Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is arguably the hottest hitter on the planet right now (he’s even on pace for the first 50+ homer year in five years), but is Miami where he’ll finish the 2017 season?
Of course, many talented players are put on (and clear) waivers every single August. After all, if a team doesn’t want their guy to be taken for nothing (but his salary), they can always pull him right back or even try to work out a trade (and it’s not like every team in baseball is jumping at the chance to pay Stanton $295 million in the ten years after 2017). But this may be different.
Passan is reporting that four teams have already called the Marlins about Stanton, and that may be in addition to a mystery team who tried hard for Stanton (reportedly even trading names with the Marlins) before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Under normal circumstances, a logical next step here would be asking what’s changed since July 31? After all, if the Marlins and a theoretical Stanton suitor couldn’t figure it out then, why now? Well, plenty of things have changed … and these aren’t normal circumstances.
Just yesterday, we discussed that Jeffery Loria finally finalized an agreement to sell the Marlins (to the Derek Jeter-led group), and that changes everything. For one, without the new owner in the fold, Loria was not going to allow a decision as enormous as trading Giancarlo Stanton (and all that comes with him), without consulting or allowing the new owners to chime in. So right there, you can say with relative certainty a trade is more likely now just based on the fact that the ownership issue has been settled and the decision makers have been identified/empowered.
For another, the new ownership group may want to start fresh in 2018, with a roster they build from the ground up. To that end, Passan makes a great point: “With Stanton next season, the Marlins’ payroll would hover near $125 million – and that’s if they don’t make a single move this offseason to improve a team that’s not even .500.”
Despite how young and good Stanton is (and we’ll get to this in a second), there’s a legitimate, strategic argument to be made that the Marlins would be better off without his contract and with whatever prospects they get in return.
Playoff races have also shifted considerably in the last few weeks, which is another reason you might have seen movement in the market since July 31.
And then there’s the whole bit about selling high.
This season, Stanton is slashing .283/.374/.640 with his highest walk rate in three years, lowest strikeout rate ever, highest ISO ever, highest wOBA ever, and the most home runs he’s ever hit in a single season (and it’s just the middle of August). But what’s even crazier is what he’s done in the second half of the year:
126 PAs Since July 14
Slash: .302/.413/.849 (Highest OPS)
Advanced: .495 wOBA (1st), 210 wRC+ (1st)
Homers: 17 (1st)
Stanton has been BY FAR the best hitter over the past five or so weeks, and, frankly, it’s not easy to do much better than what he’s done. In other words, this may be as good as it gets, and, despite how much money is remaining on that contract, there may never be a better time to sell Stanton.
Quick aside: 10 years and $295 million is a ton of money and years, of course, but what do you think a 27 year old, lovable, marketable, 50 HR-hitting slugger like Stanton would get in free agency this winter if he were available? I’d bet 8-10 years and $225-250 million would be on the table, so it’s not like this deal is that crazy.
And in any case, Passan reports that the Marlins would be willing to eat some of that contract in the form of paying down some more significant Major League salaries in a swap anyway. So, you know, no biggie.
If you think back to July, you may recall both Jon Heyman and Ken Rosenthal discussing the possibility that the Marlins could move Stanton, and the rumored teams at the time included the Giants, Phillies, and Cardinals. The Cubs were mentioned, albeit for another Marlins outfielder, Christian Yelich.
So here’s where we get to the part you’ve been waiting for: could the Cubs trade for Stanton?
Sure. They could. They definitely have the young, cost-controlled (MAJOR LEAGUE) pieces to pull a deal off, but I’m just not so sure that they would do it – at least, right now. And thinking critically, trading two/three pre-arb young Major Leaguers (plus some of those top pitching prospects, probably) for the privilege of paying Stanton’s deal may not make the most sense – especially given the positional awkwardness of another corner outfielder (although, I suppose that depends on whom they trade), and the luxury tax implications going forward.
Oh, and remember, almost all of the Cubs’ young MLB guys have high ceilings (not entirely unlike Stanton), but at much (MUCH) lower current costs.
So for now, I wouldn’t get your hopes up. But I wouldn’t say this is anything to sneeze at either. With a new ownership group in town, Giancarlo Stanton may finally be traded. The big questions now are whether a team makes a push right now to try to get him for the playoff race in 2017, and if not, whether he’s marketed to a wider audience of teams this offseason, when roster and budget planning are much easier.