The New York Yankees made their first significant move of the offseason Monday and named James Rowson their new hitting coach. Rowson had previously worked in New York’s farm system and is said to be close with Aaron Judge. The Yankees still must hire a bench coach to replace Carlos Mendoza, who was officially named New York Mets manager on Monday.
Hiring a new hitting coach certainly isn’t the big move Yankees fans crave, though it was a necessary step this offseason. Now the Yankees must improve the roster and give Rowson more to work with. That includes keeping Giancarlo Stanton on the field, something GM Brian Cashman admitted isn’t all that likely at this point in Stanton’s career.
Here’s what Cashman said about Stanton at the GM Meetings in Scottsdale last week (per the New York Daily News):
“We’ve gotta get Stanton up and running again,” Cashman said in Arizona. “He’s injury-prone. We all have lived and known that, but he’s never not hit when he’s playing, and this year is the first time that that’s happened.”
“We try to limit the time he’s down,” Cashman said. “But I’m not gonna tell you he’s gonna play every game next year because he’s not. He’s going to wind up getting hurt again more likely than not because it seems to be part of his game. But I know that when he’s right and healthy – other than this past year – the guy’s a great hitter and has been for a long time.”
“He’s going to wind up getting hurt again more likely than not because it seems to be part of his game?” Ouch. While certainly true, those are some pretty harsh words from the GM about a core member of the team. For what it’s worth, former Yankees (and Florida Marlins) teammate Cameron Maybin recently said he’s not sure Stanton wants to finish his career in pinstripes.
Needless to say, Cashman’s remarks were not well received by Stanton’s corner. Per Ken Rosenthal, Stanton’s agent Joel Wolfe responded thus:
“I read the context of the entire interview. I think it’s a good reminder for all free agents considering signing in New York both foreign and domestic that to play for that team you’ve got to be made of Teflon, both mentally and physically because you can never let your guard down even in the offseason.”
Consider this a not-so-veiled warning that Cashman’s public comments about Stanton could harm the Yankees’ reputation with players they may have interest in signing. For one, Wolfe also represents NPB ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is expected to be posted this offseason and who the Yankees are reportedly very high on.
As for Stanton, he has played only 391 of 708 possible regular season games since 2019, or 55%. He had the worst season of his career in 2023, slashing .191/.275/.420 with 24 home runs in 101 games. That comes after what was previously the worst season of his career in 2022. Stanton, 34, hit .211/.297/.462 with 31 home runs in 110 games a year ago.
The Yankees finished 25th in runs and 24th in OPS in 2023, and while Stanton’s injuries and underperformance contributed to that, Cashman did not build adequate depth to fill in. A team with a payroll approaching $300 million gave over 900 plate appearances to Jake Bauers, Willie Calhoun, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Billy McKinney, who combined for a .662 OPS.
It’s true Stanton’s injuries have become seemingly inevitable and that he did not perform in 2023. That larger issue is Cashman’s roster construction and not having suitable depth players to step in. New York’s single biggest issue right now is so many of their top young position players have come up and not performed, which has contributed to their depth woes.