The moment the Miami Marlins shipped their chances of winning to the Toronto Blue Jays, the question in MLB front offices around the league was: would the fire sale in South Florida include Giancarlo Stanton? The Marlins have jettisoned virtually every large contract they had on the books. Notably absent from this year’s team are Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Heath Bell, Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante and Emilio Bonifacio.
Stanton, who just turned 23 last month and is already among the game’s elite power hitters, is not arbitration eligible until after the 2013 season, and won’t qualify for free agency until after 2016. As such, one of the best young players in the game will earn just about $500,000 this season, making him one of the best bargains in baseball.
According to multiple published reports, front office executives who have checked in on Stanton have repeatedly been told by the Marlins that they intend to build around Stanton, not trade him. Given Stanton’s salary is expected jump to the $8 – $10 million range next season if he simply goes through the arbitration process, one has to wonder if the Marlins position that he will not be traded has any semblance of truth. We do know, after all, that the Marlins have in fact had discussions with other teams.
Think about it, what team wouldn’t salivate over the idea of bringing in a 23-year-old who just slugged over .600 to lead the majors? Stanton hit .290/.361/.608 with 37 homers and 86 RBI in only 123 games. Had he not missed several weeks after knee surgery, it would have been a pretty good bet that Stanton would have led the NL in home runs.
The trend around the league has been that teams who view their young, All-Star talent as core building blocks, tend to lock them up at early stages in their careers (see Evan Longoria, Joey Votto and Ryan Braun). The Marlins have not done that. Moreover, the chances of the Marlins successfully doing that now have been compromised. Stanton is not at all happy about the prospects of wasting the prime of his career with a habitually rebuilding franchise. Despite the fact that Stanton says he’s over the anger he felt when hearing of the Marlins fire sale, one look at Stanton’s twitter account after the Marlins sent their chances to win North of the border tells you all you need to know about out how he really feels.
Alright, I’m pissed off!!! Plain & Simple
— Giancarlo Stanton (@Giancarlo818) November 13, 2012
From a public perspective, since the Twitter slip revealing his true feelings, Stanton is saying all the right things. When pressed on the topic by FOX Sports’ John Paul Morosi this weekend, Giancarlo took the high road. “The nine guys on the field are doing nothing but playing their hearts out to win,” said Stanton. “Yeah, you might not know every guy’s name. We might not be in magazines or TV all the time. But we’re still big-league players. We’re just like everybody else out there on the field.”
The Proposed Deal
A source close to the SFX Baseball Group, an agency representing some of the biggest stars in the game, told me this morning that the Marlins have recently discussed a trade that would include sending recently signed Juan Pierre (an SFX client) and Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Mets, for super pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, obtained from the Giants in the Carlos Beltran trade, and minor league catcher Travis D’Arnaud, the centerpiece in the R.A. Dickey deal. But wait, the Marlins are publicly telling people that Stanton will not be traded, aren’t they? They sure are, but pay no attention because no Marlins executive is to be believed, most notably Jeffrey Loria, the team’s owner.
You’ll recall that last November, then-Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes went to dinner with Mr. Loria and the two chatted about the future – specifically, Reyes’ future in Miami. They spoke about personal things and Loria encouraged Reyes to find a nice house and settle down in South Florida. Just days later while on vacation with his wife, he heard a rumor about the trade. “I thought it was a joke,” Reyes said. “When I called my agent, he said yes,” and Reyes was traded.
If this is true, the most confused guy in the world would have to be Travis D’Arnaud, who has never played a game in the majors, yet has already been traded for two Cy Young award winners in Roy Halladay and R.A. Dickey. The 24 year-old would have to be wondering what the heck is going on and why it is that teams keep giving up the farm to get him only to swap him for a piece of land seemingly more attractive so swiftly.
While it’s possible that D’Arnaud opens the season as the Mets’ starting catcher, at the moment it appears that John Buck (also obtained from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey trade) will get the nod. There is also a call to have Wheeler open the season with the Mets; however, both D’Arnaud and Wheeler are expected to begin the season together at Class AAA Las Vegas, forming a pitcher-catcher combination that could easily make it to Queens by midseason.
The Mets, who are essentially counting on Lucas Duda to become their everyday left fielder while holding open tryouts for the rest of the outfield, would solve their outfield problems by putting Juan Pierre in center field and Stanton in right without giving up a player expected to start the season on the roster. For this to work for the Mets however, New York would have to feel they could lock up Stanton and sign him to a long-term extension. Pierre, who at 35 years old is no spring chicken, proved last season that he can still play, hitting .307/.351/.371 with 37 steals for the Phillies. At just $1.6 million for the year with no further commitment, he could be the stopgap the Mets are looking for.
It’s obvious why Miami would do this trade. The Marlins would be able to plug two of the very best prospects in the game, with minimum salaries, into their lineup for the foreseeable future while ridding themselves of Stanton and his looming pay increase. For the Mets, would it be worth trading two prized possessions for Stanton long term and a one year rental? Well, let’s look at it this way, would you trade Carlos Beltran, who turns 36 in April and a 38-year old R.A. Dickey for Wheeler and D’Arnaud? For all intents and purposes, that’s what the Mets gave up to get the two prospects.
Giancarlo Stanton is no doubt one of the few stars, that if you were starting a team today, would be a fixture for your franchise. Stanton, along with Braun, Votto, Longoria, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are among the names that the children of this generation will grow up watching thrive in this generation of MLB. Should the Mets pull the trigger? I don’t know. Travis D’Arnaud and Zack Wheeler have established themselves as two of the best young talents in all of baseball, ranking sixth and eighth, respectively, on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list. While D’Arnaud may not turn out to be the proven slugger that Stanton is, he’s expected to be pretty damn good. While Zack Wheeler is unlikely to be Tom Seaver, he is expected to be a standout as well.
I don’t think this trade happens, more than anything because the Mets would be too scared to do it. The Mets have a history of overvaluing their prospects. Those of you still waiting for Generation K to work out know what I’m talking about. I’m not suggesting that the Mets would be wrong for valuing D’Arnaud and Wheeler so highly, I’m just stating that I think they wouldn’t pull the trigger, even if it meant bringing one of the best young proven commodities in MLB to a team desperately looking to fill Citi Field.
You could make the argument that Stanton would be the best player in New York, and at a time where the Yankees seem to be getting old before our eyes, the Mets seemingly have a window of opportunity to make a run in NY like they did in the mid-late 80’s, when they dominated the town. Perhaps the Mets think they can do that with D’Arnaud and Wheeler as cornerstones of the franchise anyway, I don’t know…
Fantasy baseball is so much easier. You would trade for Stanton to help you win now and then worry about next season when it comes. This one, however, is not so easy…
Getty photo, by Marc Serota