Let’s go to the Miami Herald for the details.
“St. Louis, San Francisco and Boston might not be at the top of Giancarlo Stanton’s destination wish list. But the alternative — remaining with the Marlins as the lone star on a stripped-down team through a slow and potentially agonizing rebuild — might be even less appealing to him. It’s a choice that could force Stanton’s hand if the Marlins work out acceptable trade proposals with teams that are less desirable to him than others. According to two sources with knowledge of discussions, the Marlins informed Stanton in October that if he refused to waive his no-trade rights and accept a trade, he would remain a Marlin and team officials would look to trade off other top players to reduce payroll. While it wasn’t presented to Stanton as an ultimatum, one source said, it shows that the Marlins aren’t without leverage in their efforts to deal Stanton and relieve them of the financial burden he brings. Stanton has said he doesn’t wish to be part of a rebuild.”
In trying to gain some leverage in the situation, the Marlins may have given Stanton even more leverage. Oh those silly Marlins.
Stanton has zero reason to waive his no-trade clause for anything less than his optimal location, which reportedly is the Dodgers. Now, that doesn’t mean the Dodgers should do everything they can to make a deal, but what incentive does Stanton have to waive his NTC to go to a team like the Giants? None. The Giants’ farm system is in the bottom-third in baseball, the MLB club has aging veterans whose best days might be behind them (save Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner) and it isn’t like more money (insignificant, when you factor in he’s still owed $295 million) will get him to go somewhere he doesn’t want to be. What about the Cardinals? Sure, they’re in better shape, but is that really where he wants to spend the rest of his baseball career if he’s as hell-bent on California as reported? How about the Red Sox? The same issue with location exists and they have such a great history of treating big-time acquisitions with plenty of respect and admirat… sorry, I couldn’t even finish writing that lie. Just ask Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and now David Price how that’s gone, just to name a few.
It’s pretty clear he wants to play on the West Coast — California specifically — and for a team with championship aspirations. Only one team fits that profile, and it ain’t that not-Los Angeles team down the Interstate 5.
This is such a weird situation for the Dodgers to be in. The newly crowned NL MVP is 28 years old. He’s coming off his best season as a professional — nearly 7 wins above replacement and 59 home runs. He wants to play half his games at Dodger Stadium. He grew up a Dodger fan and went to school fewer than 20 miles away from Chavez Ravine. There aren’t many positions at which the Dodgers can upgrade, but outfield (left field, specifically) is one of them. The Dodgers have committed the most money to players since Guggenheim Partners took over the team in 2012 (with 2013 being the first year of the highest payroll). And this team was one win away from a world championship.
All the boxes are checked, so why is this even a question? How can this team with these almost limitless resources not figure out a way to get a player like this in the fold? Grant Brisbee at SB Nation wrote about this very thing yesterday.
“Imagine telling someone back then that the Dodgers would balk at trading for a 28-year-old MVP — a hometown kid with a no-trade clause who might have his heart set on playing for them — because of money. … I’m not buying it. I’m absolutely not buying it. The official company line is that the Dodgers really want to get under the competitive balance tax, which is serving as the de facto salary cap that Major League Baseball has been desperate for. If they can sneak under this year, their penalties will reset in the future, which will save them millions. … The Dodgers still need to fill a few roster spots, and if they go over $237 million, not only do they have to pay an extra $34.75 million in tax, but their first-round draft pick will be bumped down 10 places. As of right now, they’re about $16 million under the tax, and they don’t have a lot of roster holes or pending free agents. They can do it. They can reset the tax this year. And what would be their benefit for this? Even the Dodgers can use an extra $35 million or so. They could charge into the 2018-2019 offseason, which will feature Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, and Charlie Blackmon. That offseason is also likely to include Clayton Kershaw, whom the Dodgers probably want to keep. Getting under the cap will allow them to save millions while doing all of this. In just one year, when they sign Craig Kimbrel and Andrew Miller on the same day, we’ll be right back here pretending like the Dodgers never had a few months of restraint and austerity. They’re so close to that cap. So close to resetting all those penalties, and all they need to do is be mostly satisfied with a roster that is unfathomably deep and talented. If the Dodgers didn’t touch their roster, they would still be the overwhelming favorites to win the NL West. It would be both prudent and wise for them to add one, maybe two, lesser pieces and call it an offseason. I’m not buying it. I’m absolutely not buying it.”
He’s right. There isn’t a lot of opportunity — despite some of the talent available next winter — for the Dodgers to add a player of Stanton’s ilk in the coming years. Free agency is usually where the Dodgers can thrive because of their lavish resources, but they’ve erred on the modest side since Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi came into power, so to think they’ll add Harper or Machado or Donaldson or anyone not named Kershaw next winter shouldn’t be assumed. Those guys have to want to play in Los Angeles anyway. We know Kershaw does (and hopefully still will), but Harper (with the Yankees calling) and Machado and Donaldson (both blocked by Corey Seager and Justin Turner) might have better options elsewhere.
