Had the Major League Baseball season started on time, the Yankees would have had to come out of the gates without three of their most important players. Injured outfielders Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and left-hander James Paxton all would have missed some portion of the campaign, but if this season does get underway, they should be ready from the outset.
We already know about Judge, who’s progressing in his recovery from a rib stress fracture. His fellow slugger Stanton is also on the road back, manager Aaron Boone told Meredith Marakovits of the YES Network (via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com).
“Giancarlo’s doing well,” Boone said. “He’s still reporting in Tampa and going through his rehab. He’s doing really well. When we get ready to go, he should certainly be ready to be back and part of things.”
Stanton suffered a calf injury in the final week of February, rendering him doubtful for a normal Opening Day. It was especially unwelcome in light of Stanton’s abbreviated 2019, when biceps and knee issues limited him to a meager 18 regular-season games. That was Year 2 in a Yankees uniform for Stanton, whom they acquired from the Marlins on the heels of his 2017 NL MVP-winning season and who produced a .266/.343/.509 line with 38 home runs in 705 plate appearances during his only full season as a Yankee. He’s still signed for a guaranteed $244MM through 2027 (including a $10MM buyout for ’28). While the 30-year-old will have an opportunity to opt out of his contract after this season, it seems extremely unlikely he’ll take advantage of that chance even if he does enjoy a healthy and productive 2020.
There are better odds that Paxton has donned Yankees pinstripes for the last time. He’ll be a free agent next winter, after all, and no one knows whether a season will occur in the meantime. Paxton has consistently performed well for the Mariners and Yankees over the past few years, which would make him an appealing free agent, but injuries have been an all-too-common problem along the way. He underwent back surgery in early February and was set to be sidelined into May. But the 31-year-old’s recovery has gone “pretty smoothly,” according to Boone, who added he’s “really encouraged where James is.”
Paxton’s importance to New York’s staff only increased when righty Luis Severino underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in February. That procedure left Paxton as arguably the Yankees’ top complement to Gerrit Cole, with Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery also in the mix. Paxton showed well in his first season as a Yankee, averaging better than 95 mph on his fastball and turning in 150 2/3 innings of 3.82 ERA/3.86 FIP ball with 11.11 K/9 and 3.29 BB/9.