What will Yankees’ batting order look like with Juan Soto?

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Even before the Juan Soto trade finally became official late Wednesday night, Aaron Boone said he did, in fact, let himself dream on what it would all look like.

Boone no longer has to dream. His task now is figuring out what his lineup will look like, though having to choose where two of the game’s most feared hitters — Soto and Aaron Judge — will slot in is a debate he will welcome with open arms.

Hit Judge second and Soto third? Soto second and Judge third? Boone hasn’t shied away from using unconventional leadoff hitters, so might Soto even hit first on occasion with Judge behind him?

Either way, it is a headache in the making for opposing pitchers. Too often in recent years, the Yankees have had areas of their lineup that were too easy for opponents to breeze through, either because the bats were all right-handed or they lacked impact or their approaches were too similar — or a combination of all of the above. Adding Soto, and Alex Verdugo the day before that, will go a long way in dissolving that issue.

At first blush, here’s how the Yankees’ Opening Day lineup could look:

1. DJ LeMahieu, 3B
2. Juan Soto, RF
3. Aaron Judge, CF
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
6. Gleyber Torres, 2B
7. Alex Verdugo, LF
8. Jose Trevino, C
9. Anthony Volpe, SS

Aaron Judge could bat second, in front of Juan Soto, or in the No. 3 spot, behind Soto. Robert Sabo for the NY Post

Now, you certainly can quibble with that. If you want to flip-flop Soto and Judge, go right ahead. Here’s another version that includes that:

1. Alex Verdugo, LF
2. Aaron Judge, CF
3. Juan Soto, RF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
6. DJ LeMahieu, 3B
7. Gleyber Torres, 2B
8. Jose Trevino, C
9. Anthony Volpe, SS

Again, room for debate. Would you rather LeMahieu in the middle of the order to drive guys in or at the top for his ability to get on base? Verdugo has hit leadoff for the Red Sox 113 times, batting .282 with a .334 on-base percentage.

There is also some question over what the middle of the order should look like. Stanton did not hit well enough to be an everyday cleanup hitter last season, but the Yankees insist he is capable of bouncing back in 2024.

DJ LeMahieu is a candidate for the leadoff spot, but might be better off further down the order. Noah K. Murray for the NY Post

If he does, batting him behind Soto is a no-brainer.

The Yankee also could platoon at times. Verdugo struggles against left-handed pitching, but Trent Grisham, another left-handed bat, has reverse splits and hits lefties (career .242/.333/.415 line) better than righties (.207/.310/.373).

But suddenly the Yankees’ lineup looks a lot deeper than it was last season. Torres was their second-best hitter, and now (if the Yankees don’t trade him) he could be batting sixth or seventh in 2024.

We know Boone likes to split up his lefties. He has often hit them some combination of first, fourth and seventh, second, fifth and eighth or third, sixth and ninth — and that was if the Yankees actually had three left-handed hitters to use on a given day.

“At different times, we’ve had more balance like bringing in Rizzo and [Andrew] Benintendi and [Matt] Carpenter, all with that in mind,” Boone said Wednesday. “… We’ve been trying to [get more balanced] for a few years now.”

Could newcomer Alex Verdugo eventually cede his lineup slot to Jasson Dominguez? AP

Of course, by June or July, it’s possible the lineup looks different. Sometime around then, the switch-hitting Jasson Dominguez may be ready to go after recovering from Tommy John surgery. It remains to be seen whether he would come right back to the majors when healthy or get some more seasoning at Triple-A. It may well depend on how Verdugo is playing and/or how healthy the rest of the Yankees are.

Throughout the course of the season, we also may see more of the left-handed hitting Austin Wells. Right now, he projects to be in a timeshare with Trevino — who is less impactful offensively, but is highly valued by the pitching staff, including Gerrit Cole — but Wells may have an avenue to earn more playing time as the season goes on. He was also better defensively than the Yankees expected during his September cameo.

Again, a lot can happen before Opening Day. But by the time the Yankees hope to be gearing up for a playoff run, perhaps this is what the lineup looks like:

1. DJ LeMahieu, 3B
2. Juan Soto, LF
3. Aaron Judge, RF
4. Jasson Dominguez, CF
5. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
6. Giancarlo Stanton. DH
7. Gleyber Torres, 2B
8. Austin Wells, C
9. Anthony Volpe, SS

Last notes from Nashville

Some thoughts after spending four long days inside the indoor cruise ship/time warp that is the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center:

• The Yankees went quiet after their big addition (Carlos Rodon) last offseason. That can’t be the case this time around. They are only guaranteed to have Soto for one year, and they have to make the most of it.

