By Cliff Corcoran
Giancarlo Stanton was officially introduced as a New York Yankee on Monday afternoon, but even before he donned his No. 27 pinstriped jersey, he made history. Stanton is just the third player in Major League history to be traded in the offseason after winning his league's Most Valuable Player Award, as well as the third to be traded following a 50-home-run season. As such, he is one of the most impressive acquisitions in the game's history. What makes his move to the Yankees most compelling, however, is the potential Stanton has going forward alongside his new teammate Aaron Judge.
Stanton and Judge will make history come Opening Day. That's when they will take the field as the just the second pair of teammates to both be coming off seasons of 50 or more home runs. The only other time that happened was in 1962, when the Yankees' Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle attempted to follow up their magical "M&M Boys" season.
In 1961, Maris set the single-season home run record with 61. Mantle was hot on his heels until illness and injury limited him to 54. They remain the only teammates to hit 50 or more home runs in the same season, and their 115 combined home runs remain a record for two teammates. In 2017, Stanton hit 59 home runs for the Marlins. Judge, as a rookie, hit 52 for the Yankees. Their combined 111 home runs would have ranked second, just four shy of Mantle and Maris's record, had Stanton and Judge been teammates last year. With Stanton just 28 years old and moving from the cavernous Marlins Park to the homer-friendly Yankee Stadium, and Judge heading into his sophomore and age-26 season, it would seem that Mantle and Maris's combined record is well within reach of Stanton and Judge. Maris' American League (and team) record of 61 home runs is also on the endangered list.
Yet Stanton and Judge need not replicate their 2017 power numbers to combine for a historically significant total. They could shed a combined 11 home runs and still become just the sixth pair of teammates to combine for 100 home runs in a single season, joining this list:
Stanton and Judge could also shed up to 15 combined home runs and still join Mantle and Maris as just the second pair of teammates to each hit 48 or more home runs in a season. In addition to Mantle and Maris, and Ruth and Gehrig, the only other teammates to hit 47 in the same season were Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro on the 2001 Rangers (Rodriguez hit 52, Palmeiro 47).
The power potential of the Yankees' 2018 lineup doesn't end with Stanton and Judge. Catcher Gary Sanchez hit 33 home runs in 122 games this past season, and he has homered at a rate of 49 per 162 games in his young Major League career. The 2018 Yankees thus have the potential to become just the fourth team to feature three players with 40 or more home runs. The first three to do it were the 1973 Atlanta Braves (Davey Johnson 43, Darrell Evans 41, Hank Aaron 40) and the 1996 and '97 Colorado Rockies (Andres Galarraga 47, Vinny Castilla 40, Ellis Burks 40; Larry Walker 49, Galarraga 41, Castilla 40). No team has had three 40-homer hitters including one with 50 or more. The 2018 Yankees could become the first.
And there's more. First baseman Greg Bird has homered at a rate of 34 per 162 games in his young career and kept a 42-homer pace through the end of the postseason after returning from the disabled list last year. Having four players with 30 or more homers isn't quite as rare, though only 12 teams have done it before, including both of the aforementioned Rockies editions, with the most recent being the 2009 Phillies. However, given the 50-homer potential of Stanton and Judge, the top-four home run hitters on the 2018 Yankees could combine for more home runs than any four teammates in the game's history. If Stanton and Judge can average 50 home runs each, and Sanchez and Bird can average 35 each, those four would combine for 170 home runs. The all-time record for four teammates is 165 by those 1961 Yankees (adding Moose Skowron's 28 and Yogi Berra's 22 to the M&M Boys' 115).
Health is the obvious caveat to all of this. Bird lost most of the last two seasons to injury (a torn shoulder labrum wiped out his 2016 campaign, and ankle surgery sidelined him for 103 games this past season). Sanchez spent time on the DL in 2017 and plays a physically demanding position that requires scheduled days off. Stanton's injury history is checkered, as well. In the five years prior to his MVP season, the newest Yankee averaged just 115 games played and just 30 home runs per season (with a pace of 43 homers per 162 games). Just as we can expect Stanton and Judge's home run totals to regress slightly from their record-setting 2017 marks, we, and the Yankees, would be wise to anticipate some time lost to injury among that quartet of sluggers.
Still, this is the offseason when imaginations and expectations run wild. So let's not stop short of the one other, far less obscure record that might be within the grasp of the 2018 Yankees' lineup. That is the record for the most home runs by a team in a single season. As you may have guessed, those 1961 Yankees held the record for much of the 20th century after passing the mark of the 1947 Giants (led by Johnny Mize's 51 taters) by 19 with 240. Three teams surpassed the '61 Yankees' total in 1996, with the Orioles (led by Brady Anderson's 50 round-trippers) besting them all with 257. The following season, the Mariners set the current record of 264, led by Ken Griffey Jr.'s 56 dingers. Could the 2018 Yankees get to 265?
It's not an absurd question. The 2017 Yankees' 241 ranked 16th all time, besting the '61 team by one (though the Yankee team record now belongs to the 2012 edition, which hit 245, with 10 players in double digits led by Curtis Granderson's 43). Let's assume everyone stays healthy, and the Yankees get the aforementioned 170 home runs out of Stanton, Judge, Sanchez and Bird. Shortstop Didi Gregorius has hit 20 or more in each of the past two seasons, with a career high of 25 in 2017. Left fielder Brett Gardner has averaged 15 per season over the past four years, with a career high of 21 in 2017. Let's say those two combine for another 35. Center fielder Aaron Hicks broke out with 15 home runs in 88 games last year. Let's be optimistic and say that he could add 25 (or, more realistically, that Hicks, Gardner and Gregorius could combine for 60, averaging 20 per player).
With Starlin Castro and Chase Headley both gone -- the latter was reportedly traded back to the Padres on Tuesday -- top prospect Gleyber Torres, who has averaged 16 home runs per 162 games over the past two years, seems likely to be the primary starter at second or third, but it remains to be seen how the Yankees will fill the other position. Let's say, for now, that the Yankees can get 20 total home runs out of third and second base.
That all adds up to 250 home runs. The Yankees could get those extra 15 home runs by bringing back Todd Frazier to play third, and they'll get a few round-trippers from their bench. So, breaking the single-season team record for home runs isn't beyond their reach, but it's not terribly likely either.
Still, the Yankees should be plenty content with having what could be the greatest power-hitting duo in Major League history in the heart of their lineup, and quite possibly the greatest power-hitting foursome, as well, all of them 28 years old or younger in the coming season.
As Stanton said on Monday, "I feel sorry for the baseballs."
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Cliff Corcoran is a Sports on Earth contributor and a regular guest analyst on MLB Network. An editor or contributor to 13 books about baseball, including seven Baseball Prospectus annuals, he spent the last 10 seasons covering baseball for SI.com and has also written for USA Today and SB Nation, among others.