Despite having home-field advantage, Giancarlo Stanton was unable to defend his Home Run Derby crown two weeks ago, but the Miami Marlins slugger remains one of the game's most potent power hitters and one of its biggest names. The 27-year-old rightfielder enters the week with a National League-best 30 home runs, a performance that has taken a back seat in recent days to trade rumors with his name attached.
While a trade involving Stanton prior to the July 31 deadline appears unlikely, the franchise's long history of fire sales and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria's ongoing attempts to sell the team have given extra life to those rumors. One of the delays in the franchise's sale is said to have at least something to do with the weight of the team's long-term contract commitments. No commitment is bigger than that due to Stanton, who is in the third season of a 13-year, $325 million contract.
That is more than double the amount that the team contributed to the building of Marlins Park. Because he was still two years away from free agency when he signed that deal in November of 2014, the contract was significantly backloaded; Stanton made $6.5 million in year one of the deal, he is making $14.5 million this year and he'll jump to $25 million next year. The contract also includes full no-trade protection and an opt-out after the 2020 season, both of which would further complicate any attempts to trade him even if there were no franchise sale in progress.
For a potential buyer, the question is whether they're getting a player who will be paid $77 million from 2018 to '20 before opting out, or one who will make $295 million guaranteed from 2018 to '27 (Stanton has a $10 million buyout of his $25 million club option for 2028, which will be his age-38 season). Stanton's injury history—he's played in more than 123 games just once since 2011, averaging 115 a year over the past five seasons—suggests he's probably not going to get another deal of that scale. While his frightening late-2014 beaning in Milwaukee was a freak occurrence, he's experienced a litany of lower-body injuries that could hint at further problems down the road.
Thus, there's some question about just how valuable Stanton is, both in the eyes of suitors and of the Marlins themselves. A team involved in a potential trade may expect Miami either to pay down that $295 million or take back a bad contract in return, with one rival executive suggesting a paydown of $100 million.
None of this has prevented teams from checking in on the slugger or being linked to him, at least in theory. Here's a quick rundown of some possible destinations, though again, any trade seems more likely to happen this winter than this month.
They're not known to have discussed Stanton, but Atlanta entered the season with a brand new ballpark and, according to Baseball America, the game's top farm system—which is to say that the Braves would figure to have the prospects to pry him loose. Ronald Acuna, a 19-year-old outfielder who has rocketed from High A to Triple A this year and recently placed among the top 11 prospects on the midseason lists of Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN, would figure to be a target in such a deal, as would Ozzie Albies, a 20-year-old middle infielder who has spent more time at second base in Double A and Triple A because Dansby Swanson has that position on lockdown in the majors.
Atlanta also has a ton of pitching prospects, including six—lefties Koby Allard, Luis Gohara and Sean Newcomb and righties Ian Anderson, Mike Soroka and Kyle Wright (the team's first-round pick this year)—in BA's most recent top 100. Yeah, the Marlins could find something in there that they like, though the possibility of dealing him to the geographically closest division rival might be a turn-off.
They're generally a big payroll team, they have some high-end prospects—such as the just-promoted third baseman Rafael Devers and last year's first-round pick, lefthander Jason Groome—and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski isn't shy about adding big money players. That said, they've already got a great homegrown outfield of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts, and owner John Henry has plenty of reason to be wary of big contracts, having been burned in recent years alone by those of third baseman Pablo Sandoval and outfielder Rusney Castillo; heck, the David Price contract isn’t looking too great right now, either. Don't wait up for this possibility.
Given that Stanton graduated from high school in Sherman Oaks, Calif., just north of Los Angeles, a homecoming would make sense. The Dodgers have prospects for days: pitchers Walker Buehler and Yadier Alvarez, outfielder Alex Verdugo and second baseman Willie Calhoun all placed in BA's top 100. Money is no object for L.A., either, and it could provide some major league talent in exchange. Cuban defector Yasiel Puig would be a natural fit for the Miami market, though the fact that he has just one more year under contract (for $7.5 million) may lessen his appeal if his mercurial nature doesn't. Fellow outfielder Joc Pederson has far more club control, if the Marlins were interested in him (the Dodgers will not consider moving Cody Bellinger).
