Monday, November 26, 2012

Line by Line, Brick by Brick

Giancarlo Stanton
In order for a building to stand without wavering, it must have support from the bottom all the way to the top. Often times when a structure seems unstable, it's time to knock it down and start from scratch. Sometimes that is the most cost effective way to solve the problem. Being able to spot an issue of instability before it comes to the surface can save time, money, and aggravation. The Miami Marlins had a number of motivations behind clearing their team of almost every big contract, even though the team signed 3 of those contracts not one year ago. Sure, some of the motivation is that Marlins owner, Jeffry Loria, wants to continue to collect his revenue sharing checks without paying money to his players in order to gain the largest profit margin possible. To Loria, his team can either profit from the fans that come out to see a winning team, the motivation behind signing Reyes, Buehrle, and Bell last offseason, or through revenue sharing and a minuscule payroll.

While Loria may be stuffing his pockets, while Major League Baseball looks the other way, the Marlins have traded away their best, and most expensive, players before and become winners once again. We've seen this movie, read this script, and know the way it works. (If you want a more detailed description of this process, read this article I wrote here) The Marlins recently traded Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and Jose Reyes to the Blue Jays in exchange for a solid catch of prospects. In lieu of this so-called "mega deal", numerous writers, pundits, and fans expect the Marlins to look into trading Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton is still signed to his Minor League contract, so he's fairly cheap for a player who'se put up over 13 fWAR in his first 3 seasons in the Major Leagues. Oh, and did I mention he's only 23 years old?

Stanton is a true talent. He's the prototypical power hitting, middle of the order, masher who'se mere presence in the lineup can change the entire opposing team's game plan. He is big, fast, strong, and can hit the ball a mile, but he remains a Marlin. The Marlins have no need to trade Stanton because he's inexpensive, and by far their best current Major League player. On the other hand, following the trade between the Marlins and Blue Jays, Stanton remarked that given the fire sale, he wants to leave the Marlins as soon as he can. Basically, unless the Marlins can put a winning product out on the field in the next 2-3 seasons, Stanton won't even consider signing an extension, let alone, re-signing with the team when he becomes a free agent in 2017. From Stanton's point of view, this is not only reasonable, but necessary. Stanton wants to win and make heaps of cash, but due to his current contract, he won't that kind of money for a few years.

In my opinion, since the Marlins hold all of the cards in this situation, I don't see the team trading Stanton unless GM Michael Hill is blown away by the package in return. Since the team is currently rebuilding, Hill would want to receive top level prospects, at least one of whom is close to MLB ready. Any team that could successfully trade for Stanton would receive a player under team control for the next 4 seasons, who, according to PECOTA, is expected to produce an annual output of 4.1 WARP per season. Since 1 WARP is worth about $7 million dollars, any team paying Stanton under $28 million would be getting solid value.

To get a look at just how good Giancarlo Stanton has been, consider these facts. Since 1945 only three players have hit more home runs in seasons they played in which they were 20-22 years old than Stanton. They are Frank Robinson, Eddie Matthews, and Alex Rodriguez. Only 6 players had a higher wRC+ in the same seasons, and only 16 players had a higher total fWAR than Stanton in those seasons. Most impressively, Stanton had the highest isolated power of any player since 1945 in their 20 year old, 21 year old, and 22 year old seasons combined. Isolated power is slugging percentage minus batting average, and it usually peaks around 25 to 26 years old. At 23 years old, it isn't unreasonable to conclude that Stanton's power numbers could increase, and his high strikeout rate will decrease, making him quite the formidable hitter. Overall, the only current player with whom Stanton is similar is the Braves Jason Heyward, another young bright talent.

So far, the teams that have been linked to Stanton are the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, and Chicago Cubs. Each team would likely need to give up its top prospect, as well as 2 others. So, here's what I think these teams would have to give up to procure Stanton from the Marlins.

Yankees: The Yankees traded Jesus Montero to the Mariners, but retain a strong and youthful Minor League system, ripe with a number of top prospects. Mason Williams and Manny Banuelos are probably the top hitting and pitching prospects respectively in the Yankees system. Catcher Gary Sanchez might be their top position player, but Williams should be ready to play in the big leagues before the young backstop. Banuelos is coming off of arm surgery, which drops a team's desire to trade for him, but his talent and productivity this far in the minors still makes him a great pickup. Even trading Williams and Banuelos wouldn't get the Marlins to give up Stanton, the Yankees would most likely have to add in a third prospect like Adam Warren, a solid pitching talent who has already thrown a few pitched in the Majors. If the Marlins asked for Brett Gardner, I'm sure the Yankees would have to think twice, but might trade Gardner too. The acquisition of Stanton would give the Yankees incredible meat in their order, and might give them offensive firepower equivalent, if not better than the Angels, Tigers, or Rangers. I'd ballpark the chances the Yankees have of acquiring Stanton at 1:25.

