Stanton, Yankees hungry for title in 2018

Boone's plan of attack among 5 questions entering new season

January 1st, 2018

NEW YORK -- The Yankees' autumn officially transitioned into winter on Oct. 21 in Houston. Since that night, they have arguably been the busiest and most newsworthy team in the Majors, highlighted by the recent addition of , the National League's reigning Most Valuable Player.

"They strike from everywhere, and they're well balanced and they're hungry," Stanton said. "The city's been waiting for another World Series and a playoff run, and they got close enough [in 2017]. Hopefully, with my addition, we're going to advance and be a better team. We have to go out and perform, but I want to make this team better."

Here are some of the questions facing the Yankees as the new year arrives:

1. Is Aaron Boone ready for this?

After six diverse candidates were interviewed, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said there had been some dissent among decision-makers about the second and third choices, but Boone had been able to convince the Yankees that he was their best fit for 2018 despite not having coached or managed at any level.

Boone won over that conference room, enjoyed a notable big league career and comes from terrific baseball bloodlines, but he has never experienced anything like what is yet to come. Boone said that building a relationship with catcher will be one of his top priorities, and he understands his every move will be scrutinized by the New York media.

"At the end of the day, you're in this seat, you're making quick decisions," Boone said. "I think it's important to be decisive. It still comes down to relationships are a very important part of this game. Frankly, whatever avenue you are in life, relationships play a strong role. That's true today, as it was 20 years ago, as it was 50 years ago."

2. How will Stanton and co-exist?

The Yankees haven't detailed an exact plan to juggle Stanton and Judge, though it's reasonable to assume that they will shift between right field and designated hitter, which could keep both players healthy. Judge's left shoulder injury was widely believed to have stemmed from an aggressive defensive play back in April at Fenway Park.

While is expected to serve as the Opening Day left fielder, there has been some discussion about having Judge or Stanton take reps in left field. Boone also recently asked the Yankees what Judge would look like in center field; Judge was drafted as a center fielder out of Fresno State University but moved to a corner spot as a professional.

"It's a really good problem that we have," Boone said. "One thing that makes it workable is both Giancarlo and Aaron are great people, and I think are open to doing what we need to do to make this the best we can. These are excellent athletes and outstanding defenders as well."

3. Who are the answers at second base and third base?

By including in the Stanton trade and shipping to the Padres in a salary-related move, the Yankees have created vacancies at two of their infield spots. Their internal candidates include at third base and at second base, with , and also listed as possibilities.

More likely, one of those positions will be manned by someone not currently in the organization. The Yankees expressed interest in the Orioles' Manny Machado and have been in contact with free agent third baseman . A reunion with is another option.

4. Can Greg Bird stay on the field?

In 2015, Bird was the Yankees' top position player prospect, ahead of both Judge and Sanchez. His pure left-handed stroke is a terrific fit for Yankee Stadium, and the team believes he is capable of great things as long as he remains healthy.

That has been the problem, of course. Bird missed all of 2016 and was limited to just 48 games in 2017, forcing the Yankees into a revolving door of Chris Carter, , and others at first base. By passing on free agents like , they are banking heavily that Bird will be able to play his first full Major League season in 2018.

5. Can they handle the expectations?

Even Yankee-haters had to admit that there was something likable about the Baby Bombers in 2017, as 20-somethings Judge, Sanchez and enjoyed success on the big league stage. The Stanton trade restored the Yankees to Evil Empire status, doing away with the warm and cuddly narrative. When they assemble in the Florida sunshine, they'll be doing so as a team that many will believe should win a World Series.

"The expectations are always the same, which is to win a championship," Steinbrenner said. "I think that the club last year was young, exciting, hungry. I think that even before this [Stanton] deal was done, I think we did have a championship-caliber team. It's going to be exciting for our fans."