In 2017 there was a power outage at Fenway Park. Damian Dydyn explores the potential cost, in players and money, of trading for one of the names being bandied about, Giancarlo Stanton.
The rumors are starting to swirl. Shortly after his group was announced as the winner of the bidding for the Marlins, Derek Jeter started talking about slashing payroll. He has, thus far, refused to answer questions about whether he will trade Giancarlo Stanton directly, recently hinting at “unpopular decisions” on the horizon. Stanton himself has said he does not want to be part of another rebuild, so his name will be prominent in every speculative article written on the sport between now and when the winter ends or he is actually traded.
Stanton has long been a favorite trade target of Boston sports writers and of fans speculating on message boards and in comment sections. With the dire need for power on Lansdowne Street, there’s no question that the Red Sox will, at the very least, be checking on the potential cost in players, and Dealin’ Dave Dombrowski is exactly the kind of executive to try to make something like this work. In a way, it would be his next Miguel Cabrera trade.
Exactly what would need to happen for this pipe dream to become a reality? For starters, the Red Sox would have to be the only serious bidders. With a depressingly thin farm system, they simply don’t have the chips to compete with teams like the Yankees, White Sox, Phillies or Astros if any of them decide that having the game’s best power bat roaming the outfield is what they need
But let’s assume that none of them want the contract, and Jeter is firm on not eating any of it. Or that Stanton won’t waive his no-trade clause for any team except the Red Sox. What’s the next hurdle?
The Marlins’ new owners are looking to start over with a clean slate, so they will want players with plenty of control, players who still have at least two pre-arbitration years ahead of them. They will also want players who are healthy and have significantly high ceilings, so as far as headliners go, we are probably not going to get away with dangling Blake Swihart, Sam Travis or even Michael Chavis. Yes, Chavis hit 31 home runs last year, and yes 17 were with Salem, whose home park suppresses home runs. Chavis is an intriguing prospect, but his poor defense, low walk rate and relatively high swing and miss rate limit his ceiling.
And besides, the Marlins aren’t just looking to dump contracts. They are going to be seeding their next core, which means they will need impact talent back. For the Red Sox, that almost assuredly means Andrew Benintendi. They can’t afford to open up a hole by moving Devers, and players like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts are already in their arbitration years.
If we can get past the sting of losing Benintendi, we then have to hold our nose at completing the desiccation of the farm system, because names like Jay Groome and Michael Chavis will likely be included. And kickers would probably include some talent from last year’s draft, like Tanner Houck or Jake Thompson. A hitter like Brett Netzer or Cole Brannen might have to be tossed in. The particulars are, of course, up for debate. You may be able to use Josh Ockimey instead of Chavis, or maybe the Marlins like Alex Scherff instead of Jay Groome. But no matter how you slice it, the price is going to hurt, and it’s going to leave the team with virtually nothing in the tank for making additional trades or starting the rebuild that will be necessary in 2020 or 2021.
The contention window is small, though, so let’s say that it is a price worth paying. What’s the next objection? The cost in dollars. I recently wrote about the Red Sox signing J.D. Martinez by any means necessary. I suggested spending as much as $26.67M annually to get it done. But Stanton’s AAV is $25.77M, you say! Except it’s not: it’s more. Once he’s traded, the AAV is recalculated based on the years remaining on the contract. So his AAV would jump up to $29.5M. That extra $2M or so might not seem like a big deal, but the team effectively has a hard cap at $237M for the 2018 season. Anything over that will incur draft penalties. With the team’s payroll currently estimated at about $202M, $29M brings them up to just over $231M and leaves them with very little room left to maneuver.
Since the team will need some money to play with in-season, that means no re-signing Eduardo Nunez and living with Brock Holt, Deven Marrero, Tzu-Wei Lin or Marco Hernandez in the utility infielder role. It means not re-signing Addison Reed, and hoping that Carson Smith or Tyler Thornburg recover from their injuries enough to take the 8th inning. It means replacing Chris Young with an internal option like Bryce Brentz instead of a free agent. Maybe these things are worth it, but you are reducing the team’s depth to bring that middle-of-the-order presence into the lineup.
And with the news that Dustin Pedroia is out for 7 months following knee surgery, the team will need to sign some kind of vet to get them through the early months, whether that’s Nunez or another name like Howie Kendrick or Jed Lowrie.
So maybe the Red Sox aren’t bidding against a couple of teams with much bigger stacks of chips to offer. Maybe Dombrowski is okay with a package that includes Andrew Benintendi and puts the last nail in the coffin of a withering farm system. Maybe he believes the incremental losses of depth at other positions are worth the gain in the upgrade from Benintendi to Stanton. And maybe the free agent market doesn’t have an option that just costs money, sitting there waiting to be signed for slightly less. Even if all of these things line up and open the door for a deal to be made, there’s one more factor we have to consider.
Would Stanton waive his no-trade clause to come to Boston? He’s enjoyed living in Miami for his entire professional career. It’s one of the best cities in America for a young single person. Boston isn’t a terrible place to live, mind you, but it’s bitterly cold in the winter and lacks anything he might consider a legitimate beach within city limits. I don’t claim to know what goes on in his head, but if I’m in his shoes and I’m considering a city in the northeast and nightlife is a factor, New York has the edge. I might even prefer a southern city like Houston. Maybe he wants to go out west and be closer to his hometown. Maybe he wants an intuitive street grid. Maybe he’s really superstitious about places with names beginning with B.
There’s no guarantee that Stanton would approve the trade, even if it meant going to a contender. At least, not while there are other suitors out there. Not without that team guaranteeing his 2028 option, which brings his AAV up to $31M per year and we’re back to our 4th hurdle.
The idea of Stanton anchoring the lineup in Fenway is incredibly tantalizing, and the massive cost may very well be worth paying (in both chips and dollars), but the number of things we have to get through to go from here to a future where the Giancarlo formerly known as Mike is being announced to the home crowd as a starting outfielder for the defending back-to-back division champs is daunting to say the least. It’s possible that everything will line up. It’s also possible that I’m overestimating the interest in taking on his contract from other teams, or the cost in players to acquire him. But if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t be throwing my money away on this being where we end up in a few months.
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