Red Sox: The Red Sox, like the Marlins are rebuilding, but in a different way. The Red Sox are willing to spend money, are always looking to win, and would love to solidify the middle of their order for years to come by trading for Giancarlo Stanton. If the Red Sox were to lose some top prospects, the team could fill those spots via free agency, or look towards winning in the near future rather than the distant one. The Sox system has some talent, especially after trading away some big contracts to the Dodgers in exchange for mostly prospects. A reasonable trade for Stanton would have to include Matt Barnes, Jackie Bradley, and Ruby De La Rosa, if not more. The only reason I'm not putting Xander Bogaerts, the Red Sox top prospect, in the deal is that the Marlins just received a top middle infield prospect in Adeiny Hechavarria from the Blue Jays, which makes Bogaerts less valuable. Even a package like the one I'm proposing might not be enough to sway the Marlins, but those three players could all become above average to dynamic MLB players. I would give the Red Sox 1:30 odds of landing Stanton.

Baltimore Orioles: This situation is vastly different from the first two. The Orioles have recently become viable in the AL East, want to continue that competitiveness, but count on their young players to help, making it more difficult to part with them. For example, the O's brought up top hitting prospect Manny Machado towards the end of 2012 to fill in at third base even though many thought Machado wouldn't be ready for another year. The Orioles currently have the top-pitching prospect in all of Minor League Baseball, Dylan Bundy. His stock will probably never be higher than it is now, but the Orioles would rather bring him up to become the ace of their rotation for the future than trade him. On the other hand, the O's won more than 90 games last season with a mediocre pitching staff, and adding Stanton would give them the power bat they so desperately need in their order. A package of Dylan Bundy and Jason Espisito might coax Miami into moving Stanton, but if the Orioles aren't willing to give up Bundy, they could also offer Jon Schoop, Kevin Gausman, LJ Hoes, and Bobby Bundy, but I doubt even that package would pry Stanton from Miami. If the Orioles are willing to trade Bundy their odds are good, 1:10, but if not, I'd say 1:60 they can acquire Giancarlo.

Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies used their top prospects a few years ago to obtain Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee (the first time), Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence, so their farm system is somewhat depleted. On the other hand, the Phillies have the potential to put together an enticing enough package. Stanton would give the Phillies a power right-handed bat in their small park at a small cost. Stanton plus the Phillies pitching staff could put the Phillies in a good position to win another championship. The Phillies have two ways of compiling the necessary goods to get Stanton. One possible trade would be top pitching prospects Trevor May and Jessie Biddle along with outfielder Zach Collier. Neither Biddle nor May are #1 starter material, but both have #2 potential, while Collier is a young, talented, but inexperienced outfielder who has the potential to be a 20 home run, 20 stolen base type player. Another option would be to trade Domonic Brown along with Trevor May and Austin Hyatt. The Phillies don't have the flashy, toolsy, top level prospect the Marlins would be looking for, but could fill out Miami's pitching prospects, a valuable commodity. I'd make their odds of landing Stanton 1:40.

Chicago Cubs: The Cubs are a team unlike any of those that I've already mentioned. This is a team that is also in complete rebuilding mode. Acquiring Stanton would be a nice coup, would secure sell outs at Wrigley, and might even get the Cubs closer to contending in the NL Central than the team is right now. Since many of the players the Marlins might want already play in the Majors, the Cubs do have more to lose than the O's, Yankees, Red Sox, or Phillies, but shouldn't be considered out of the running. A package deal of Brett Jackson, Jeff Samardzija, and Matt Zczur could do the trick. Jackson is ready to play right now, has shown he can hit MLB pitching, and could fill Stanton's spot in the Marlins order. Samardzija is already a very good MLB pitcher with the sky as his limit. He's also only 27 years old. The only players I could see Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer holding onto no matter what would be recently signed Cuban outfielder Jorge Solar and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, everyone else is on the table. Chances the Cubs get Stanton: 1:30.

Overall, I don't think the Marlins are going to trade Giancarlo Stanton this offseason, but given their recent moves, nothing is impossible when it comes to the fish. A dark horse candidate for acquiring Stanton could be the Tampa Bay Rays, given their amount of young pitching, but add in the recent contract extension given to Evan Longoria with Stanton's incoming arbitration eligibility, and the Rays might not be able to afford the right fielder. Also, don't count out the Rangers or Pirates. Stanton has a legitimate reason for requesting a one-way ticket out of Miami, but he's not in a great bargaining position. On the other hand, the Marlins could complete their rebuilding process by trading Stanton and acquiring 3-4 more prospects. One thing is for sure, never say never when dealing with the Marlins.

No comments:

Post a Comment