On Wednesday, Bronx Pinstripes spoke with the Wall Street Journal’s national baseball writer Jared Diamond about the Yankees’ blockbuster deal for Giancarlo Stanton and several hot stove rumors. The full Q&A can be found below.
Q: What surprised you the most about the Yankees’ blockbuster trade for Giancarlo Stanton?
JD: That it happened. A month ago, if you had said that the Yankees were going to acquire Giancarlo Stanton this offseason, I would’ve said you are absolutely insane. And I think [general manager] Brian Cashman might’ve told you the same thing if you had asked him that question like three days before the trade got done. It seemed impossible that a deal like this could happen, would happen. But it really was the perfect storm, where everything just fell right into place and the Yankees essentially had a great superstar just kind of plop into their laps. It’s the dream scenario for the Yankees and they all of the sudden now have the greatest power hitter in baseball and they didn’t even really have to work that hard to get him.
Q: Baseball fans couldn’t complain about how the 2017 Yankees attained success. But the Evil Empire has been revived, right?
JD: Certainly. The Yankees have to go into 2018 in my mind as one of the preeminent favorites to win the World Series, for sure. I know in Las Vegas — depending on what book you look at — they’re either the No. 1 favorite to win the World Series or tied with the Dodgers as No. 1 favorite to win the World Series. They’re viewed as absolute juggernauts right now and they’re going to be good beyond 2018. They’re set up for the future as well. The Yankees have really done an incredible thing, rebuilding a roster that looks ready to compete for a championship and still is going to have a lower payroll than they’ve had in years. It’s really remarkable and it’s a credit to Brian Cashman, who I don’t think we can any longer say he’s not appreciated for his work. He’s definitely gained the credit he deserves.
Q: Could Stanton disrupt the Yankees’ chemistry from last season? Does adding a superstar like this come with hindrances?
JD: I don’t really subscribe to that. I think there are maybe some players in baseball where that would be the case. I think they’re few and far between and I don’t think Giancarlo Stanton is one of those players. He’s never had a bad reputation in the clubhouse. I don’t see any scenario where he disrupts things. You never know with clubhouses, every year is different, but with the group the Yankees have and Stanton’s reputation … it’s not basketball. In the NBA, I think that’s a legitimate question. Like, how did the Warriors respond to Kevin Durant and how did they get him into their offense last year. And I think there clearly was a learning curve there. Baseball is a different sport. I don’t foresee it really being a problem at all.
Q: Where should Stanton hit in the lineup?
JD: I’d have him hit third. Personally, I’m not as concerned with the lefty-righty thing. I see other projected lineups, people really try to split up the lefties and the righties. Frankly, I don’t worry too much about that with this group just because of the nature of the players. Really, outside of Greg Bird — and he didn’t have a big sample against lefties — there aren’t really dramatic splits guys on the Yankees. [Didi] Gregorius has been much better against lefties after starting his career poorly against them. If it was up to me, I’d keep [Aaron] Judge in the two-hole, that worked pretty well last year. Have Stanton hit third. And then we can talk. Frankly, I think Gary Sanchez is the next best player on the team. I’d have him hit fourth. I know there’s a lot of people that would say, ‘Well, you should have one of the lefties hit fourth.’ I could be swayed on that. But I would definitely want Judge and Stanton hitting back-to-back at second and third if I were writing that lineup every day.
Q: Will Stanton be a long-term fixture in New York, or could this be a short relationship?
JD: That’s a good question. I know there’s been a lot of speculation about will the Yankees flip Stanton. I don’t know. I’m not really sold on that. I’m not saying it’s not possible. But, do you flip Giancarlo Stanton so you can go sign Bryce Harper? Why? Why do you do that? One, you already have Stanton. There’s no guarantee you sign Bryce Harper. Two, are you really sure that Harper’s going to be better for the next nine years than Stanton? They’re not that different in age. They’re signing them both to long-term deals. Yeah, I understand the risk of Stanton is that he opts out, but maybe that’s not the end of the world. If the Dodgers can offer the Yankees a great package and they think they can go save that money and spend it on Harper, sure, it’s possible. But I don’t think that’s the Yankees’ plan. I don’t think they’re looking at this as, ‘Well, we’re going to flip him and sign Bryce Harper.’ I think it’s a possibility that happens, but I don’t think they’re going into the year expecting that to be the outcome.
Q: As a player, Derek Jeter wasn’t subject to much criticism by the media. That’s not the case for Jeter the owner. How long will it be open season on him?
JD: I think there’s a lot of people that are really enjoying Derek Jeter looking bad, people in the game and out of the game like fans. I think there’s a lot of fans who never liked Jeter that are happy he’s getting criticized. I think there are executives in baseball who view Derek Jeter as sort of an outsider, a hot-shot, arrogant. However you want to put it. Someone that’s not really in the world of executives and has a lot to learn. But Derek Jeter’s made some mistakes. I’m not going to tell you he hasn’t. But, he’s also taken some criticism that I think is a little ridiculous, which is just the nature of the fire sale. Whoever owned [the Marlins], whether it was Jeffrey Loria, Derek Jeter, or an anonymous other was going to have to trade Giancarlo Stanton. It was just an inevitability. Any executive in the game would tell you it was the only course of action. So for that reason, I think that’s a little bit unfair. Look, Jeter’s going to take some lumps. I think he’ll learn. I don’t think we can just say he’s going to be a garbage executive because the first month has been rocky. Let’s give him a little bit of time.
