Stan­ton happy he cashed in be­fore free-agent mess

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - KRISTIE ACK­ERT

TAMPA — Gian­carlo Stan­ton knows he had good tim­ing. The Yan­kees’ slug­ger signed a 13-year, $325 mil­lion deal with the Mar­lins back in 2014, be­fore the free-agent mar­ket started to slow down. He sees Manny Machado and Bryce Harper sit­ting out these first few days of spring train­ing wait­ing for deals and he’s grate­ful for his con­tract.

“Yeah, big time,” Stan­ton said, “for sure.”

He added that, like other vet­eran play­ers around the league, he sees is­sues that have to be ad­dressed with the slow free-agent mar­kets tak­ing over base­ball the last two win­ters. It’s been some­thing of a shock for the play­ers. Just three years ago, many were tar­get­ing this as the big-bucks win­ter for MLB. Machado and Harper were ex­pected to break Stan­ton’s record con­tract.

“Noth­ing like what I’ve seen since I played, an off­sea­son like this. So I think some is­sues there that need to be ad­dressed,” Stan­ton said. “And in terms of the con­tract, if they break it, cool. I’ll be happy for them. Hope­fully they can get signed….I don’t know what the deal is….”

As for now, with Stan­ton head­ing into his sec­ond sea­son since the trade from Mi­ami, fans are just hop­ing he can live up to the $26 mil­lion he will be mak­ing this year. He had a rough in­tro­duc­tion last spring, and fans let him know he was a dis­ap­point­ment. Stan­ton be­gan March and April slash­ing .230/.313/ .425 with five home runs and 15 RBI. He struck out 43 times in 113 at-bats.

He fin­ished the sea­son hit­ting .266/.343/.509 with 38 homers and 100 RBI, but also had 211 strike­outs, the sec­ond most in the big leagues.

Aaron Boone thinks that with more fa­mil­iar­ity, af­ter com­ing over from the Na­tional League East, Stan­ton will get off to a bet­ter start this sea­son.

“One of the things with Gian­carlo that we no­ticed, as we dug into things, es­pe­cially (some­thing) we were aware of last year, the more he sees a pitcher, he’s one of those guys that re­ally ben­e­fits from that,” the Yan­kees man­ager said. “He gets pretty sig­nif­i­cant spikes across the board, more so than your nor­mal per­son.

“As a hit­ter, the more you can see a pitcher, it helps the hit­ter a lit­tle more than a pitcher. In Gian­carlo’s case, that’s proven out over the years,” Boone added. “Hope­fully, just be­ing more com­fort­able in the league. In the Amer­i­can League East again. I think that will be some­thing that should help.”

Stan­ton said the boos last sea­son did not bother him, but the tight left ham­string that he played with in the sec­ond half did.

“That wasn’t the best for me, my ham­string, but I wasn’t wor­ried about that,” Stan­ton said. “If I could go out and pro­duce or help us the slight­est bit, I was go­ing to be out there. But it was quite the fac­tor.”

At the time, the Yan­kees had lost Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez to the dis­abled list. Didi Gre­go­rius was out of the lineup as well. Boone said that was when Stan­ton re­ally earned the re­spect of his team­mates and the or­ga­ni­za­tion by play­ing through dis­com­fort.

“I don’t know nec­es­sar­ily about the (in­jured list), but there cer­tainly would have been some more off days in there,” Boone said of how they would have han­dled the ham­string in ideal con­di­tions. “We hon­estly went through a stretch of games where Judge and a cou­ple of other guys were in and out of the lineup and a lit­tle banged up. I ended up us­ing that DH spot for (Stan­ton), but he wasn’t com­ing out. …. I think that’s one of those things we kind of loved about him last year: his abil­ity to post when he wasn’t per­fect. His com­mit­ment to (play­ing) when he wasn’t per­fect, but good enough to go.”

Stan­ton said his fo­cus this year is try­ing to play a full, healthy sea­son and get­ting the Yan­kees back to the play­offs. Af­ter eight sea­sons in the big leagues, 2018 was the first time Stan­ton ex­pe­ri­enced a pen­nant race and post­sea­son.

That was the big­gest dif­fer­ence for him com­ing from Mi­ami.

“Not about learn­ing any­thing, it was more just about play­ing games that mat­ter, games where you were in it past May 7,” Stan­ton said. “That’s the big­gest dif­fer­ence; every sin­gle game, win or losses are huge for a sea­son.”

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