Although we’re not even a week into the offseason, the rumors surrounding Marlins superstar slugger Giancarlo Stanton are already hot and heavy. We know the Marlins, with fresh new ownership, are looking to deal Stanton this offseason. So things are going to continue to pick up steam.
In fact earlier today at ESPN, Buster Olney mentioned each of the Phillies, Red Sox, Cardinals, Giants, and Dodgers as potential landing spots for Stanton, and, in all likelihood (or, rather, for the right price), the full list actually extends well beyond that.
According to Olney, however, the Phillies are among the most likely destinations for Stanton, given their payroll flexibility and cache of top prospects. Considering where the Phillies are in the competitiveness cycle, adding Stanton right now seems like just about perfect timing. (And, hey, if it takes them out of the running on Bryce Harper next year …. )
But, even if you could characterize the Phillies as a kind of front-runner on Stanton, there is probably more than one front-runner. Is that a thing?
Peter Gammons seems to think the Cardinals could have a leg up on the rest of the field, and may have already started discussing names with the Marlins: “… the Cardinals have reportedly made one of their best young pitchers available if the Derek Jeter ownership will take back some of the money” owed to Stanton over the remaining life of his contract.
Stanton, who turns 28 in two days, is owed $295 million over the next ten years, and that figures to play prominently into the expectedly difficult trade negotiations this winter. The Marlins front office previously signaled that they’d be willing to eat some of that massive contract (ownership would not likely want this to look like a pure salary dump, though), but precisely how much is both very important and entirely unclear. And if you’re trying to get a sense of how teams are generally valuing that contract, consider that Gammons has heard – from three different big-market GMs – that Stanton would go unclaimed if he were put on waivers right now.
In other words, no one wants to acquire that contract for free, let alone for one of the Cardinals “best young pitchers.” So cash considerations will have to be sorted out.
Speaking of which, who might that pitcher be?
At MLB Trade Rumors, Mark Polishuk guesses that any of Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, Sandy Alcantara, Junior Fernandez, and Dakota Hudson could be on the table, though there are wildly varying levels of value in that short list of names. Weaver, for one example, made ten really great starts for the Cardinals near the end of last season, and Reyes (14th) and Flaherty (47th) are both top 50 prospects according to MLB Pipeline, have already gotten a cup of coffee in the Majors, and figure to play prominent roles in the rotation as soon as 2018.
The Cubs, and most teams in baseball, don’t have the upper-level pitching prospects to match what the Cardinals could offer to the Marlins in a trade. When you throw in the fact that they (the Cardinals) clearly have the money, a need for a middle-of-the-order-bat, a previous connection, and the desire to make Cubs fans angry, well, St. Louis seems like a pretty plausible landing spot.
Who’s ready to watch Stanton hitting monster shots over the Arch?
But remember, the Cardinals are not the only ones up there.
Olney seems confident in the “industry speculation” centering around the Phillies. And in all fairness, they are one of the rare teams that could rival the Cardinals in terms of fit, timing, prospects, and available dollars.
But a team needn’t check all the boxes to make a deal work. The Red Sox, for example, definitely have a need and the prospects/young players to get something done – they’d simply need to OK a payroll that exceeds the luxury tax threshold and all of the penalties associated therein*. The Giants, similarly, may not have as many exciting young players as the Cardinals/Phillies/Red Sox, but they have been searching for a big outfield bat for a while and have plenty of money to spend.
In all likelihood, any big market team (because, let’s be clear: even if the Marlins eat some money, this’ll be a huge contract to take on) could be considered part of this race. After all, a 28-year-old outfielder who’s twice posted 6.0+ WAR seasons and has already hit 267 homers in his career doesn’t become available every offseason. When the opportunity presents itself to make a franchise-altering move, you listen and listen closely. And, yes, I think that includes the Chicago Cubs.
Stanton, alone, makes for thrilling rumor theater. But then you start thinking about the downstream impacts of his availability, and his presence on the market has the potential to move so many needles.
Although Stanton is owed $295 million over the next ten years, his AAV for luxury tax purposes is actually just $25M (the first three years of his contract paid him very little and helped drag that AAV down).