One of the biggest factors in the overall trade market this offseason (and, by extension, the free agent market) will be just how deeply the Miami Marlins’ new ownership looks to cut payroll after it ballooned to $120 million last season and currently projects to hit $140 million for 2018.
According to the Miami Herald, the purge could be upwards of $50 million, a tall feat for a roster with so much money tied up in a handful of players. And many of those players are all but untradable if the goal is to offload a bunch of salary.
Consider that Edinson Volquez ($13 million) just had Tommy John surgery. Wei-Yin Chen ($10 million, then $20 million in 2019) barely pitched thanks to a partially torn UCL. Martin Prado ($13.5 million, then $15 million in 2019) missed much of 2017 with a hamstring injury and was quite bad when he was healthy enough to play. Dee Gordon ($11 million, then a whole lot more in the years that follow) was solid last year, but was suspended for PEDs the year before, will be 30 next year, and has almost all of his value tied up in speed. Relievers Brad Ziegler ($9 million) and Junichi Tazawa ($7 million) were both very disappointing in 2017.
I could go on, but the point here is that if the Marlins really want to shed payroll in a trade that actually returns useful rebuild value, it’s going to have to start with Giancarlo Stanton. His massive contract escalates to $25 million in 2018 (in retrospect, it was timed to align with the sale, I have little doubt), and only climbs from there until he reaches his late-30s.
Stanton, who turns 28 next month, is a superstar when healthy, and may collect his first MVP award later this year. He has significant trade value, and could save the Marlins a boatload of payroll (even if they have to eat some to trade him). If the new ownership is committed to a rebuild and to saving some dough, trading Stanton is the road they need to pursue.
My conclusion here is not absent any context, of course. Rumors about the Marlins being ready to deal Stanton have abounded for months (and recently even included a Cubs connection). The Cardinals, you’ll note, come up frequently.
We’ll see how the Marlins decide to proceed in this new era, and how it impacts the broader market. My inclination is that we will not see the Cubs seriously involved on Stanton, though they could poke around the rest of the Marlins’ roster to see if they unload even more deeply. Even if the Cubs aren’t in on Stanton, a player of that caliber changing teams – especially if he came to the rival Cardinals – will send out significant ripple effects.