Giancarlo Stanton Makes Sense for Cardinals if the Marlins Sell

Word on the street (from Bob Nightengale of USA Today) is that the Marlins may be planning a full-on fire sale shortly after the All-Star game.

They’re for sale and with new owners paying a hefty price just to join the Major League Baseball Billionaires Club there is some thought that a lighter payroll with fewer long term commitments may be attractive to potential buyers.

We’ll see about that soon enough…but let’s have a little fun in the wake of this news.

If the Marlins sell, Giancarlo Stanton would be a GREAT fit for the Cardinals. He’s expensive, he’d cost a ton in terms of prospects and there would definitely be other teams interested in acquiring him as well. So it’s not an automatic “get it done Mo (or Girsch)!” kind of thing. It’s complicated.

Before I break down why he’d be a good fit, let’s make a few very quick points up front:

1. Stanton has a full no trade clause and won’t be going anywhere unless he wants to – and he can pick and choose which teams he would accept a deal to. He’s a California kid so if he wants to be a Dodger, Giant or Angel (as examples) the Marlins will have no choice but to keep him or grant his wish.

2. Stanton’s contract is a monster. He is guaranteed another $295 million ($10 million of that is a buyout for 2028) and can also opt out of the contract after the 2020 season.

3. He’s played in 145 or more games just twice in his 7 Major League seasons, which is a concern.

Despite all that, I’d make the trade for him if I were the Cardinals. That’s not to say I wouldn’t explore the cost and/or availability of guys like Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Jose Abreu, Khris Davis, Marcell Ozuna, Wil Myers, etc. I would check out all available options to fill that gaping hole in the middle of the Cardinals order.

The problem with that list, in my opinion, is that Donaldson and Machado are the only two at Stanton’s level and they’re both free agents after 2018. You’re only guaranteed a season and a half with them but you’d be guaranteed three and a half seasons with Stanton, minimum. That makes paying a high price in terms of prospects more palatable to me even with the big contract.

So, here are five reasons to trade for Stanton:

1. He’s a lineup changing monster.

How many potential 40-50 HR monsters are there in the Majors right now? A handful? How many of them are 27 years-old with a canon for a throwing arm in right field and locked up for the 3-10 years? The first thing you think of with Stanton is that mind-boggling power – and it is legit – but he’s also a patient hitter who draws his fair share of walks. That .357 career OBP looks pretty fantastic next to that .540 SLG.

His 162-game average is .896 OPS, 41 HR, 106 RBI and 78 BB.

The Cardinals don’t have anyone who can touch those numbers on their big league roster or developing in the minors. If you’re going to get that player you’ve gotta pay a steep price.

2. Stanton is worth the price in gold and blood.

Let’s address the $295 million he has guaranteed first – the Cardinals have plenty of money. They can handle that. No problem.

Plus, that’s the cost of having this kind of monster in the middle. They’re not cheap once they become available – which is why they’re available – and teams don’t trade these kinds of hitters when they’re cost controlled. In other words, you’re not gonna land Aaron Judge or Cody Bellinger.

If you want to add this kind of player you have to overpay both in terms of money and prospects. There are no “bargain” 3-4 hitters out there, fellas.

3. He would be a “face of the franchise” player.

I don’t think I’d be going out on a limb suggesting that Stanton jerseys would be everywhere if he became a Cardinal. All of your marketing campaigns would be based on his presence and as an everyday player he has 5-times the drawing power of a pitcher like Carlos Martinez.

If you don’t get a player like this, who is the face of the franchise in three years? A 34 year-old Dexter Fowler? 37 year-old Yadier Molina? Kolten Wong? Stephen Piscotty? Even if Delvin Perez is a future star he’s only going to be 21 by then. Anyone else?

With a huge new TV deal with Fox Sports Midwest it might be nice to have a player who is a draw, both at the box office and on the couch at home watching FSMW.

4. He takes the pressure off everyone else.

Listen to Chris Duncan talk about what Albert Pujols meant to the hitters around him back in his prime. Everyone gets more pitches to hit because everyone has to be careful with the big fella. Now, Stanton is nowhere close to being the all-around offensive threat that Pujols was but as I mentioned above, that guy just isn’t out there. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will be after 2018 but I’m not confident the Cardinals could win bidding wars with the Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, etc. Plus we have no idea if either of those players would rather be here or in a bigger market where off the field opportunities would likely be greater.

Stanton’s mere presence would make the players immediately in front of him – and behind him – instantly better.

5. The move would reaffirm the team’s commitment to putting a top tier product on the field for fans.

Look, this ownership and management group have been phenomenal for fans. The people of St. Louis have been treated to more than 15 years of consistent contention, two World Series titles and some of the best players this legendary franchise has ever seen. I do not think that should go unappreciated.

