Yankees manager Aaron Boone indulged in a lengthy interview with the media during the Las Vegas Winter Meetings, and he touched on a lot of the hot topics surrounding the team as it gears up for the new season.
Other than starting pitching, one of the biggest areas the Yankees need to figure out is what they are going to do at shortstop while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery. They have a couple options with winning the Manny Machado sweepstakes, and moving Gleyber Torres to shortstop -- his natural position -- among them.
Boone didn't divulge on which option he would rather have, but he did give credit to Torres for how his versatility in the infield will help the Yankees either way.
"I don't," Boone told the media of his preference. "I think the offseason will kinda dictate it and the different moves we make will dictate that. I will say I feel with Gleyber and his versatility, I feel it becomes about the best player and the best option and what makes the most sense roster-wise. I think Gleyber gives us that flexibility."
The Yankees were reportedly among teams meeting with Machado and his agent, Dan Lozano, in person at some time this week. But GM Brian Cashman and the Yankees don't appear to be willing to extend Machado the $300 million offer he wants.
While Boone waits on what the front office does this offseason to fill that void and others, he did go in-depth on the players and situations he can control at the moment...
1. James Paxton was a "huge" pickup
The Yankees kicked off their offseason sparking a trade for veteran LHP James Paxton with the Mariners. Paxton comes over after a great 2018 campaign that saw a 3.76 ERA, 3.23 FIP, and 208 strikeouts (career high). And that's not to mention his 2.98 ERA and 2.61 FIP in 2017.
Boone says the team is obviously excited Paxton will don pinstripes this season, and the Yankees view him with even more upside than people may think for the 30-year-old.
"To get a James Paxton to kick off our offseason -- huge," Boone said. "We're so excited what he's going to bring to our club. We feel like for as good a pitcher as he's been, we feel like there's even more upside and feel like we have a chance to even get his best years out of him with us. So we're really excited to add him to our rotation."
2. Gary Sanchez should bounce back
Before Boone hopped into the hot seat, Cashman told the media he wasn't searching for another starting catcher option, and was committed to Gary Sanchez for the 2019 season. Sanchez, though, had a rough 2018 that was riddled with bad offensive and defensive play to go along with the injury bug.
But Boone defended his catcher, saying he started to improve late last season and there is only going up from there.
"Well, I would like to think that he very much was back on track at the end of the season," Boone explained. "I think those of you that cover me all the time understand that I really love the player. I love the person. Obviously this year in a lot of ways was a very tough year dealing with some injuries, offensively, the scrutiny that goes on with him behind the plate all the time. But I think a lot of the things that I witnessed from him behind the scenes that actually did show up in games.
"I think this year is going to be a huge year of growth for him."
3. The Yankees are on the same level as the Red Sox
Despite what last year's results said, Boone believes the gap between the Yankees and their division rival isn't that large.
"Obviously they were an unbelievable team this year -- a monster," Boone said. "But we also understand that we feel like we're very much on level ground with them. We've obviously got areas that we need to improve to kinda close that gap, but we feel like when we're at our best we're as good as any team in the world."
The Red Sox biggest move so far this offseason was bringing back Nathan Eovaldi, who had a great second half with Boston after coming over at the trade deadline from the Rays.
4. Giancarlo Stanton is primed for a big year
One of the biggest trades last offseason was Giancarlo Stanton landing in the Bronx, and with that, came tremendous pressure to perform right away.
At first, Stanton struggled to find his groove as he did in his NL MVP season in 2017. He would post a .266/.343/.509 line with 38 homers and 100 RBI during the regular season, but ultimately struggled in his first postseason appearance of his career.
Despite the struggles, Boone said a full year "knowing his teammates, knowing where he lives" and many other factors should see a more relaxed and composed Stanton this season. That comfortability combined with a tremendous work ethic that Boone pointed out should see improved results.