'Greater heights' in Yanks' sights in 2018

NY aiming to surpass '17 club with new skipper Boone, Stanton, Judge

February 4th, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. -- The day after Greg Bird lifted the routine fly ball to center field that ended Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, the Yankees' charter plane was steered from Houston to New York -- not Los Angeles, as they'd hoped -- and general manager Brian Cashman had already turned the page toward the 2018 season.

There would be much to do; Cashman and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner spent hours on the telephone that week discussing Joe Girardi's fate, ultimately deciding it would be best not to renew the manager's contract despite 91 regular-season victories and advancing to within one win of the World Series.

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A lengthy interview process followed, as executives emphasized "communication and connectivity" with an up-and-coming stable of stars like Bird, , and . ESPN analyst Aaron Boone was a dark-horse candidate, but the former infielder won the room, despite having no previous managing or coaching experience.

"Aaron Boone was, by far, the best candidate, despite the lack of experience," Cashman said. "The content that he brings, and the demeanor and the intellect, was pretty much hard to ignore. I've got great confidence that I've got a great baseball mind in that dugout."

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A power-hitting right fielder was not on Cashman's shopping list for the winter, not with Judge having wowed the game with a 52-homer performance that would see him finish second to Houston's in the AL Most Valuable Player Award race while earning unanimous selection as the AL Rookie of the Year.

Out of due diligence, Cashman touched base with Marlins counterpart Michael Hill during the GM Meetings in November, testing the waters regarding . Cashman was piqued that Miami seemed so willing to discuss the big-ticket superstar, but he thought a deal unlikely when both the Cardinals and Giants worked out separate trade agreements for Stanton in December.

When Stanton invoked his no-trade clause, however, Cashman pivoted from the team's abbreviated pursuit of pitcher/slugger Shohei Ohtani and added the reigning National League MVP Award winner to the Yankees' imposing lineup.

"I'm excited to be here in New York and experience the big city, bright lights," Stanton said. "It's going be a lot of fun for me."

While aiming to keep payroll under $197 million, the Yankees would still like to add, particularly in the starting pitching department (, perhaps, if they can do so creatively). To make it happen, Boone is open to having youngsters and manning second and third bases, respectively.

"I look at it right now as kind of a toss-up," Boone said. "I know each and every day, Brian Cashman and his staff are grinding through and looking at every possibility, every scenario."

Even as the team stands today, with Stanton's acquisition and more promising talent on the rise, the feel-good story of the easy-to-root-for, ahead-of-schedule Yankees has ended. A target has been squarely placed upon the pinstripers for 2018 and beyond -- not that they are complaining in the least.

"They know they burst onto the scene and sped up the timetable of what was expected," Boone said. "This is a team that is not content and is hungry to really take it to greater heights."