How Aaron Boone envisions the Yankees' camp questions being answered
Second and third base are indeed an 'open competition' of sorts
Given the Yankees' roster construction, the Aaron Boone era should be starting the same way, but in the fell swoop of a few days last December, the Yankees created three huge questions about their deployment, questions Boone will have to answer over the next six weeks.
Two of those were created in one day, when Giancarlo Stanton's arrival (and Starlin Castro's departure) in a trade with the Marlins left the Yankees with two right fielders for one spot, five All-Star caliber outfielders for three or four lineup spots, and no one to man second base.
As it relates to those first two nuggets, though, Boone thinks the alignment of the outfield will work itself out as time goes along.
"The one thing exciting about those guys is that we have an MVP and a Rookie of the Year, two guys that are tremendous players and both really good defenders," the skipper said, "but both guys are also quality individuals, and you can tell it's about winning for them. With that comes some sacrifice, and so far, I think there's a lot of buy-in from them about being in different spots or scenarios. They'll both be very much a part of the process, and it's something that will unfold over the next six weeks - what are the final roles we'll view for them."
That fourth potential spot is the DH role, which Boone admitted the Yankees want to use as a rotation of sorts to get guys off their feet, but just because the team can use four spots doesn't mean the fifth outfielder is out of the rotation completely.
"I just saw (Aaron Hicks) and he's in great shape, and I think he's really confident and hungry to prove that last year was him coming of age and there's more to come," Boone said, "but that said, it's a long season and a long spring, and we feel that Jacoby Ellsbury has a lot of really good baseball left in him, so that will be something that plays itself out."
As for the infield, well, second base became a question with the Stanton deal, and that same week, third base became a question when Chase Headley was dealt to San Diego, ostensibly to help clear payroll for the addition of Stanton.
Two of the Yankees' top five prospects, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, may seem to have a beat on those jobs, but Boone believes that every infielder in camp is a legitimate contender for those two spots, and it's going to be an 'open competition' of sorts.
"I don't know if that's the right word choice," Boone said, "but it's certainly fluid. We have several guys in camp in the mix, and there's a lot of opportunity for guys to stake claims to jobs."
Second and third are necessarily Torres and/or Andujar's jobs to lose, but it's not necessarily a given that the Yankees will shy away from one or the other just for a veteran presence, either.
"These young guys have real opportunities right in front of them as they knock on the door, and we absolutely could (open the season with rookies at both spots)," Boone said. "When you talk about Torres, and Andujar, and Tyler Wade, these are guys that we feel can eventually be impact major-league players for us. There's a real possibility it could happen from the jump, but that will play out over the next six weeks, and hopefully we'll make the best decision as we break camp."
Once those decisions are settled, though, there are also decisions to be made - nine of them, to be exact - on where everyone will hit in the lineup. Spring Training, especially early on, is usually a time to see a lineup stacked with stars at the top so they get their work in, but if you ask Boone, don't be surprised to see some strange alignments in the next six weeks as they figure out all of the moving parts all at once.
"It's something we talk about all the time, how to best line guys up depending on our opponents, but obviously, I need to see things from a standpoint of younger guys being part of the mix," Boone said. "We'll probably put guys in some different spots here in Spring Training, but I wouldn't read too much into it, especially early on. I think the lineup will kind of play itself out, and hopefully we'll get these guys comfortable enough to be flexible when we need it."
Oh, yeah, and even though the Yankees have five starters and more than enough MLB-seasoned arms to fill the bullpen and then some, don't think there isn't any competition on the mound, either.
"One of the things we have to sort out is who is going to emerge to provide us depth in our starting rotation," Boone noted. "We have three, four, five or more candidates that can be options if someone goes down, so finding that depth is something we'll be watching closely, and it's something I'll be looking forward to watching unfold."
One thing he won't do that Girardi did last year, though, is declare even one battle over before it begins. The old skipper did that last year when he anointed Masahiro Tanaka as the Opening Day starter minutes into his spring-opening press conference, but when the new skipper was pressed on that subject, he made his lack of intentions known.
"Larry (Rothschild) and I talk about this all the time, but we're not there yet, and I don't know exactly when we'll determine that," Boone said. "We've got a nice blend of youngsters and veterans, and we feel like we have a very interchangeable group, so I think we'll look at it a little bit from kind of a 30,000-foot view, and see what makes the most sense physically for these guys depending on how the schedule works out. That'll be something Larry and I will talk about on a daily basis, but nothing has been decided about that yet."
Let the games begin!