In between tracking the talks between the owners and players about what a possible 2020 season could deliver, The Post is looking at five Yankees who could benefit from a shortened schedule and the possibility of rosters expanding from 26 to 30.
When it was apparent the season wasn’t going to get off the ground until July, a popular phrase attached to the Yankees was “blessing in disguise’’ because Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks and James Paxton weren’t going to be ready for the original Opening Day.
Well, as of May 22, Judge wasn’t yet taking batting practice at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa where Miguel Andujar, DJ LeMahieu and Stanton were participating in BP. Paxton’s expected return date from February back surgery was late May or early June, so he should be ready if the season opens. Stanton appears to be on track for the first game and Hicks could soon follow.
Here are the five players identified by The Post who will benefit the most from a shortened schedule if it is 81 games or fewer. All decisions are predicated on the players avoiding injury.
When a six-month grind turns into a three-month gig, players with chronic lower-body injuries benefit. That goes double for a thick-legged catcher like the 27-year-old Sanchez, who has been limited to 195 games in the past two seasons due to two stints on the injured list each year.
A shortened season means Sanchez should be fresh in July. That should not only help him behind the plate but in the batter’s box, where his power has produced 52 homers in the past two years but only a .211 average with a .776 OPS.
Since the right fielder suffered a fractured top right rib last September and wasn’t expected back until summer according to GM Brian Cashman, it is difficult to predict when Judge will be ready.
But a shortened season can help the 28-year-old who has been limited to 214 games the past two years due to a fractured wrist and an oblique injury. Safe to say Aaron Boone will monitor Judge’s workload with the hope he doesn’t miss extended time for a third straight season.
After participating in only 18 regular-season games last year due to a left biceps injury and a strained right knee, Stanton, 30, wasn’t going to be ready for the March 26 Opening Day because of a calf strain suffered in spring training.
With plenty of choices to play left field if Boone wants to use Stanton solely as the DH, Stanton could avoid the wear and tear of playing the field.
Should Hicks return from Tommy John surgery to play center, Brett Gardner can handle left. Mike Tauchman is an above-average corner outfielder with a left-handed bat who would add balance to the Yankees’ right-handed dominant lineup. Andujar didn’t embarrass himself in several spring training games in left and an extra roster spot could go to Clint Frazier.
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With a 26-man roster it would have been hard for the 25-year-old outfielder to stick. However, if four spots are added, Frazier could be a bench option and a right-handed bat against lefties either in the field or as the DH.
Frazier’s defense in spring training was better, his profile lower and his bat produced a .320 (8-for-25) average in a dozen games.
A free agent in November whether a season is played or not, the 31-year-old lefty starter could benefit greatly with a strong three months that would reduce the concern about his health history. Paxton has been on the IL eight times since 2014 and had back surgery in February.
If he avoids injury in a shortened season and pitches to his pedigree (56-32 with a 3.50 in 131 big-league games), Paxton would set himself up for a nice payday even in what is likely to be a depressed free-agent market.