- Giancarlo Stanton may start next season in Miami after all ... but wouldn't it be great if he were traded to the Rockies?
Of all this offseason’s big storylines to follow, the saga of Giancarlo Stanton is perhaps the most open-ended one. Whether the Marlins will ship out the newly crowned NL MVP under new owner Derek Jeter is a fascinating question, but there are a lot of variables complicating the process. Jeter has yet to declare one way or another whether Miami will move Stanton. The big slugger has a full no-trade clause, as well as a $300 million contract that essentially functions as one. And while every team in baseball could use a home run-hitting behemoth like Stanton, it’s not clear who’s in the running for him.
So let’s simplify the process. Instead of trying to chart the endless and contradicting Stanton rumors like a man holding a weathervane in a hurricane, we’ll narrow the field down to the teams that present the best fit for MLB’s resident Atlas.
Note that I won’t attempt to put together offers for Stanton, as his combination of production (great!) and contract (onerous!) is confounding when it comes to creating fair trade value. Besides, who knows what the Marlins want in exchange, be it simply payroll space or a trio of top prospects.
Before we get to the favorites, let’s rule out the rest. Rebuilding squads won’t be in the running, so you can cross the Tigers, Reds, Athletics and Padres off the list. The White Sox and Braves are potential dark horses, seeing as how they have prospects to spare to offer up, but it’s hard to imagine Stanton approving a deal that sends him to a team that’s still a ways away from contention. Payroll limitations, meanwhile, eliminate the Rays, Orioles, Indians, Twins, Royals, Mariners, Mets, Brewers and Pirates.
As for the big-spending contenders: The Nationals will likely want to save money to throw at Bryce Harper next winter. The Diamondbacks already have a monster deal on the books with Zack Greinke’s contract and need to find room for a Paul Goldschmidt extension. The Astros are likely happy with the roster as is. The Angels gave Justin Upton a new big deal, so they’re set. The Cubs always have money to spend, but they’re spoken for in terms of hitters.
Then there are the Yankees and the Dodgers, who both have more than enough financial ability to make a deal happen. Neither team truly needs Stanton: The Yankees already have the prequel version of Stanton in Aaron Judge, while the Dodgers have lanky slugger Cody Bellinger; both squads have tough, young lineups that—most importantly—are very cost effective; and neither front office is all too keen to give up prospects. And both New York and Los Angeles are likely saving their pennies for the Harper and Manny Machado bidding wars coming next winter.
That leaves seven teams who make the most sense for a Stanton trade. Let’s break them down, one by one.
Why Stanton Makes Sense: Dave Dombrowski never filled the David Ortiz-sized hole in the lineup left by Big Papi’s retirement after the 2016 season, and it showed in last year’s results. Boston went from 208 homers and a league-high .461 slugging percentage in ’16 to 168 and .407, respectively, in ’17. Some of that was losing Ortiz, some of that was down years from the lineup, but it all added up to a deficit of power: Only three Red Sox topped 20 or more homers in a season where the ball flew out of the park with startling regularity. Stanton solves that problem and then some.
Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: Unless the Red Sox successfully petition the league to add a fourth outfielder, they’re already set with Mookie Betts in right, Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Andrew Benintendi in left. All three are highly productive and rather cheap—an important factor for a team whose farm system is currently in a fallow period and won’t be producing much in the way of low-cost major league talent. Adding Stanton would require either subtracting one of those three, or plugging him in as the world’s most expensive DH—and why do that when J.D. Martinez is available for just money? Also, Boston is already on the hook for $158 million in salary commitments in 2018—and that’s before arbitration.
Why Stanton Makes Sense: The Blue Jays went from an opposing pitcher’s house of horrors in 2015 and ’16 to a walk in the park last year. Toronto averaged just 4.3 runs per game in 2017, tied with Tampa for fifth-lowest in baseball, and posted a collective OPS+ of only 88—the equivalent of a lineup of Tommy Josephs. The Jays also got next to zero from the outfield corners: Ezequiel Carrera and Steve Pearce were disasters in left, and the declining Jose Bautista hit .203/.308/.366 with only 23 homers in right. With Bautista leaving as a free agent, Stanton would patch up rightfield and bring back some thump to a lineup that’s lost Joey Bats and Edwin Encarnacion and is unlikely ever to see a healthy Troy Tulowitzki.
Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: Do the Jays have the room to fit Stanton’s contract? They do on paper—Toronto spent just a shade under $200 million in payroll last season—but it would likely spell the end of Josh Donaldson’s time in Canada, as the hard-hitting third baseman is set to hit free agency after the 2018 season. That may make a Stanton deal more likely, as he could provide insurance should Donaldson walk, but it’s still a big gamble to take.
Why Stanton Makes Sense: The Rangers’ offense was below average last year despite a staggering amount of homers—looking at you, Rougned Odor and Mike Napoli. Stanton would be a much-needed source of stability in the middle of the lineup and would make an imposing power pair with Joey Gallo. And with Carlos Gomez hitting free agency, there’s a hole in the outfield he could fill.
Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: The Rangers have far bigger issues to address this offseason, starting with a bullpen that couldn’t be trusted and a rotation with no depth. As a result, Stanton is more of an unnecessary luxury than a top target. The Rangers’ farm system also isn’t very deep, offering more in the way of high-upside teenagers who are years away than ready-to-contribute prospects. Again, who knows what the Marlins want, but Texas may not have enough to make a competitive offer.
Why Stanton Makes Sense: The Phillies are still rebuilding after last year’s stumble, and the plan in Philadelphia is geared more toward spending in free agency next year than making big moves now. But with tons of payroll space available—Philly has a mere $6.35 million on the books for 2018—and a dearth of under-30 players on the market, why not use some pieces from a good farm system to bring in a top young talent? There’s no guarantee that Harper, Machado, Donaldson or any of the other stars available next winter choose Philly, or that this year brings the Phillies any closer to the contention needed to lure them. Stanton would be a good safeguard against the former and a big step toward the latter.
Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: If there’s any one portion of the Phillies’ rebuild going to plan, it’s the outfield, where Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams are already in place and awaiting the arrival of Roman Quinn, Cornelius Randolph and former No. 1 pick Mickey Moniak, among others. The Phillies’ braintrust might decide to save their chips for upgrading the rotation and bullpen or trying to improve on Maikel Franco at third base.
Why Stanton Makes Sense: Despite the ability of St. Louis’ farm system to produce 20–30 outfielders who hit 25 home runs every single season, Stanton does fill a need. Both Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk stumbled last year, and while Tommy Pham was a revelation as a regular, the Cardinals could shift him to centerfield and move veteran Dexter Fowler to one corner with Stanton in the other.
Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: Stanton would be a cost expenditure the likes of which the Cardinals usually avoid. And while neither Grichuk nor Piscotty was any great shakes last year, both have impressive pedigrees and previous MLB success. St. Louis may decide that the cheaper course of action—hoping for better from that pair—is the safer course.
Why Stanton Makes Sense: No team needs Stanton more than the Giants, whose outfield is a disaster and whose offense was no better. San Francisco was dead last in the majors last year in home runs (128), slugging percentage (.380) and OPS+ (83). Giants outfielders combined—combined—to hit 38 homers last year, or 21 fewer than Stanton did by himself, and no one on the team even cracked the 20-homer plateau; Brandon Belt led them with 18, and his season ended in early August. The Giants could choose to lavish money on J.D. Martinez or Jay Bruce, but Stanton is a better hitter and a much better defender—an important consideration given AT&T Park’s spacious pastures.
Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: The Giants’ payroll is already at its limit thanks to bad investments in Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Mark Melancon; last year’s team cost $182 million for 98 losses. The only long-term deal coming off the books next winter is Hunter Pence’s. Then there’s the matter of the farm system, which is more depleted than an Old West gold mine: Only one Giant, first baseman Chris Shaw, made Baseball America’s midseason top 100 list back in July, and that was at No. 86. San Francisco will either have to try to entice the Marlins with the likes of a slightly used Joe Panik, or be forced to eat the majority of a contract it can’t afford.
Why Stanton Makes Sense: Just picture it: Giancarlo Stanton, clubbing baseballs 550 feet in the thin Colorado air, raining homers all over the greater Denver metropolitan area while Dinger cackles demonically behind home plate. The combo of Stanton and Coors Field is a science experiment gone horribly, beautifully wrong. There’s a legitimate chance Stanton could hit 50 home runs just in his home games. Anyone who doesn’t want to see this happen is a fool and a liar.
Why Stanton Doesn’t Fit: Forget payroll and prospects and need: This has to happen. If the Marlins are going to be obstinate enough to take the best player in their franchise history and throw him away to slash payroll so Jeets and company can make a profit at the expense of putting a quality product on the field, then let’s at least get something objectively good out of it. I command Rob Manfred to make Giancarlo Stanton a Rockie, and reward us all with the single greatest power season in league history.