Keidel: Stanton's Injury Concerns Put Future In Question

Has Shades Of Another Potential Jacoby Ellsbury Situation

Jason Keidel
February 27, 2020 - 1:28 pm

When the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton, the logic behind it was simple and self-evident. They shipped nothing of value to Miami, his former team, making Stanton little more than a monetary transaction. Even if he came at quite a high price, it was just money, something the Yankees make by the barrel.

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But after a strong first season as a Yankee, Stanton is morphing into an expensive, ornamental player with a big name but little game to justify his $325 million contract. He played just 18 games last year after battling a surreal assortment of injuries, and now he's on the shelf again. It may last ten days, but it wouldn't shock anyone if it lasted ten weeks. 

New York Yankees left fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) walks off the field after fielding balls in the outfield during batting practice before game four of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series on Oct 17, 2019 against the Houston Astros.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Since the start of last season, Stanton has hurt his left biceps, left shoulder, left calf, right PCL, right quad, and now his right calf. Even on an injury-addled team like the Yankees have been since last summer, Stanton is pushing the boundaries of muscle and medicine. 

At this point Stanton is living on reputation way more than production, and may remind fans of another gifted player who didn't pan out in pinstripes - Jacoby Ellsbury.

The Yankees signed Ellsbury after a fine 2013 season for the Red Sox. He was 29 in his final season as a Red Sox, and he presumably had years of big games and fat stats ahead of him. Yet he never hit better than .271 after hitting .298 in his last year with Boston (where he also hit over .300 twice). Ellsbury never stole more than 39 bases as a Yankee despite stealing 50, 70, and then 52 in his last year as a Red Sox. He hit 16 homers in 2014, his career high as a Yankee, though he hit 32 in one year with Boston. He scored 71 runs twice as a Yankee, yet scored 98, 94, 119, and 92 runs in four separate seasons in Boston. And on and on...

Stanton was 29 last year when he started his slide into injury and, perhaps, closer to infamy. Like Ellsbury, Stanton produced by far his best numbers for his former club, even though he joined the Yankees in his prime. Stanton's only full season in pinstripes came in 2018, when he hit 38 homers. His high in Miami was 59 home runs. He drove in 100 runs for the Bombers. His career high for the Marlins was 132 RBI. Stanton batted .266 for the Yanks in 2018. He hit higher than that three times in Miami. His slugging percentage in '18 was .509, a number he exceeded in five separate seasons in Miami.

But Stanton did set two career highs during his maiden season in pinstripes - in doubles (34) and strikeouts (211).

And Stanton may be setting records for most tweaked tendons and strained muscles and for the number of fans moonwalking from his side. While he has the right temperament to play here, with a teflon take on all the ills, ails, and boos coming his way, no one can endure the full scorn of New York City baseball fans. 

Ellsbury's failure felt doubly bad to Yankees fans because he had his best years in Boston, so it felt like they secretly arranged for him to implode in the Bronx, and have the hated Yankees pay $153 million to watch it, including $26 million for Ellsbury to just leave the team.

That doesn't mean Stanton can't find himself among the ghosts of failed Yankees past, joining Ellsbury, Carl Pavano, Kei Igawa and others who didn't have the internal or external bark for Broadway. It's been hard to hate on Stanton so far because he's handled himself with such a low-key regularity. He didn't get hurt running from wild boars (like another famous Big Apple outfielder), doesn't show up to spring training in space-age luxury cars, and doesn't shove his money in our face.

But the money will matter pretty soon if Stanton doesn't get back on track, with his bat bashing balls out of MLB ballparks. Fair or not, there's a certain assumption made with men built like Stanton - so muscular that he's impervious to the strains of daily life. So if his body is failing there must be something wrong with his wiring. Such is the burden of big money.

There are eight more years on Stanton's contract, with a team option in 2028. No one expects Giancarlo Stanton to be great in 2028, but if he doesn't earn his pay over the next year or two, the Yanks may someday pay him to stay away, like they did when Jacoby Ellsbury.

Twitter: @JasonKeidel