Trimmer and more mobile, Stanton working to regain MVP form

February 19th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Bryan Hoch’s Yankees Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Jet-setting travel has been a highlight of ’s offseason in past years, with the slugger visiting far-flung destinations like Brazil, Dubai and Egypt to experience new cultures and decompress after his final at-bat.

This year, the passport went unstamped, as Stanton revamped his workouts behind a stated goal to “be a baseball player again.”

The program incorporated more running than in recent years, with Stanton aiming to regain athleticism after one of the worst offensive seasons of his career. That work paid off, as a noticeably trimmer Stanton reported to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday to begin his seventh season with the Yankees.

“I just need to be more mobile,” Stanton said. “A lot of setbacks kept me not moving the way I’d like to be. So, another year to go.”

Stanton declined to say how much weight he’d shed, though he noted that 2023-24 marked his “first fully healthy offseason in a long time.” Stanton batted .191/.275/.420 with 24 home runs and 60 RBIs over 101 games last season, missing more than a month after sustaining a left hamstring strain in April.

“I’ve got to stay on the field,” Stanton said. “The start/stopping is not ideal, and it hasn’t been. I’m here to play, not be on the sidelines. That’s never ideal.”

Upon his return, Stanton favored his lower half to avoid an injury recurrence, moving slowly on the basepaths and during his occasional outfield appearances. Stanton said that he also plans to make some changes to his swing.

“There were a big stack of things that weren’t aligned,” Stanton said. “This is a new year. After this, I’m not really talking about last year too much.”

Stanton was displeased by the comments made by general manager Brian Cashman at the GM Meetings in November, when in a response concerning the Yankees’ training staff, the longtime executive stated that Stanton was “going to wind up getting hurt again, more likely than not, because it seems to be part of his game.”

That prompted an air-clearing conversation between Stanton, his agent Joel Wolfe and Cashman. On Monday, Stanton said that Cashman “knows my reaction to that” and that he and the GM are fine with each other.

“He’s worked hard,” Cashman said earlier this week. “He’s a feared hitter. With health comes good performance, and he’s certainly worked his tail off this winter. All the information I’ve gotten back from our staff is that he is committed to find a way to be the impactful player that we know he can be for us.”

After making 33 starts in the outfield last season, all but two in right field, Stanton said that he’d like to be healthy enough to provide manager Aaron Boone with a legitimate defensive choice.

“My expectation, and [with] Giancarlo and I communicating at the end of last year, is making sure that outfield is an option,” Boone said. “We’ll see if that leads to if he’s out there once or twice a week, or if he’s not, depending on how healthy across the board we are. We’ll just let that play out, but I do feel like he’ll be in a position to do that and we’ll prepare like that in the spring.”

More importantly, Stanton expects to be playing deep into October, chasing the stated goal that he’d voiced after being acquired by the Yankees before the 2018 season.

“I don’t get paid to be a stand-up guy or say the right things,” Stanton said. “I’m here to produce and help us win the championship. That hasn’t happened, and it needs to.”