TAMPA, Fla. — When the Yankees traded for Giancarlo Stanton just before the winter meetings in December, their fans immediately began dreaming. What would Stanton, the National League MVP, and Aaron Judge, the American League Rookie of the Year and MVP runner-up, do in the same lineup? Stanton hit 59 homers and Judge hit a rookie-record 52 in 2017.
“The curiosity of what we can do together is the main focus,” Stanton said Friday morning, shortly after reporting for camp. “In terms of living up to expectations, that’s just going to come with playing. We can’t worry about me and his expectations when the main goal is to win.”
The sight of the 6-6, 245-pound Stanton, 28, walking through the clubhouse Friday made things all the more real when it comes to teaming up with the 6-7, 282-pound Judge, 25.
New manager Aaron Boone said he’s considered a variety of ways to construct the lineup, though he has settled on either Judge or Stanton hitting in the two-hole.
In 28 games hitting second last season, Judge had a .327/.465/.827 slash line with 13 homers in 98 at-bats. In 110 games in the two-hole, Stanton had a .289/.391/.675 slash line with 47 homers in 419 at-bats.
So does Boone want three powerful righthanded hitters — Judge, Stanton and Gary Sanchez — in a row, or would he separate those hitters with Didi Gregorius or Greg Bird, both of whom bat lefthanded, or switch hitter Aaron Hicks?
“Frankly, I go back and forth a lot on it,” Boone said. “A lot may come down to who’s comfortable where, what the matchup is that night as far as who’s starting against us. And also who’s in the bullpen for the team we’re playing. Those will all be things we consider . . . but I think there’s a reasonable chance we could split them up.”
He added later: “Is it absolutely best that they for certain hit in the first inning? That is a thought process we have . . . [but] we think Greg Bird’s going to be special and have the ability to potentially split those guys up. Obviously, what Didi was able to do and Aaron Hicks being a switch hitter . . . It’s a way from being decided and it could be something that’s fluid all season.”
Stanton and Judge are rightfielders, but each will get some time in leftfield in spring training, for sure during workouts and likely during games.
“We’re going to make it work,” Stanton said.
Judge and Stanton met during last year’s Home Run Derby and spent some time together at an event in New York in late January. Given their size, they not surprisingly compared notes on hitting and will continue to do so.
“We’re pretty much identical in terms of levers, how people pitch us, what it’s like when we step into the box,” Stanton said. “That knowledge of both of us is going to be huge. He’s younger to the league; I’ve seen it a few more years than he has. He’s been here, he knows how things work here and the pitchers we’re going to face, so it’s going to be a good learning curve for both of us.”
Stanton is all-in with the World Series-or-bust vibe already very much a part of the Yankees’ clubhouse. “That’s why we’re here,” he said “That’s definitely the goal.”
It is a different feeling for Stanton, the headline acquisition of the offseason by any team. He spent the first eight years of his big-league career with the Marlins, who during that time were rarely if ever considered a threat to qualify for the playoffs, much less reach the World Series. The best record of his Marlins tenure, which lasted from 2010 to 2017, was 80-82 in 2010.
“It’s huge,” he said of being with a winning franchise with high expectations. “I’ve never been able to experience that at this level.”