Given their focus on getting back to the World Series for the first time in 1988 and now their concerns about the state of Clayton Kershaw's back, Los Angeles might wind up dealing some of the aforementioned prospects (though probably not Verdugo) in a trade for a frontline starter such as Texas's Yu Darvish or Oakkland's Sonny Gray. Doing so would likely reduce the club's willingness to do a Stanton deal this winter.
Did they or didn't they check in? FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman reported on Saturday that the Yankees were one of the teams that recently inquired about Stanton, but a day later, SiriusXM's Jim Bowden reported that the rumor was false. New York, which reloaded at last year's trade deadline, is a somewhat surprising contender this year thanks in large part to the efforts of their own proto-Stanton, 6'7" Aaron Judge, who leads the majors in homers (32) and is second in the AL in WAR (5.2). He's suddenly become one of the game's most marketable stars, so it seems quite unlikely that the Yankees would trade him for a more expensive and injury-prone version of the same player.
If New York—which has the game's deepest farm system and the deepest pockets this side of the Dodgers—did want to trade for Stanton, however, rookie outfielder Clint Frazier would figure to be part of a package. So too would one of their two shortstop prospects, Gleyber Torres, who underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery roughly a month after being promoted to Triple A, or Jorge Mateo, whose disciplinary issues have slowed his climb through the system.
Still, it's difficult to envision general manager Brian Cashman undoing the work he has done to build the system over the last few years while eschewing the types of problematic megadeals that haven't paid off; Jacoby Ellsbury, who's losing playing time to Frazier, is right there on the roster to remind the Yankees of such mistakes. If and when the Yankees decide to shell out nine figures for a player again, it could well be for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, both of whom will be free agents after next season.
On July 12 Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and MLB Network wrote that the Phillies—who have no contractual commitments for 2018 beyond centerfielder Odubel Herrera's $3.35 million—internally considered the prospect of trading for both Stanton and fellow Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich, who's under club control through 2022 with a total salary of $58.25 million beyond this year, including his $15 million club option in the last of those years. At least at the time of that report, according to Rosenthal, Philadelphia had not actually discussed Stanton, but last week, Heyman characterized the club as having "kicked the tires."
As the team in the country's fourth-largest media market, the Phillies have the revenue to work with a Stanton-like deal. They also have the prospects—seven in the recent BA top 100, including 2016's No. 1 overall pick, outfielder Mickey Moniak; shortstop J.P. Crawford; and righty Sixto Sanchez. But given its rebuilding program‚ which has suffered a setback this year after last season's 71 wins, it's quite possible that Philadelphia would prefer to hoard its current talent and pursue a nine-figure megadeal with either Harper or Machado, both of whom will be free agents after the 2018 season, or aim to land Mike Trout, a free agent after 2020 and a native of nearby Millville, N.J.
Last week, SiriusXM's Craig Mish reported that the Giants have shown more interest in Stanton than any other team. They're a big-revenue team, but with over $109 million already committed to six players for 2020—catcher Buster Posey, shortstop Brandon Crawford, first baseman Brandon Belt, closer Mark Melancon and starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, plus the likely-to-opt-out Johnny Cueto—their payroll is already a bit weighty, and that's before cleaning up this year's 38-62 mess. Even worse for San Francisco, its farm system was ranked just 24th by BA at the season's outset and placed just one prospect in its recent top 100: first baseman/outfielder Chris Shaw, who ranked 86th. For what it's worth, MLB Pipeline has righty Tyler Beede and third baseman Christian Arroyo at 73 and 74, respectively. All things considered, even given the possibility of a California destination for Stanton, this seems unlikely to happen.
According to Heyman, they too kicked the tires on Stanton and could presumably go higher in payroll than their current franchise record of $148 million, having been rebuffed by the likes of Price and Jason Heyward in the recent past. They have a good farm system, with BA recently placing four of their prospects in the top 100, headed by righty Alex Reyes, who's out for the year due to Tommy John surgery; MLB Pipeline included six in theirs, including Tyler O'Neill, a slugging outfielder just acquired from the Mariners in exchange for Marco Gonzales.
Indeed, St. Louis is awash in club-controlled outfielders, from current big league underachievers Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty to O'Neil and 21-year-old Magneuris Sierra, and the Marlins are said to have heavily scouted the Cardinals' system. If the Redbirds misses the playoffs for a second straight season, general manager John Mozeliak could be under pressure to do something big. A Stanton blockbuster would fit that bill.