Last week, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that the Miami Marlins are preparing to offer star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton the largest offer in franchise history this upcoming offseason. Currently, the largest contract in franchise history was Jose Reyes’ six-year, $106 million dollar contract from 2011. Before his season-ending injury via hit by pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers, Stanton was batting .288/.395/.555 with 37 home runs, 105 RBI, 13 stolen bases, and was one of two frontrunners with Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw for the National League MVP Award.
Yes, the Marlins will offer Stanton a massive contract, but there’s no guarantees that he accepts the offer, based on his non-committal stance on committing long-term with Miami in the past. If Stanton indeed passes on Miami’s offer this winter, that places Miami in a tough position, and Miami will have to consider trading him. Entering his Arb-2 season, Stanton has two more seasons before hitting free agency, and as a power hitter, Stanton could break the bank with his next deal. In a fangraphs article last week, Dave Cameron suggested that it wasn’t crazy for Stanton to earn $240 million over the next eight seasons- if he wanted to bank on another major contract after his next one.
Enter St. Louis. The Cardinals are 29th in home runs, 22nd in slugging, and as a team, possesses a 97 wRC+. The outskirts of the roster is solid. Jhonny Peralta is one of the best shortstops in baseball, while Matt Carpenter is one of the better second baseman in baseball. Matt Holliday, at the age of 34, is still bring it at the plate, to the tune of .272/.372/.439 with 18 home runs. Yadier Molina is the team’s leader, thanks to his hitting abilities, as well as mentoring and leading the young Cardinals rotation, and guys like Kolten Wong and Matt Adams represent the next era of Cardinal bats. The problem is that none of these guys bring the power like Stanton does.
In five full seasons, Stanton has amassed three seasons with 30 or more home runs, and his lowest regular season total is 22. In said five seasons, Stanton’s OPS was over 890 three times, and his wRC+ was over 115 every season. His 154 home runs over the first five years of his career places him in the discussion with players such as Jimmy Foxx, Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, and former Cardinal Albert Pujols. In an era where power hitters are a dime a dozen, Stanton is one of the best of them at 24 years old, and he could be hitting the market.
That’s a big deal.
Before we send the papers off to signify a trade, we must first figure out what the Marlins want for Stanton, a tough proposition because the Marlins are in an interesting position with their roster and farm system. This year, the Marlins found themselves enjoying the fruits of their farm system’s labor, having players like Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich come up and perform well. Players like Donovan Solano and Adeiny Hechavarria have developed nicely in their first full seasons with Miami. The farm system is full of pitching. Along with this year’s third overall selection Tyler Kolek, the Marlins tout Andrew Heaney, Anthony DeSciafani, Justin Nicolino, Trevor Williams, and Adam Conley as guys who can all join the major league pitching staff in the next two years.
Bring the Cardinals back into the conversation, the Cardinals seem to be a bit more balanced with hitting and pitching, if not leaning towards a strong hitting system. Former top prospect Oscar Tavares has just graduated, but Stephen Piscotty has emerged as a top 50 prospect, Charlie Tilson rebounded from a poor 2013 season, and coming over from an offseason trade, Randal Grichuk is in the major league, thanks to roster expanding in September. Filling out the list are guys like catcher Carson Kelly, shortstop Oscar Mercado, and outfielder Rowan Wick.
So, without jumping into hypothetical trades, the Cardinals can pull this deal off. Tavares, once the number two prospect in baseball, should be the starting point, and from there, you can talk other secondary pieces. That’s not the problem here.
The problem, like with all big extensions, is Stanton’s next contract. There’s no question that from a dollars-to-WAR, Stanton is worth the $30 million dollars. Throw in the fact that he’s a younger power hitter, and the numbers can increase. The issue is that this is the same deal the Cardinals avoided giving Albert Pujols. There are different factors in this contract- Pujols was in his 30’s and ultimately restricted to first base, while Stanton will be within his age 25 or 26 season, while being able to play a strong right field, but still, those contracts are tough to build around, and the Cardinals don’t usually throw them out there.
This is why the Dodgers are, for now, the team to beat in acquiring Stanton. The Marlins want prospects? Los Angeles can send them Joc Pederson, Julio Urias, and/or Corey Seager- A.K.A three of the top 20 prospects in baseball today. Stanton wants his money? The Dodgers can write him a blank check right now and make him the highest paid player in baseball without blinking. Stanton wants to win? Just look at the Dodgers now, and imagine him with the protection they have in the lineup?
So Stanton makes sense for the Cardinals, the Cardinals have the prospects to entice the Marlins to make a deal if Stanton declines their offer, but a Stanton extension could hurt the potential for this deal to happen.