Every Yankees decision comes with a Giancarlo Stanton caveat: Sherman

This equated to finding a signed confession after the DNA evidence already had allowed a case to be solved.

Giancarlo Stanton going down over the weekend with yet another leg injury merely corroborated the already verified — the Yankees are going to be spending most of this decade working around Stanton. With their roster structurally, and their payroll financially.

This is three years in three as a Yankee in which Stanton has incurred lower-half maladies. And these are prime years, ages 28-30. He is signed through 2027 and age 37. In 2020, he could not stay healthy in a shortened season in which he was exclusively a designated hitter and further reconfigured his body to avoid such breakdowns. This is the lamp breaking despite being in bubble wrap, swathed in blankets and handled with care.

This time it was a left hamstring strain. In 2018, Stanton played through a hamstring injury, persevering as others went down around him. He could not manage that last season amid the Yankee record spree of IL stints; Stanton landing on that list in April 2019 with a biceps strain and June with a right knee sprain. He played through a calf injury in last year’s postseason that was still problematic enough that he almost certainly would have begun this year on the IL had the season opened as scheduled in March.

It began, instead, in late July and by the second week of August, Stanton — first year in his thirties — is hurt again. He has seven seasons at $218 million left beyond 2020, which by itself would be the 16th largest contract ever behind — among others — the 13-year, $325 million pact Stanton originally signed with the Marlins. He has the right to opt out after this season, which would mean heading into free agency after yet another injury amid a pandemic. So, yeah, there is a better chance Babe Ruth will be hitting third for the Yankees Tuesday night vs. the Braves.

A proviso alert: the player often gets blamed for what he is paid. But the Marlins gave that contract and the Yankees traded for it. Those were organizational choices not done under threat. If there is fault, begin there.

Stanton fairly negotiated the total, the opt-out clause because he did not trust the Marlin ownership to build a contender around him and the no-trade clause that allowed him to avoid deals to the Cardinals and Giants. The Yanks took him on, perhaps out of frustration at being spurned by Shohei Ohtani, maybe thinking they were getting the best out of frenemy Derek Jeter in his early days as Marlins CEO. They definitely thought they would tolerate the back years of the deal to enjoy Stanton’s prime. Except they are not receiving the most out of Stanton in his prime, because they are receiving so little of Stanton.

What does this mean for now and the future:

–Now. The Yanks will recall Clint Frazier before Tuesday’s game, He along with Mike Ford and Mike Tauchman should benefit with more regular at-bats. The Yanks will have to always assure they have quality depth because, well, quality depth is always valuable, but also because it seems certain they are going to have to regularly cover for Stanton’s absences.

So maybe one of those imaginary trades involving Frazier or Miguel Andujar will happen one day, or perhaps their best value — and that of Ford and Luke Voit — is to be retained as Stanton insurance.

–Future. Will no fan revenue this year and the threat of disruption next year motivate the Yankees to slash payroll? Jacoby Ellsbury is off the books after this year; Gardner, J.A. Happ, DJ LeMahieu, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka are all likely free agents; and Tommy Kahnle is a probable non-tender after needing Tommy John surgery. In a full season that would represent more than $100 million coming off for luxury tax purposes.

But for the Yankees, all decisions through at least 2027 begin with this: $58 million. That is the combined annual salary for luxury tax purposes of Gerrit Cole and Stanton (it is a combined $68 million in actual dollars in the largest years). All Yankee budgets short-and-long-term have to account for that $58 million (if there continues to be a luxury tax in a new CBA beginning in 2022) and $68 million. So that total impacts whether to retain LeMahieu and Tanaka short-term and/or Judge and Gleyber Torres long-term.

Stanton’s presence on the books, even if not in the lineup, heavily factors into those choices; just as his regular presence on the IL will impact how the Yankees conceive rosters.

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