Aaron Boone said Clint Frazier is expected to be the Yankees’ starting left fielder this season.
With Brett Gardner still a free agent, Frazier is set to get a chance to be a regular player in the outfield, alongside Aaron Hicks in center and Aaron Judge in right.
“Last year really proved he was ready to grab an everyday role on this team,” the manager said Wednesday during his Zoom call with reporters from Tampa, where Yankees pitchers and catchers reported. “Especially with the improvements he’s made in every aspect of his game, at his age, his experience now and his success and confidence that he’s continued to build has put him in a position to go into this camp as an everyday player. He’s certainly earned that.”
Frazier blossomed a year ago during the pandemic-shortened season, but still lost out on playing time to Gardner in the playoffs.
And with position players set to report Monday, Gardner has yet to strike a deal anywhere.
“You never know what can happen or transpire, but we’ll see,” Boone said of Gardner’s status. “Obviously, he’s been a great Yankee and we’ll just see how things unfold.”
Boone said he’d spoken to the 37-year-old weeks ago, but the Yankees have added outfield depth in Gardner’s absence, from Greg Allen to the recently signed Jay Bruce and Derek Dietrich.
Still, the spotlight will be on Frazier.
“He had to earn everything, really, the last couple of years,” Boone said of the 26-year-old. “He’s been a contributor going back to the first year I was here [as manager].”
The Yankees announced the addition of Dietrich on Wednesday after having reached an agreement with Bruce over the weekend.
Both could provide some left-handed balance to the Yankees lineup, which is filled with righties.
The 31-year-old Dietrich spent last season with the Rangers and has power, especially against right-handed pitching. He’s also able to play first, second and third base, as well as left field. But he hit just .187 with the Reds in 2019 and .197 last year with Texas. But because of his home run capabilities, he had an OPS of .790 and .806 in those seasons.
“They’re still proven big-league ballplayers [to go along with] Mike Tauchman and Greg Allen,’’ Boone said. “In the outfield, we have pretty nice depth.”