Giancarlo Stanton will be the hottest commodity on the trade market this offseason. It’s not too often that a reigning MVP is available in a trade; as a result, Stanton’s value is higher than ever. He’s coming off a 59-homer, 6.9-fWAR season at age 28. There is no team that should not have interest in Stanton in a perfect world, based purely on the caliber of player he is and the rarity of the situation at hand.
The ball is in the Marlins’ court to trade him this offseason, and since it’s their hand to play, they could ultimately decide not to put the chips on the table and make the move. Most agree, though, that someone, somewhere will trade for the 6-foot-6 slugger.
Dealing for Stanton is not as easy as it sounds. In addition to the prospect haul that the Marlins are likely commanding, he also has the biggest contract in baseball history, and trading for that comes with a whole set of impacts. I’m here to make the teams’ jobs easy. I’m going to run down how to trade for Giancarlo Stanton, to make a deal that both you and the Marlins like, based on the information that is available to the average fan.
Stanton still has 10 years and $295 million remaining on the 13-year, $325 million contract that he signed in November 2014.
As Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported a few days ago, the Marlins’ dream scenario is where Stanton’s entire $295 million contract is taken by the acquiring team in combination with elite prospects. Unfortunately for Miami, that’s not how it works. Making a trade in Major League Baseball is fairly simple. The more salary the trading team takes on, the better prospect package they’ll get in return. So, with each dollar the Marlins decide to pay Stanton over the life of the deal, they should expect to get increasingly better prospects in return.
One rival executive speculated to Morosi that the Marlins would need to pay about $5 million per season to get a good prospect haul for Stanton. Miami is a notoriously cheap organization, and it does not look like the new ownership group, led by new-CEO Derek Jeter, plans to change that image. Kicking in $50 million over 10 years might not seem like a big deal, but to the Marlins, it is.
On the flip side, though, a team must consider this question: If Stanton were a free agent right now, would they give him a 10-year, $295 million deal? He has the potential to be one of the best players in baseball at his peak performance, as we saw this season. But he’s played just 150 or more games in just two of his eight seasons in the league.
Robinson Cano secured a 10-year, $240 million deal from the Seattle Mariners heading into his age-30 season in 2013; in terms of both age and performance, Stanton is a better player, so let’s assume that he would exceed this deal. In 2000, Alex Rodriguez, then heading into his age-25 season, earned a 10-year, $252 million deal from the Texas Rangers. With inflation and the overall increase in baseball contracts, Stanton would likely receive a deal larger than this one, too.
On the open market, I would expect a 28-year-old Giancarlo Stanton could expect to receive a contract in the ballpark of 10 years and $275 million. This is music to the Marlins’ ears, probably. If a team values him at just $20 million shy of his actual deal, then, in a perfect world, the Marlins would only have to kick in $2 million per season.
Let’s assume that the Marlins and my team, the acquiring team, reach an agreement where the Marlins pay $2.5 million per year over the life of Stanton’s deal. That means that I would owe him $270 million; the Marlins would owe him just $25 million. It’s a win for both sides.
Stanton’s contract situation becomes more confusing when taking his opt-out into consideration. Stanton can void his current deal after the 2020 season, basically splitting this monster contract into two slightly smaller deals.
Deal A, which will be fully guaranteed no matter what: three years, $77 million.
Deal B, the after opt-out contract: seven years, $218 million with a $25 million option for 2028.
In a perfect world, Stanton performs at his current level for the next three years and determines that he would earn more than the $218 million he’s guaranteed for the next seven on the open market. My team wins three World Series in that time, I’m signed to a huge general manager extension (only Theo Epstein money, please and thank you), and I live a happy life. I’m happy to see Stanton walk; there’s no reason to give him a monster deal after winning three rings.
Unfortunately, I’m not a GM, so this is not a perfect world. But, one would hope that Stanton produces at his top level for the next three years, which are perfectly within his price range if he was a free agent, and you win a ring, so you are able to see him go without shedding a real tear. Then, your team wins — Stanton leaves, and you don’t have to pay him a ton of money during the years of his decline.
If anything else happens, though, you’re on the hook for the rest of the money. Going into this, I need to be prepared to pay him the whole $270 million (remember the Marlins are kicking in $25 million), but I can keep the opt-out in the back of mind.
In fact, I might try and swing the deal in this way. I’d offer to the Marlins that my team is willing to pay Stanton in full over the next three years, but I would tell them that if he decides to opt in, then they’re on the hook for $25 million of the remaining $218 million. From my perspective, this deal is a three-year, $77 million contract for ages 28, 29 and 30 Stanton — good Stanton. But then it is still a seven-year, $193 million for the rest of the deal, which could be bad, although obviously not as bad on a year-over-year payment as a seven-year, $218 million deal. I’m not sure that it’s legal through MLB rules to structure payment in this way, but if it is, I’m doing that.
The Marlins would definitely go for this deal, too. If Stanton opts out, then they’re on the hook for absolutely nothing. If he doesn’t, they’ll pay him the $25 million that they agreed to in the original provision. It’s a win-win-win.
This is where it becomes a bit harder to discuss in a hypothetical. I don’t want to pick a team and decide which prospects I’d give up; I don’t have enough of a knowledge base for each team’s farm system to tell you who I would deal. Plus, I don’t want to say who I think is in the lead for Stanton because I truly do not know and do not want to make any assumptions.
The overall strategy here, though, is pretty simple.
I want to keep as many top prospects as I can. My team has its own internalized prospect rankings, and the worse prospect package that I can convince the Marlins to take, the better. I think I need to stress the fact that I’m prepared to take on $270 million, a pretty hefty sum of money for just one player, even if it is Giancarlo Stanton.
From the Marlins’ perspective, there’s two schools of thought when picking a prospect package. There’s the Cole Hamels deal, in which the Phillies acquired no superstar prospects out of the Rangers’ system but received five pretty solid prospects in return; this is quantity over quality. Here, you’re splitting your risk among multiple players, making it a safer choice especially if one or two of these players beats their projections by a decent margin.
The second school of thought is the Yoenis Cespedes deal, in which the Tigers dealt him to the Mets. They received just two players in return: Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. It is important to note here, though, that Cespedes was a rental in this situation, but Fulmer has turned out to be pretty decent, to say the least.
From my perspective, I want the Marlins to take option two. Sure, the Mets had to give up Fulmer, but they traded from their starting pitching pool, an area of strength for them (or, at least, it was at the time). They only needed to give up one prospect; the farm system bank is not broken.
The ball is still in the Marlins’ court here — I can only prod them as much as I can to take this route. I want Stanton, and I’m willing to do what I can to bring him here, but that’s only if he wants to come because he has this thing called a...
If Stanton hates your city, he’s not coming. Ultimately, this whole thing is up to him. I’m out of money; I can’t offer him any extra dough for choosing my city.
The Marlins know what they want, and I know what I want, but we both have to see what Stanton himself wants. With a full no-trade clause, he can do whatever he wants; he could be a Brandon Phillips and just never waive it (although he ultimately did), or he could be a Justin Verlander, who needed some convincing but went to Houston. Look, Giancarlo, Verlander said, “Fine, I’ll go to Houston,” and he won a ring within two months.
It’s our turn to go win some rings.
Come to my city, Giancarlo Stanton.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score, and also owns the mystery team that is in the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes. (Sorry, Cardinals.) You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.