But…fans are not going to buy tickets in 2018, 2019, 2020 based on the successes of 2006 and 2011.

Bill DeWitt, Jr. is committed to fielding a winning team. I believe that completely. It is in the Cardinals best financial interests to keep the seats full at Busch Stadium. With 2016 having been a dud and 2017 on its way to being even worse, however, the team will need to make a major statement going into 2018 if they’re going to keep the confidence of fans. The diehards won’t be going anywhere but those fringe fans who just want to have fun and go see a win will stay away if the team isn’t a winner. It won’t happen all of a sudden but it will happen, slowly.

So what’s the cost going to be? In a word: painful.

Look at the Cardinals Top 10 Prospects on MLB.com – Alex Reyes RHP, Carson Kelly C, Luke Weaver RHP, Delvin Perez SS, Jack Flaherty RHP, Harrison Bader OF, Sandy Alcantara RHP, Magneuris Sierra OF, Dakota Hudson RHP and Junior Fernandez RHP – and maybe toss Jose Adolis Garcia OF into the mix because, as a Cuban, he may be a local draw down in Miami.

The package will likely start with at least 3-4 of those names. Key word is “start” – the Marlins would probably want cheap Major League help as well.

So let’s go process of elimination.

Since the Marlins need pitching more than anything, let’s assume you have to give them 2-3 from the group of Reyes, Weaver, Flaherty, Alcantara, Hudson and Fernandez. If Reyes was a “must” I’d consider it but I’d probably refuse to give up any other pitchers in that scenario. Otherwise we’re probably talking about Weaver and Flaherty (or Hudson in either of their places) plus one of the two between Fernandez and Alcantara.

The Marlins would also want a dynamic young outfielder. Sierra has more value than Bader so assume Sierra goes.

Then toss in a cheap Major League hitter like Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk or Aledmys Diaz (again, Cuban connection might work and the Marlins could plug him in at 3B if they trade Martin Prado).

So, to sum up…

Weaver or Hudson, Flaherty, Sierra, Alcantara or Fernandez, Pham or Grichuk or Diaz FOR Stanton

Yep, that’s a lot. And it’s also a lot of “control years.” You’re looking at 25-30 years of control for 3 years guaranteed control for Stanton. That’s big-time but it’s also necessary if you’re going to make this kind of move. Look what the Yankees got from the Cubs for Aroldis Chapman last year as he was heading toward free agency (MLB.com’s #2 overall prospect, Gleyber Torres SS)…and look what they got from Cleveland for Andrew Miller (MLB.com’ #17 overall prospect Clint Frazier OF, plus some more). If relievers get those packages don’t we have to assume that an All-Star middle of the order bomber capable of 40-plus HR is going to command more?

Look, I hope not. I hope that there’s no market for Stanton because of the contract and that the Cardinals don’t have to pay through the nose but I’m going to assume otherwise until I have some evidence that might be the case.

Here’s the flaw with that “control years” argument, by the way – the Cardinals have an ENTIRE FARM SYSTEM from which they can replace those “lost” years. See, you cannot possibly have spots for all of your prospects. There isn’t enough room on a 25-man roster. It’s a poor argument for a team to worry about lose “control years” when they have others lined up in the system to take the places of the prospects they’d trade.

Even if you move three of those five pitchers listed above you still have two of them plus Reyes, Marco Gonzales, Austin Gomber, Zac Gallen, Jake Woodford, Jordan Hicks, Connor Jones, Johan Oviedo, etc. Plus they have long term control of Carlos Martinez, Mike Leake and Michael Wacha at the Major League level.

Even if you move Sierra you still have Bader, Garcia, Oscar Mercado, Randy Arozarena, Dylan Carlson, Nick Plummer, Victor Garcia and Jonathan Machado as potential outfielders down the road.

Even if you move Pham or Grichuk you’d still have Stanton, Fowler and Piscotty plus the one of the two you don’t trade. Or even if you trade Diaz you still have Perez, Paul DeJong and Edmundo Sosa as shortstop prospects.

They’d also have all of the draft picks and international signees they can acquire in the coming 3-5 years, which is no small thing.

This is why you build depth. You use it to acquire the most important pieces, the ones you don’t have coming any time soon, so you don’t suffer at the big league level while preserving all the “maybes” you have in the minors.

Whether it’s Stanton or someone else the bottom line remains the same: the Cardinals do not have one of the most critical pieces a Major League team needs to be a consistent contender and they will need to pay the price in blood (prospects) and gold (cash) or continue suffering the consequences on the field and at the turnstiles in the coming years.