In some offseason storylines, there are simply scattershot rumors that you cannot really piece together into any kind of coherent chronology. You take what you can get, distill as best you can, and conclude as best you can.
Other storylines, however, are so open and obvious that you really feel like you know what’s going on, and each rumor simply builds on the last.
That’s how it’s been ever since Giancarlo Stanton’s name started floating in trade rumors back in July, as the Marlins moved toward a transition in ownership. It became more and more clear that a trade was probable, and then very likely, and then a near lock. It became more and more clear which teams were interested, and which teams were going to be involved.
And then it became clear that the Marlins were actively soliciting offers for their MVP slugger. At that time, only the Giants were known to have made an offer, but the others were expected to roll in. And now the one most relevant to the Cubs has come in:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 19, 2017
In the near term, whatever the trade looks like, if the Cardinals land Stanton, it’s bad news for the Cubs. Stanton just turned 28, hit .281/.376/.631 last year with 59 homers, and was worth 6.9 WAR. He could potentially add a literal four or five additional wins to a team like the Cardinals in 2018, potentially taking them from something like a mid-80s-win projection to something in the 90+ range. A range that might top the Cubs when the offseason is over.
Longer term, it’s impossible to comment on a hypothetical Cardinals trade for Stanton until we see the contours. His contract – which has 10 years and $295 million on it – is not palatable. If the Cardinals were to take it all on, or even most of it, there’s a time when it’s going to look mighty bad. It would be a move for the next few years, at the risk of the following seven. Alternatively, if the Marlins eat a bunch of the contract, then the Cardinals could be giving up a great deal of their quality young pitching.
This is all against the backdrop of Stanton’s no-trade clause, by the way. It remains a delectable possibility that the Cardinals and Marlins could come together on a trade only to have Stanton say … “No thanks. Have you asked the Dodgers lately?”
As I’ve said before, I expect that Stanton situation to be among the first major moves to resolve itself this offseason. Everyone knows it’s on the table, and for that reason, and because it’s so massive, it will necessarily hold up activity by the other involved teams. That, in turn, holds up free agent activity, which holds up other teams, and so on and so on.