The obvious next step will be landing Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, which will be no small feat given the amount of suitors he has, especially from big markets — including the Mets with Steve Cohen’s deep pockets.

Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto appears to be the next marquee Yankees target. Getty Images

But the Yankees have made it known how much they like Yamamoto, and think they have a real shot to land him. Perhaps the Yankees brand, along with positive experiences with Hideki Matsui and Masahiro Tanaka, can help.

After that, the Yankees could use another depth starter and then a reinforcement or two in the bullpen (a Wandy Peralta reunion would make sense).

• This week was a reminder of how quickly perception can change. At last month’s GM meetings, Brian Cashman was getting all of the ire from an angry fanbase that wanted him gone. As the winter meetings wrapped up, he was getting bouquets thrown his way from an adoring fanbase. All it took was trading for Soto for Yankees Twitter to do a full 180 on the man running the team.

• The Yankees’ scouting and player development groups — particularly on the pitching side — deserve some credit for the Soto trade, helping to produce four quality arms to send to the Padres.

In case you forgot, the Yankees got King from the Marlins in 2017 in exchange for Garrett Cooper (whom they previously acquired in exchange for Tyler Webb) and Caleb Smith. So in short, they turned a pair of relievers into King, helped develop him into an ace reliever and possible high-end starter, and then used him as a key piece to land Soto.

The Yankees used a second-round pick on Drew Thorpe in 2022, and got strong results from him this year after putting him through the player development program.

The Yankees’ player development system triumphed in turning Michael King into the centerpiece of a Juan Soto trade. Robert Sabo for the NY Post

And Randy Vasquez and Jhony Brito were signed internationally for a combined $45,000.

• King and Kyle Higashioka will be missed inside the Yankees clubhouse. Both were well-liked by their teammates. They also happened to be two of the two most accessible players and best quotes for inquiring reporters. They gave thoughtful and non-cliché answers, which was always appreciated.

• The Yankees are close to finalizing Boone’s coaching staff for 2024. The two known additions will be bench coach Brad Ausmus and hitting coach James Rowson, but it sounds as if there will be another new face for a second assistant hitting coach. Casey Dykes will be back under Rowson, and though Boone didn’t rule out Brad Wilkerson also returning, it sounded like the Yankees were considering bringing in someone else for his assistant hitting coach job.

Why CC’s coming back to the mound

CC Sabathia is coming out of retirement — for a day.

The former Yankees lefty is planning to ramp up his shoulder to pitch in the Hall of Fame’s East-West Classic: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues All-Star Game in Cooperstown. Sabathia is one of the captains for the May 25 game, which is set to feature more than 20 former big leaguers.

The East-West All-Star Game — a tribute to the former Negro Leagues showcase that was held annually from 1933-1962 — coincides with the opening of a new exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame called “The Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball.”

CC Sabathia will feature in the Hall of Fame’s East-West Classic tribute game in May. AP

The last time Sabathia pitched, he walked off the mound in Game 4 of the 2019 ALCS with a subluxated left shoulder. He eventually underwent surgery, but never went through the proper rehab because he didn’t expect to be using his arm to pitch again.

“I tore my labrum, rotator cuff, ripped my capsule, the bicep tendon, everything,” Sabahia said Monday at the winter meetings, where a press conference was held to announce the event. “So I had a full shoulder reconstruction.

“I’ll probably rip it again doing this,” Sabathia added with a big laugh.

Sabathia said he plans to start a rehab program in January to get strength and range of motion back in his shoulder.

“If I can throw 80, I can get people out,” he said.

CC Sabathia walked off the mound during Game 4 of the 2019 ALCS with an injured pitching shoulder. Robert Sabo for the NY Post

A likely future Hall of Famer himself — he will be added to the 2025 ballot — Sabathia spoke about the importance of events such as the East-West All-Star Game and MLB hosting a game between the Cardinals and Giants in Birmingham, Ala., in June.

“Having a chance to go into Birmingham, into that community and bring big-league baseball and some of these personalities, hopefully there’s a kid out there that is watching the game and sees the players like, ‘Hey, I want to be like that,’” Sabathia said. “That was me with Dave Stewart. I got a chance to see Dave Stewart when I was 9 years old. He walked into my Boys & Girls Club and changed my life.

“So just being able to be visible in these communities, especially in Birmingham — Birmingham could almost be the birthplace of black baseball. … It’s super important for us to be able to tell those stories and be visible in that community.”

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