I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say this offseason has almost everything you could want as a baseball fan who enjoys following transaction season.
Among the available talent, there are two big-time free agents (Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta), a potentially landscape-changing international player (Shohei Otani), and at least one superstar probably on the move in trade (Giancarlo Stanton). Given that the Cubs probably will be involved in/impacted by the result for each player – at least, to some degree – I can’t even pick which is the most exciting.
But I can tell you that this post is about Stanton.
Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton is due $295 million dollars over the next ten years, and with a new ownership group in town (and arguably an MVP season just weeks behind us), the Marlins are ready to make a change. Of course, given how talented Stanton is, there are many teams clamoring to secure his services.
But one team, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, may be getting closer than the rest: “According to a Major League source, talks between the Red Sox and Marlins involving a trade for the slugger ‘may be heating up.'”
Spencer went on to quote his source saying that the Red Sox are “definitely” in play for the home run king and that talks could further develop this week at the General Managers Meetings. But because these stories/rumors are almost never as straight-forward as you’d like, Spencer reports that the Marlins have already had preliminary discussions about Stanton with the Cardinals, Phillies, and Giants, too.
And, of course, further muddying the waters is the report from Jon Heyman at FanRag suggesting that the Red Sox are actually not yet “deeply involved” in the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes, instead electing to focus their attention on free agent J.D. Martinez.
Martinez may be two years older than Stanton and a much worse defender, but he did actually out-offense the home run king in 2017 (166 wRC+ v. 156 wRC+). And given that he’s likely to command something closer to $150 million in free agency, he’ll likely cost a lot less than Stanton too. Although, if you discount the two years of salary (age difference) and whatever the Marlins eat in the trade, their contracts might not be quite as far off as they look right now (then, again, you’d have to give up a prospect package to get Stanton, too, so who knows).
But even with the Red Sox tangentially involved, the other three primary suitors continue to be the Phillies, Giants, and Cardinals. But perhaps we can whittle this short-list down further.
At NBC Sports Philadelphia, Jim Salisbury seems to believe that the Phillies may not actually be as aggressive in their pursuit of Stanton as recent rumors have suggested: “… it’s just hard to see it happening. It would be easier to see the Phillies making an all-out push for Stanton if they were further down the road in their rebuild and had pitching. But right now, at least from this vantage point, it appears to be a long shot.” That’s obviously far from definitive, but it is the first significant push-back for the Phillies.
[Brett: I tend to think the Phillies – like several other teams in recent years that outsiders have viewed as “not far enough along” – are on the cusp of competing if they were to get steps forward from multiple youngsters at the same time, and then supplement with a couple high-impact additions like a Stanton type.]
So, how about the Cardinals and Giants?
According to a Peter Gammons source, the most intense Stanton interest is coming out of San Francisco and St. Louis, but whether Stanton ends up there is to be determined (stick with me, there’s more meat here than meets the eye). Stanton, as you may know, has a full no-trade clause in his contract. And while not much is certain about his preferences (geographically, there have been rumors that he prefers the coasts), he did mention that he’s not interested in heading into another rebuild (having lost with the Marlins for so many years).
Well, although the Giants and Cardinals are clearly associated with winning cultures, the former (64-98) was tied as the worst team in baseball last season and the latter was recently projected to finish fourth in the NL Central, behind the Pirates, Brewers, and Cubs, with a sub-.500 record in 2018.
Could Stanton be convinced that either team is on their way up? Yeah, sure, but with the Dodgers ahead of the Giants and the Cubs ahead of the Cardinals, both landing spots may not be clearly the sort of *obvious winners* for which Stanton is reportedly looking.
To that end, I know what you’re thinking … could the Cubs become involved? And the answer is, probably, yes, they *COULD* if they decided to go that route. But as of now, outside of one stray rumor about the possibility, there’s not much reason to believe they’ll be aggressive on Stanton. I’m not saying that a lack of rumors means much, because this front office plays things notoriously close to the vest (remember the surprising Starlin Castro trade and Ben Zobrist signing?). But, still, the silence is notable.
There’s also the reality of an already crowded outfield (yes, the Cubs could stand to have an offensive upgrade out there, but there are a lot of bodies to accommodate), and a monster contract in right field in the form of Jason Heyward. A team like the Cubs will always have some interest in a player like Stanton, but the fit at this time is sufficiently tough that I don’t see a serious pursuit emerging. You could stretch and say “well, what if the Cubs deal an outfielder for pitching, and move Heyward to center field?”, but even in that case, there’s still quite a bit of distance between that maneuvering and pursuing a guy on a $295 million contract in trade. [Brett: Plus, you know, something something Harper something.]
So for now, hold tight and keep your ears open, because this ride is only going to get crazier before it slows down. And this is just one of the stories of the winter.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.