Aaron Boone talks Juan Soto, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and more as Yankees eye upgrades, good health

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Yankees had yet to make any splashes by the time Aaron Boone spoke at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday afternoon, but that didn’t stop the manager from discussing some of his team’s top targets.

The first name to come up was naturally Juan Soto’s. The Yankees and Padres have discussed trade scenarios for the superstar left fielder this offseason, but San Diego’s reported asking prices have been considered steep thus far, with names like Michael King, Clarke Schmidt and Drew Thorpe being mentioned as possible Yankees trade chips.

“He’s as good of an offensive player as there is. He’s a machine offensively,” Boone said of Soto. “Has accomplished a ton already at a young age. Durable, has been a central figure on a world championship team. Comes with a lot of fanfare and has been one of the rock-solid performers in our sport on the offensive side of the ball year in and year out.”

Indeed, Soto would give the Yankees the left-handed bat they always seem to be missing. But the Scott Boras client is projected to make $33 million in his final year before free agency and declined a 15-year, $440 million extension from the Nationals before they traded him to San Diego in 2022, so the Yankees don’t want to overpay for someone who amounts to a rental.

The Padres, meanwhile, are looking to shed payroll and rebuild their rotation. Trading Soto would help on both fronts, and the Yankees have arms to spare.

“It comes down to matching up,” Boone said while generally speaking about the Yankees’ needs. “Sometimes you’re able to attack a specific need or hole. Sometimes that doesn’t come to fruition and you gotta try and make hay on another part that may be a strength you have.”

Boone also talked a bit about Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, stating that he “probably would” look good in pinstripes.

Boone noted that he’s met the right-hander before, “and I do plan on meeting him again.”

It’s unclear how much Yamamoto will make, but the expectation is that the posted pitcher will clear $200 million. The Yankees have plenty of competition for his services.

“It’s hard to find a 25-year-old pitcher that’s as decorated as he is and has had the level of success he’s had at this point in his career over there and on the world stage in the WBC,” Boone said. “Our reports are that this guy’s really good. The industry sees it the same way, and it feels like there’s gonna be a lot of suitors for him. But I feel quite confident that he’s going to come over here and be a really special top of the rotation-type pitcher.”

Finally, some good health

Injuries decimated the Yankees in 2023, but Boone had some encouraging updates on a handful of hitters on Tuesday.

Asked if there was anything new on Aaron Judge’s toe, Boone simply said that the slugger is feeling well. Judge was not expected to need surgery this offseason.

Boone added that Jose Trevino (wrist surgery) and Anthony Rizzo (post-concussion syndrome) are “doing great.” Rizzo stayed back in New York for most of October and into November so that he could workout at Yankee Stadium.

“By the end of the season, he was probably game-ready and ready to go,” Boone said of the first baseman. “So he’s in really good shape. He’s in the middle of a normal winter of training and getting ready, and I know he’s really excited.”

Boone wasn’t sure if Rizzo will need to follow-up with doctors in the coming months, but “he’s cleared and ready to roll. Now it’s about going out and proving it to himself.”

As for Jasson Domínguez (UCL surgery), Boone wasn’t exactly sure when he’ll start swinging, but the expectation is that he will be by spring training.

Domínguez’s future

Like Brian Cashman previously, Boone didn’t commit to Domínguez being the Yankees’ center fielder once healthy. The 20-year-old likely won’t be cleared until the middle of the summer.

Domínguez doesn’t necessarily have to go straight back to the majors, and Boone mentioned left field could also be an option depending on what the Yankees’ roster looks like. Either way, the skipper is still excited about The Martian’s future.

“I think Jasson’s gonna be an awesome player in this league,” Boone said. “And not just because he came up and obviously burst onto the scene with some really good games before he got injured. I just love the makeup. I love the talent. And I’m excited about his future as a center fielder, as a left fielder potentially down the road in our yard depending on what our roster makeup is. You never know. He’s capable of all of that. He’s capable of hitting in the middle of the order from both sides, brings athleticism to the table. And as far as his rehab, it’s going exactly how it should be going.

“We called him up because we thought he was major league ready. Now it’s on him and us to go prove it when he gets that next opportunity when he’s ready to go.”

Boone’s job security

Boone is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract, but he insisted that he’s not feeling “unsettled,” even as his staff changes around him. The Yankees have hired a new hitting coach in James Rowson and a bench coach with managerial experience in Brad Ausmus.

“I’m consumed with getting back to the playoffs and winning it all,” Boone said. “Like, that’s where my brain is, and that’s where my focus is and what my role is in that. Whatever happens at the end of it, it truly is out of my control right now. This is about getting us ready, from my standpoint, as best we can and get to spring training and prepare to try and win a championship. That’s where my focus is, and we’ll see how it ends.”

Boone will change some “little things” with regards to how he does his job, and he’ll be “a little more hands-on in certain situations.” He declined to elaborate, only adding that he doesn’t want to micromanage his staff.

Boone later said that the Yankees can be better at communicating analytical information with players, echoing comments that assistant general manager Michael Fishman made on Monday.

As for the staff, Boone said that assistant hitting coach Casey Dykes will return. It’s unclear if Brad Wilkerson, another assistant hitting coach, will be back, but a return hasn’t been ruled out.

“We’re looking at multiple things to potentially fill” the role, Boone said.

Excited for Stanton

Giancarlo Stanton suffered the worst year of his career in 2023 and fell victim to a hamstring injury. Stanton has a history of lower-body injuries, which prompted Cashman to state that the designated hitter will likely get hurt again next season.

Cashman has since mended fences after that comment, made at the GM Meetings, caught the attention of Stanton’s agent, Joel Wolfe. Boone, meanwhile, believes that Stanton can return to form, though he didn’t provide any specifics on what he’s been up to this offseason.

“I’m really excited about Giancarlo,” Boone said. “He and I had good conversations at the end of the year. I haven’t talked to him a lot this winter. Texted with him and talked to him a couple times. All I can tell you is he’s getting after it. He’s always a very focused person and player. I would say that’s on overdrive to make sure he’s in a really good spot heading into spring training, and I think he’s consumed with making sure that he goes out there and has a Giancarlo-like season.”