Finding a New Home for Giancarlo Stanton
The Miami Marlins are reportedly shopping Giancarlo Stanton, Major League Baseball's home run king, in an effort to bring down their payroll. Despite the fact Stanton is an MVP candidate and coming off a career-high 59 home runs this season, Miami is ready to move the young slugger, thanks mainly to a contract that is the most expensive in baseball.
His 13-year, $325-million deal has 10 more years left on it at a cost of $295 million, with a player opt-out after the 2020 season. It is a lot for a Marlins team that averaged 28th out of 30 MLB teams in terms of attendance last season, and new team president Derek Jeter wants to slash the team's payroll from $115 million to $55 million in 2018.
One of the quickest ways to do that is by trading the most expensive player on the planet, even if he is the best home run hitter in the game. And according to reports, four teams have emerged as the most obvious suitors at the moment, the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.
Stanton would undoubtedly make each team's offense that much better, but which squad is the best fit?
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have a glaring need for a big-time power threat in the middle of their lineup. Last year they hit 196 home runs, 18th in baseball. They were 18th in isolated power (.170) and 17th in slugging percentage (.426). The Cardinals did have five players hit more than 20 dingers last year (Paul DeJong, 25; Thomas Pham, 23; Matt Carpenter, 23; Randal Grichuk, 22; Jedd Gyorko, 20), but no one came close to 30. A big bopper like Stanton in the middle of that lineup would make the Cards one of the better offenses in the National League.
In 19 career games at Busch Stadium, Stanton has hit well there in his career, posting a .282 batting average, .346 on-base percentage, and .535 slugging percentage, with 4 home runs and an .881 slugging percentage. As of now, the Cardinals have a 2018 payroll of around $107 million, which gives them enough flexibility to absorb his contract. They also have a decent farm system from which the Marlins could restock their own.
San Francisco Giants
This is a tougher fit if Miami wants good prospects in return for their slugger. The Giants don't have high-end talent in their farm system, and their payroll for 2018 is already close to $167 million, so it would be a squeeze to get Stanton on the roster. Nevertheless, San Francisco is in perpetual go-for-it mode with Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner still in their primes. And Stanton has always hit well in San Francisco, recording a slash line of .306/.372/.676 with 9 home runs in 27 career games there.
Last year, the Giants scored the second-fewest runs in the majors (only the San Diego Padres scored fewer) and were dead last in home runs with 128 (the next closest team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, had 151). Not a single player on the roster reached 20 dingers, which is crazy given MLB set a new single-season home run record in 2017. If the Giants want to return to contention, they desperately need someone like Stanton in the middle of their lineup.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are always on lists like this for three reasons: they usually have money to burn, they usually have pretty good prospects or young players to deal, and they are always looking to make a big splash. Team president Dave Dombrowski has no fear of moving prospects in return for veteran stars, and deals don't get any bigger than for players like Stanton. As of now, Boston is committed to $146 million in payroll for next season, so they have room to add Stanton if they so choose. Stanton has played only three games in his career at Fenway park, but he is 3-for-9 in those three games.
Despite making the postseason last year with a lineup featuring young stars like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, the offense underachieved last season. They hit the fourth-fewest homers and had the fifth-lowest slugging percentage, despite finishing 10th in runs scored. One should expect bounce back seasons -- to a degree -- for Betts, Bogaerts and Bradley, but the team missed David Ortiz's power bat in the middle of the lineup and could look to add Stanton as his replacement.
The Phils' inclusion makes a lot of sense. They have the payroll space to add three Stanton contracts, with just $6.35 million on the books for 2018 at the moment (according to Spotrac), and they have one of the best farm systems in baseball. They also have young talent at the Major League level, including young outfielders like Nick Williams, Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr who they could use in a potential Stanton deal.
The Phillies also did not light it up offensively last season. Things improved after Rhys Hoskins joined the team in mid-August, but overall the Phils hit the fifth-fewest home runs, scored the fourth-fewest runs and had the sixth-lowest slugging percentage in baseball. Adding Stanton into the middle of a lineup featuring at least two of those outfielders, Hoskins, Jorge Alfaro, J.P. Crawford and Maikel Franco would drastically change the dynamic of a young and improving Phillies team.
Stanton has played more games in Philadelphia (52) than in the three locations above and has surprisingly struggled in the Phillies' home ballpark. He has a career .224/.310/.443 slash line with just 12 homers, a low total given that ballpark's homer-friendly history.
Complicating a Stanton trade for all four teams is that he has a full no-trade clause, which could be the biggest stumbling block to Philadelphia landing his services. And the opt-out clause after three seasons could be a headache. Contending teams like the Cardinals, Giants or Red Sox would be fine with it, but a team like the Phils might not, given their window for contention hasn't really opened yet. And Miami must decide what's most important, receiving prospects or getting financial relief.
Regardless, a Stanton deal seems likely this winter, and the teams above appear to be four of the most logical landing spots for baseball's home run king.