stanton.
Stanton, who came by trade to the Yankees the way another giant name, Alex Rodriguez, did in 2004, has the same kind of rich, long-term deal Rodriguez once had. And assuming Stanton doesn't opt out of his contract after the 2020 season -- something that looks unlikely right now -- he and the Yankees are going to be together for at least 10 more years, and for a pact of at least $272 million (assuming the Yankees pay Stanton's 2028 buyout). Or they are stuck with each other. Take your pick.
The Yankees created a big, splashy, old-fashioned Yankee headline when they traded for Stanton and his 59 home runs and his NL MVP Award from the Marlins last Dec. 11. They were putting Stanton with another big guy, Aaron Judge, and the two of them were going to be the modern version of the Bash Brothers. Or Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in '61. Judge and Stanton, who had hit 110 homers last season, would be together in the new Yankee Stadium, a home-run happy park that sometimes resembles a golf driving range with monuments. 
Yanks general manager Brian Cashman clearly figured that the combination of home runs and relief pitching could take the Yankees to the World Series for the first time since 2009. So he traded for Stanton after firing then manager Joe Girardi, who had the Yankees ahead of the Astros three games to two in last year's American League Championship Series, replacing Girardi with Aaron Boone.

You just saw how the season played out. The Yankees were in the AL Wild Card Game again, after failing to win the AL East, then didn't make it out of the AL Division Series against the Red Sox. Stanton finally played the first postseason games of his career, hit a home run against the A's in the AL Wild Card Game before contributing four singles in 18 at-bats against the Red Sox. But in the two biggest at-bats of his season -- in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and nobody out in ALDS Game 1, and in the bottom of the ninth of Game 4 with two on and nobody out -- Stanton struck out. 

In those moments, he was a $325 million rally killer. Stanton didn't lose this series by himself. He had plenty of help. But he didn't do very much to win it. Everybody knows how much talent Stanton has. He hit 38 regular-season homers and knocked in 100 RBIs in what must have felt like an off year to him, and a quiet one at that, considering where he plays and for whom he plays. 
But even as a lot of money comes off the books for the Yankees and they are ready to spend their way all the way to the luxury tax threshold in MLB but not beyond it, Stanton's money stays on the books. The Yankees could have waited a year and thrown money at Bryce Harper, who becomes a free agent this offseason. Maybe they will do it anyway; add Harper to Judge and Stanton and let the baseball gods sort things out in the Yankees outfield.
But you wonder now if the Yankees would still make the Stanton trade if they had to do it all over again. This isn't about his personality. The comparison to Rodriguez has nothing to do with Stanton's personality. He is more likeable and authentic than Rodriguez ever was in New York. By all accounts, Stanton is happy to be in New York and to be a Yankee. 
And the Yankees did hit 267 home runs this season, setting a new Major League record. They did win 100 regular season games, more than they ever did under Girardi. But Boston's pitching shut them down in important moments in the ALDS the way the Astros did in the four games they won from the Yankees in the last ALCS. In those four games last year, the Yankees scored a grand total of three runs.
Some might have figured the Yanks would turn things around after clubbing four homers in Game 2, but they never hit another homer over the final two games of the series. They go home now, a round earlier than they did without Stanton.
"Obviously [Stanton] had some chances when he could have made a difference with a big hit and it didn't happen in this series," Boone said in the interview room, then going on to say "that's why we have nine guys." 

Might the Yankees still make a run at Harper? They've pursued high-profile offensive free agents in the past when they'd sturggled to hit in October. They signed Jason Giambi for $119 million, even bidding against themselves, after they stopped hitting in their 2001 World Series loss to the D-backs. When Rodriguez had the right to opt out of his original 10-year, $252 million deal he'd signed with the Rangers, the Yanks gave Rodriguez another 10-year contract. In the end, Rodriguez played a total of 13 seasons with the Yankees and played in one World Series (and was crucial in winning it).
"You gotta put the ball in play," was one of the things that Stanton said to reporters after the Yankees had lost Game 4 on Tuesday.
And Stanton even said that this loss to the Red Sox, who hit a ton of home runs themselves this season but managed to beat the Yankees in the ALDS while only hitting four in four games, will "fuel" the Yankees going into next season.
The Yankees are still young and talented and did win 100 games before once again running into a Red Sox team that was better in October the way it was better in April. We'll see where they go in free agency, and into next year. But we know for sure is that Stanton isn't going anywhere.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for