New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone shared an update on the club's outfield situation for the 2021 MLB season on Wednesday as pitchers and catchers started reporting to spring training. Boone told reporters, including MLB.com's Bryan Hoch, that Clint Frazier will be the Yankees starting left fielder entering the season.
"Clint has earned his place," Boone said. Frazier, 26, appeared in 39 games for the Yankees in 2020. He played 28 of those games in right field (while Aaron Judge was on the injured list), with the remainder spent in left. He hit .267/.394/.511(149 OPS+) with eight home runs and 26 RBI during the abbreviated season. Frazier even earned a surprise Gold Glove nomination in right field.
The Yankees acquired Frazier at the 2016 trade deadline from Cleveland. Since joining the club, Frazier has been through a lot. He experienced some tension with the New York media, missed nearly all of the 2018 season due to concussions, had to work on his defensive issues while in the minors, got passed on for big-league promotion in 2019 and started the season at Triple-A, and had been frequently listed in potential trade rumors. But the young slugger will now get the chance to prove his full potential as the Yankees everyday left fielder in 2021.
"[Clint] has continued to reinforce that he is a force and has gotten better and better," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told WFAN in January. "This past year is another testament to that. Going into this, without a doubt, he's solidified himself as the guy and he's been a guy who has been big for us. He's taken advantage of opportunities and improved on everything.
"He wasn't a finished product when we acquired him, but he's closing the gap on that ceiling. Now that his concussion is in the past, you're seeing the real deal. He had a hell of a year and should be very proud of it. We're proud of him."
The Yankees and 37-year-old outfielder Brett Gardner have still yet to come to an agreement, and it's unclear if the veteran will return to the Bronx this season. Gardner, who would be the longest-tenured Yankee if he returns, has expressed interest in playing the 2021 season, according to MLB Network's Jon Morosi. Gardner typically plays left field, but can also man center field. As far as Giancarlo Stanton returning to play the outfield goes, it appears unlikely. Cashman said at the end of the 2020 season that Stanton's future with the Yankees is likely going to be primarily as a designated hitter-only player heading into the 2021 season.
So, for now, the current Yankees outfield situation for 2021 will be as follows:
- Right field - Judge
- Center - Aaron Hicks
- Left field - Frazier
- Depth - Mike Tauchman, Tyler Wade, Greg Allen (whom the Yankees recently acquired via trade with San Diego Padres)
The Tampa Bay Rays won the pennant in 2020, but the Yankees are the favorites to take back the division in 2021. New York finished the 60-game season with a 33-27 record and were booted from the expanded postseason by the Rays in Game 5 of the American League Division Series.