[Note by Jeff Wiser, 03/03/14 7:18 PM PST ]On first thought, the idea of the Marlins trading Giancarlo Stanton doesn't make a ton of sense. It's not every day that a guy with true 80-grade power arrives on the scene, but that's exactly what Stanton did when he skipped AAA and hit 22 home runs in 100 games as a 20-year old. Everyone went nuts because, well, there aren't too many 20-year olds who post .248 ISO's. He's built like a slugger with a cannon attached to right shoulder, meaning he looks every bit as physically opposing as he performs at the plate.
So why should the Marlins trade this now 24-year old star? Because every baseball player, no matter how well he performs, is an asset.
When looking at Miami, there are clearly a lot of holes. Second base, shortstop, third, first, rotation arms, the bullpen, take your pick. A quick look at prospect rankings reveals that there isn't a ton on the horizon, either. Andrew Heaney is legit and Colin Moran is a plausible solution at third base but likely lacks the prototypical power of a corner infielder. Otherwise, the farm looks like a lot of mid-rotation type arms that lack projectable dominance.
In fact, the outfield might be the only area of strength for the organization. If you recall, they've got a couple good young outfielders in the majors right now. There's little doubt that Christian Yelich is a star in the making. In a 62 game debut, he posted a 116 wRC+ as a 21-year old. The league will catch up to him and he'll have to make adjustments, but his trajectory is that of a potential All-Star. With speed and power, it wouldn't be a shock to see him as a 20/20 guy down the road in left field.
Marcell Ozuna was undoubtedly rushed to the majors. He received only 42 at-bats above High-A before his promotion to the bigs. A power-hitting centerfielder, he lost almost all of the second half to a thumb injury in July. He was scuffling at that point after a red-hot May and clearly there's some growth that needs to happen, but centerfielders who can hit 25 home runs are hard to find. His blend of power and defense make him an asset worth developing, especially if he can learn to walk a little more frequently.
Nearly big-league ready is Jake Marisnick, who was acquired in the "Marlins sell their whole team to Toronto" deal last winter. He's more of a true center fielder than Ozuna and was similarly rushed to majors, struggling against is first taste of major league pitching. According Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus, scouts aren't worried about his difficult debut and think that with some more seasoning, he'll develop a better approach against off-speed stuff. The hit tool is the only one lacking, but it should play well enough for the lanky speedster to warrant a spot in center field, eventually pushing Ozuna to right.
Farther out, Jesus Solorzano is a high risk/high reward type with speed and power. There are some serious adjustments that will need to be made as he advances to the Florida State League, but he's an exciting prospect to keep an eye on. Brent Keys is another outfielder who is the polar opposite or Solarzano in that he walks more than he strikes out while making a ton of contact. He's naturally a corner outfielder but can play center if needed, projecting him as a solid fourth outfielder. While these two are far from sure things, it underlies the fact that Marlins' area of strength is in the outfield.
So, do these guys make Giancarlo Stanton expendable? Not necessarily, but when we look at win-curves, the Marlins are clearly a long ways off. There's also risk associated with Stanton in that he's another injury or two away from receiving the "brittle" label, making him somewhat less desirable to potential suitors should he miss significant time again in 2014. His profile will always be in high demand, but if he's limited to 120 games as a 23-year old, there should be concerns over how he'll age as a right fielder.
It was rumored that the Pirates made a strong play for Stanton at the deadline last summer and were willing to offer an incredible package. There's no way they were moving Gerrit Cole, so perhaps Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco and something else could have been heading to Miami had the Marlins said yes. A couple of top-25 prospects would surely change the outlook of the organization, perhaps even more so than an outfielder that Miami may not have the financial resources to keep long term. Yes, there's been some banter about an extension, but can anyone trust Jeffrey Loria to keep his word? That's a bet that everyone in baseball should be leery about.
Heading into 2014, Stanton will be the Opening Day right fielder for a team with few expectations. An injury-plagued season could do real damage to his stock, or at least as much damage as possible to a player with his raw power. He'll only be more expensive down the road for a team that looks to save every penny possible and with just two years of team control remaining, serious salary commitments are looming. The organization currently has a stable of promising young outfielders who are capable of being major league contributors, so dealing Stanton would mean that the Marlins are dealing from depth and it could allow them to bring back impact talent to areas where they need more of it.
With the team at least a couple years away from being anything resembling a serious contender, maybe the Marlins are better off without Giancarlo Stanton, as crazy at it may sound.
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Jeff Wiser is a contributor to Beyond the Box Score and co-author of Inside the 'Zona, an analytical look at the Arizona Diamondbacks. He occasionally blogs about craft beer at BeerGraphs and you can follow him on Twitter @OutfieldGrass24.