Q: Was there anything in particular that Jeter should have done differently over the past few weeks?
JD: I think the optics of some of the personnel firings like Jeff Conine and some of that stuff could’ve been handled better. I don’t necessarily think that the process behind those guys no longer being with the organization is terrible. I understand why it happened … But the optics of that was bad. You have to know how that’s going to look. I do think Derek Jeter’s comments yesterday [at a Marlins’ town hall session with fans] were pretty good. Generally speaking, it seemed like he understood. He went out there and said this is our plan and he’s kind of trying to do some damage control. But in terms of the actual baseball stuff, I can’t argue with them making these trades. They had to happen. Could they have gotten better deals? I don’t know, I’m not in the room. Maybe they could’ve. But clearly, someone thought these were the best deals they could get.
Q: Will the Yankees be under the luxury tax threshold in time for next winter’s loaded free agent market?
JD: Yes. They’re under it right now. There’s no reason they shouldn’t stay under it. They may try to make some more moves to try and clear up some more salary, to do some other things … If this, right now, is the team, then it’s a pretty good team. And if they’re able to get a little bit better and stay under the luxury tax threshold, even better for the Yankees. They’re clearly going to try to do it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they bring in another pitcher.
Q: Of the top pitchers reportedly available (i.e. Gerrit Cole, Patrick Corbin, Michael Fulmer), do the Yankees have a shot at adding one of them?
JD: They’re all good. Can’t really argue with wanting all of them. I’m very interested — and I don’t know the answer to this — on how the Yankees evaluate Clint Frazier compared to some other teams around the league. It seems to me the Yankees have soured a little bit on Frazier. I can’t even necessarily guarantee that’s true. It’s just my perception from talking to people. It just seems like they’re not as high on him as they maybe were this time last year, but, you never know. Maybe other teams value him higher, and if that’s the case, they’re more likely to get a deal done. So, we’ll see. I do think any trade that gets done for a pitcher will involve Clint Frazier. It just a matter of what a team really thinks about him.
Q: Will Jacoby Ellsbury play out his contract with New York?
JD: I wouldn’t say it’s a guarantee he stays in New York. You never know what opportunity the Yankees present to him, but the reality is, it’s hard to imagine a better scenario. I’m sure he wants to go somewhere where he could play more, but I’m sure he also wants a place where he could win. He has one of those with the Yankees — a place to win — and I honestly think he’ll play probably more than people think, just because there’s injuries and things of that nature. If the Yankees are able to get him to a contender where he would also play every day, yeah, maybe you can do it. But is there really a contender where he’d play every day? I mean no disrespect to Jacoby Ellsbury, I’m just not sure at this point in his career he’s a starter on a contending team.
Q: If the Orioles really want to trade Manny Machado, should the Yankees pursue, or hold off until next winter?
JD: No reason not to investigate with Baltimore. I don’t know if you are able to get the prospects together to trade for him for one year to make it worth it … But, all that said, things changed today. We now know that Zach Britton is going to be out for probably half — if not more — of the 2018 season … I think a lot of people like myself believe that they’re not going anywhere and it’s time to face the music. They probably should of made some of these trades last year. Honestly, they should’ve traded Manny Machado last July. They didn’t do it. Their window is maybe closed. Look, the Orioles may get to the point where they don’t think that there’s any value left for Machado, that they just missed the boat and they may as well hold onto him until the trade deadline because is there really a big difference between now and July. So, I don’t know. But I am curious to see how they respond to the Zach Britton injury and what that does to their plan.
Q: Who’s going to be the Yankees’ starting third baseman on Opening Day?
JD: That’s a good question. Who knows. It’s possible it’s someone not in the organization. It’s possible it’s [Miguel] Andujar. I don’t think it’s going to be Gleyber Torres. I know there’s a lot of Yankee fans that really want Gleyber Torres on the Opening Day roster and I just want to say that I would not get your hopes up on that. I think the odds are incredibly slim. Is he on the roster on June 10? Yeah, very possible. But on March 20? I don’t think it’s likely. I think that injury has to have a role. There’s no reason to rush this guy. They will be fine with [Ronald] Torreyes and Andujar if that’s how it goes for the first two months of the season. And maybe they’ll do something else. There’s also a lot of scouts that like Andujar and think he deserves a chance. So, we’ll see.
Q: How will Aaron Boone help the Yankees take that next step forward, which is winning a championship?
JD: He won’t mess anything up. I think that’s really all the Yankees want, to be honest. I think that’s what any team in 2018 wants from their manager. And I don’t mean that as a criticism of Aaron Boone. I don’t know what he’s going to be like as a manager. I literally met the guy in his managerial role one time, in his opening press conference. I have no idea what he’s going to do. He has no experience, he’s a smart guy. I don’t think the lack of experience matters all that much. I don’t think the Yankees really expect that much out of him. I think he’ll be fine steering the ship, and that’s sort of the job in this day in age. I have no problem with the hire … Clearly the Yankees believe that Aaron Boone was the better candidate based on how he presented himself in the interview and I think he’s going to be fine.
It is a win-now mode. The expectations have got to be that they make the playoffs, try to compete for the World Series. With a three-year deal, I expect he will see that three-year deal. I guess if things really fall apart, anything’s possible, but I don’t think that’s happening. The Yankees are expected to be a World Series contender and I have no reason to believe they won’t be.