Looking ahead to 2020, there are the likes of Bumgarner, Chris Sale and Paul Goldschmidt, but none of them seem to be an easy fit in LA either. There is that Nolan Arenado character, who might be the only guy outside of Stanton who makes sense and would (likely) want to play in LA (he’s local, too). He’ll be one year older than Stanton is right now and probably looking for a comparable deal, if not even more total dollars and average annual value. Landing Stanton via trade might be the Dodgers’ best chance to land an impact player from outside the organization for the next few years.
As good as the Dodgers have been at developing players of late, there’s almost no chance they’ll field a team with all homegrown players. Having a superstar like Stanton to anchor and, at the same time, supplement the lineup would be a luxury most teams couldn’t afford.
Oh, and perhaps the most important thing in all this … HE WANTS TO PLAY IN LOS ANGELES. Seems pretty open and close to me.
I wrote a bit about this Stanton conundrum two weeks ago.
“Stanton is the premiere slugger in this game. He’s coming off a career-best season and would be a welcome addition to any team, all things being equal. Unfortunately, he has a potential albatross of a contract attached to him, lowering his trade value significantly. The Dodgers of old might take on all $295 million remaining in desperation to compete, but the Dodgers of now are sitting pretty with a great team already under their belt. The Dodgers won 104 games without Stanton. If he were brought in, the Dodgers probably don’t get to 104 wins again anyway. But having his bat available in October — at least the threat of his bat — is still awfully enticing. I’m as big a Stanton fan who isn’t also a Marlins fan you’ll meet. My heart wants this to happen in the worst way (and has for 3-4 years now), even if my brain and all logic is telling me it doesn’t make sense. It’s fun to think about Stanton in Dodger Blue, but to expect it is an entirely different thing. One thing’s for sure, though, if this front office thinks Stanton represents a big enough upgrade and they can make it work logistically, then there’s at least a chance of it happening.”
That last sentence is what I’m pinning my hopes on for now. This front office is as smart and as advanced as any in baseball. If Friedman and Zaidi want Stanton, they’ll figure out a way to make it work. Looking ahead, the Dodgers don’t have a ton of financial commitments beyond 2020. Kershaw should be in the middle of his new deal and Kenley Jansen, provided he doesn’t opt-out (he might) and leave (he won’t), will be making a good amount of money, but the only other guys with guaranteed deals are Kenta Maeda and Yaisel Sierra. While you have to factor in the final year of arbitration for Seager ($20 million?), Chris Taylor ($10 million?) and whatever Shohei Ohtani (heh) will be making, the Dodgers could definitely afford to fit Stanton into their future plans, financially speaking. And they can still get under the luxury tax number this offseason, provided they are able to offload a player like Scott Kazmir to Miami and maybe trade someone else making a bit of money to another team (Logan Forsythe to Anaheim? Yasmani Grandal to anywhere?).
Brisbee asked in his headline, “The Dodgers can’t really let Giancarlo Stanton get away, can they?” Well, the easy answer is, “Sure they can.” However, after everything that’s laid out above, the timing may not be better to make a big splash like this.
OK, so let’s stop beating around the proverbial bush. What does a Stanton-to-Dodgers deal look like? I threw out names in my previous Stanton post, but never came up with a proposal. Let’s do that.
I don’t know how the money would work exactly in terms of the luxury tax, but getting rid of Kazmir in the last year of his deal should help with the luxury tax concerns. The Marlins also get a couple premium prospects in Alvarez and Verdugo, plus a medium-upside arm in Ferguson, who showed glimpses of being a legit prospect in 2017. That’s a lot better than they could expect from other teams, and the money coming from the Marlins would be for the duration of Stanton’s contract, which would help significantly in reducing the intimidating contract burden for the Dodgers.
It’s still unlikely Stanton ends up with the Dodgers. There are a ton of moving parts involved and a large financial risk/commitment on the Dodgers’ end. But making one of the best lineups in the National League even better by adding a hitter like Stanton would, well, make the Dodgers the overwhelming favorites to return to the World Series in 2018. They were one win away without Stanton. Just imagine where they might be in 11 months.
This front office has done a miraculous job rebuilding the farm system while building a championship contender. There’s no doubt a move like this would be one that defines Friedman and Zaidi’s legacy with the Dodgers. It seems like something out of the ordinary or atypical of a Friedman/Zaidi transaction, so adding a player like this at this time in his career and at this time in their tenure running this organization would be a ballsy move. But much like the Dodgers’ trip to the World Series, the stars have aligned for something like this to happen, and while there are risks, the reward could be awfully sweet.