Before your head goes exploding off of your shoulders, remember: “inquiring” about a player is only slightly more than nothing. Teams talk to other teams about players all the time.
That said, when it is “your” team talking to a team about one of the best young players in baseball, you can allow yourself a moment of titillation.
Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Marlins — It would be a coup for whichever of the 25 teams (I’m exaggerating) that would or have bid for him to actually acquire him. But commissioner Bud Selig is watching the Marlins closely after the salary dump in the Blue Jays deal. While Selig did not step in to change or block that trade, he may not look too fondly upon a deal for the Marlins’ biggest draw. Teams would have to give their very best to the Marlins for baseball’s best young slugger. The Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles, Cubs, and many more are inquiring, according to a major league source.
Obviously Stanton’s name popped up around here when the Marlins unloaded Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and Jose Reyes on the Blue Jays (leading to Stanton’s very public comments expressing discontent), but there was little indication that the Marlins would be willing to move him this offseason. In fact, there have been outright denials, which would probably be more meaningful if we could believe a word that comes out of the Marlins’ collective mouth.
So, how attractive is Stanton as a target? Well, if you can get past the knee issues (for which he had surgery this year, and recovered nicely), you’re talking about a 23-year-old (just turned 23 two weeks ago) who has a 140 OPS+ over three partial seasons in the big leagues when he was just 20, 21, and 22. His cartoonish numbers would be awesome if he were putting them up at this age in AA. But he’s been doing it against the big boys. This past year he hit .290/.361/.608 with a 5.8 WAR, per FanGraphs.
He’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2014, and he’s going to break some records in that process, if his production continues unabated. Still, he’ll offer a great deal of surplus value over the next four seasons, and he’ll also offer the simple value of, “there aren’t 30 Giancarlo Stanton’s in baseball, so it’s worth whatever you have to pay (in money) to have one of them.” To put it plainly: considering the whole package, he’s probably one of the five most attractive players in all of baseball.
Should we actually discuss possible trades? It’s fun to do, but you’ve got to remember how extraordinarily unlikely a deal is, and how impressively thin this rumor is. The Cubs have inquired about Stanton in the wake of a massive unloading by his current team. I’d question the sanity of any GM that didn’t at least place a phone call.
Given his cost-controlled contract, similar age, and huge upside, you can safely assume the Stanton conversation would begin (but likely not end) with Starlin Castro. I can make an argument for that swap (plus an additional minor piece or two coming from the Cubs), given Stanton’s better offensive production and better offensive upside (but slightly worse contract situation, and less valuable defensive position), and given the Cubs’ theoretical – but far off – depth at shortstop. Given their ages and contracts, the move would largely be rebuild-neutral, too.
Would the Cubs make that swap? Would you?
Seems pretty unlikely, given the risk, but any other package you try to put together – Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Arodys Vizcaino? (remember, guys like Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, and Juan Carlos Paniagua can’t be traded until a year after they first signed (unless they are PTBNLs, which is complicated, because they’d be playing in the Cubs’ system long after they’d “been traded”)) – can almost certainly be bested by another organization. Probably one with more top-level pitching prospects.
So, I don’t really see it. It’d be great to add a player like Stanton, but most teams would agree with that sentiment. Are the Cubs willing to outbid all of them? Could they even outbid them if they tried?
(A word on the Cubs’ inclusion in the list of teams inquiring on Stanton: you’ll note that most of the biggest teams are listed, and you’ll also note that Cafardo undoubtedly still has ties to this front office from its Boston days. That means both that the rumor is more likely to be legit (but, again, it’s just “inquiring”), and that Cafardo could have listed any number of other teams … he just happened to have info on the Cubs. In other words: lots of teams would want Stanton.)