Giancarlo Stanton Transforms the Entire Complexion of the American League East
Remember when the MLB offseason was boring and lacked substantial action. Well, the stove is officially lit, fam.
Mere hours after Shohei Ohtani announced he'd sign with the Los Angeles Angels, Giancarlo Stanton is reportedly willing to take his talents to the Bronx. This deal between the Miami Marlins and the New York Yankees happened mere hours after finding out the reigning National League MVP wouldn't waive his no-trade clause to facilitate a deal with the San Francisco Giants or one that would've sent him to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Following a monstrous 2017 season, we know what Stanton is capable of doing. Through 692 plate appearances last year, he produced a 156 wRC+ and was worth 6.9 fWAR (nice) off the strength of a .281/.376/.631 slash line. The 59 home runs, 132 RBI, and .350 ISO he posted were all the best marks in baseball.
And now, he'll join Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and friends on a Yankees team that was one win away from reaching the World Series less than two months ago (pending his official approval and the passing of physicals, of course).
Already a Top Offense
The Yankees didn't actually need to make this kind of upgrade -- they were already one of baseball's best offensive units. Only the World Champion Houston Astros (121 wRC+, .349 wOBA) posted better numbers than New York (108 wRC+, .336 wOBA) this past season.
But maybe they could've used some more power in their lineup, right? In a day and age where home runs rule everything, that's a valuable skill to acquire, especially when that player is in the physical prime of their career (Stanton will be entering his age-28 campaign). Again, not exactly -- the Yankees' 241 homers led the league, with Judge (52), Sanchez (33), Didi Gregorius (25), and Brett Gardner (21) all slugging 20-plus dingers.
Despite all this -- and being rather heavy on right-handed bats -- the team could stand to improve against lefties.
New York posted a 110 wRC+ and .339 wOBA against right-handed pitching in 2017, with only the Astros (once again) besting them in each category. Surprisingly, this group was much more average against southpaws, posting a 101 wRC+ and .325 wOBA. That's where Stanton comes in.
He's routinely had great success against left-handers throughout his career, but this past year was one of his best. Among the seasons in which he's accumulated at least 100 plate appearances against southpaws, the 202 wRC+ .480 wOBA, and .441 ISO he just posted are all new single-season career highs. And he did that despite posting a 42.3% hard-hit rate in this situation, which was his lowest mark since it was 40.0% in 2013.
It's also worth noting that he had a .292 BABIP against lefties in 2017, so it's not as if he encountered a whole bunch of good fortune along the way toward posting these eye-popping numbers.
On-Field Impact in the AL East
While the presence of Stanton will help keep himself, Judge, and Gardner fresh by allowing the Yankees to strategically use the designated hitter spot, it's no secret that the biggest impact felt with this move will come in the batter's box.
Probably the most impressive part of his 59-homer display was that the majority of them (31, to be exact) came in the cavernous Marlins Park, one of the toughest places for right-handed hitters to slug homers, per Baseball Prospectus' park factors.
This wasn't the only NL East park tough on righty power hitters, though -- Citi Field (28th in home run factor) and SunTrust Park (25th) are also usually rough for guys like Stanton. Citizens Bank Park (first) and Nationals Park (seventh) are more conducive to the long ball, but three of the five parks he frequented for most of his 2017 campaign ranked 24th or worse in home run factor.
That changes quite a bit in the AL East. None of the parks in his new division ranked worse than 20th in this category last year, and the park that checked in last of the bunch was Fenway. After pulling 32.6% of his fly balls in his most recent season, something tells me Stanton won't have any problems launching balls up and over the Green Monster. Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards rank 2nd and 3rd, respectively, while Tropicana Field (17th) and the Rogers Centre (18th) are each among the top 20.
The opposing pitching Stanton will be facing is also an important piece to this puzzle. The Boston Red Sox had a top-five pitching staff when measuring by fWAR (23.9), but none of the other teams in the AL East showed up in the top 10. The Toronto Blue Jays don't exactly have any intimidating rotation and lack depth, while the Tampa Bay Rays appear to be entertaining offers on their pitching staff, so they could potentially get worse in 2018.
And the Baltimore Orioles? Well, it's wasn't a good year for them -- only four teams produced a worse fWAR than their 7.8 mark. They're looking for multiple pitchers to fill out their starting rotation, with their early interest pointing toward Andrew Cashner and Jason Vargas.
Off-Field Impact in the AL East
It seemed as though this Stanton situation dragged on forever, but there's plenty of time for teams to make moves in advance of next season. Most of the major free agents are still available, and teams are ready to spend -- whether it's on the open market or via trade. The Winter Meetings are about to start, so it's the perfect time to begin having meaningful conversations.
The Red Sox are fresh off two straight division titles, but they had a clear issue on offense without David Ortiz in the middle of their lineup in 2017. Their 168 home runs were the fourth-lowest mark in baseball, along with being the lowest in the American League. They were already on the hunt for a legitimate power hitter, and that need becomes even greater now that Stanton, Judge, and Sanchez are joining forces.
Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton combined for 144 HR last season. Red Sox hit 168 HR as a team last season.
— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) December 9, 2017
As mentioned above, the Rays are considering selling off some of their assets this winter, so a move like this could only motivate them more to keep heading in that direction. The Blue Jays will likely move forward with their hopes of competing after a disappointing year, but who knows if they decide to shop third baseman Josh Donaldson instead of signing him to an extension now that the bottleneck that was Stanton and Ohtani is clear.
Perhaps the team in the worst spot is the Orioles. The upcoming year represented one last shot at a playoff run with their current core before a number of them hit free agency next winter, with the most notable name being Manny Machado.
Baltimore is already starting to get calls on their third baseman in case they decide to explore a trade, and honestly, they probably should. Unless they're going to invest more heavily into 2018 roster and/or commit to Machado for the long term, spending money on inferior alternatives like Cashner and Vargas doesn't make any sense.
At the end of the day, Stanton is only one player. While he's set to bring an impressive resume with him to the Bronx for the foreseeable future, he can only do so much. But when we look at how good New York's offense already was without him, how impressive their pitching staff was, and the state of the AL East, this acquisition could potentially turn things on its head.
Remember when the Yankees were headed into some form of a rebuild after selling off assets prior to the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline? That seems like a long time ago, and general manager Brian Cashman has done a fantastic job of setting his team up for long-term success.