Does anybody else get the feeling that the New York Yankees are being too quiet this offseason?
Me too, and I don't trust it. The Yankees being quiet during the offseason is sort of like an electric guitar being quiet in a garage. Sooner or later, that thing is going to go off and the neighbors are going to be none too happy about it.
Case in point, remember that time the Yankees were laying low and then traded for Michael Pineda and signed Hiroki Kuroda within a matter of hours? Remember that other time a few years back when they traded for Alex Rodriguez after it looked like the Boston Red Sox were going to trade for him?
Yeah, Brian Cashman is a crafty one. And though he hasn't given any hints as to what he might be up to this winter, you just know that he has a master plan in mind.
Maybe Cashman's master plan involves trading Curtis Granderson and then turning around and trading for Giancarlo Stanton. And then a guitar solo. Probably.
"Whoa there," says you. "Now hang on just a minute. Where are you getting this idea from?"
The notion that the Yankees may trade Granderson this offseason is really nothing new. For example, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News was speculating as far back as August that the Yankees could trade Granderson after picking up his $15 million option, which they eventually did.
Much more recently, ESPN's Buster Olney got in on the fun. Olney has heard from a team official that this year's free-agent outfielders are asking for a ton of money. And seeing as how most of them—from Josh Hamilton to Michael Bourn to Nick Swisher to Angel Pagan—come with significant risk attached to their names, it's possible that teams will look for lower-risk options on the trade market instead.
If so, Olney thinks this is where the idea of the Yankees trading Granderson could transform from a mere pipe dream into a plausible eventuality. He's an option for any club looking for a one-year stopgap option in center field who also happens to have 40-homer power.
In fact, Granderson is basically the only player in baseball who fits that particular bill. The Yankees thus have a decidedly unique trade chip on their hands, which is always good.
However, Olney's speculation is not ironclad. While the Yankees certainly could trade Granderson, they may be better off just holding on to him because his trade value isn't really all that high these days.
Granderson's $15 million salary for 2013 isn't all that attractive, and it doesn't help that he's coming off a season that was largely disappointing. He did hit a career-high 43 home runs, but his OPS dropped over 100 points from where it was in 2011, and he was among the league leaders in strikeouts.
In addition, Granderson had a poor season defensively. Per FanGraphs, he finished dead-last among qualified center fielders in UZR. Some argue that UZR is an imperfect measurement of defensive skill, but methinks the Yankees wouldn't be considering moving Granderson to left field if they were confident in his skills as a center fielder.
Granderson's salary and shortcomings as a player aren't the only reasons the market for his services may not be all that strong. This year's free agents may want a lot of money, but there's no denying that the market is rich with centerfielders. The supply more than meets the demand, which makes it hard to imagine a team being desperate enough to give up a top prospect to land Granderson for one year.
Even still, this is an idea that I'll stop well short of ruling out completely. I'm definitely listening to offers for Granderson if I'm Cashman, and I'm not hanging up on any team that offers a top prospect so long as I'm willing to pick up part of Granderson's tab. If a team is willing to take his salary and willing to give up a top prospect, I'm drawing up the paperwork before the guy on the other end changes his mind.
However, Cashman certainly wouldn't be able to stand pat with his outfield if he were to trade Granderson. The Yankees would be out a powerful bat, so it stands to reason Cashman would immediately start hunting down a replacement.
This is where Stanton finally enters the equation.
Through a series of trades that started in July and culminated with last week's mega-deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Miami Marlins have decimated their roster. And since the Marlins don't even have a World Series title to show for their troubles in 2012 this time, people are more ticked off at them for going into fire sale mode than usual.
However, all signs point towards them not trading Stanton. He's really the only star they have left, and he's a very good one at that. Even better, he's still very cheap.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post said the Marlins didn't even float Stanton as a possibility at the GM meetings:
Every outside exec spoken to doesn't think #Marlins will trade Stanton. 2 said Mia said all availables at GM Meetings, Stanton not on list— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) November 14, 2012
More recently, Joe Frisario of MLB.com came out and said that Stanton is pretty much "untouchable" at this juncture. They want to keep him. And in all honesty, they probably need to keep him if they expect to have any hope of putting butts in seats.
Frisario noted that no discussions are taking place regarding a long-term extension for Stanton. And from the sound of things, he's probably not all that interested in sticking around in Miami for any longer than he absolutely has to.
"I do not like this at all," Stanton said. "This is the 'winning philosophy?' Then to say it's not about money? What is the motivation? There comes a breaking point. I know how I feel. I can't imagine how the city and the fans feel."
At this point, sources (in my head) say that Stanton started turning green and that his shirt started to rip. The room grew dark and ominous music started playing.
And then he continued:
They talked about that, a winning philosophy, and how they were building a winner to play in the new ballpark. They talked about me and Jose. They talked about how they'd have Jose and [Emilio Bonifacio] and Hanley [Ramirez] in front of me and how they would go get a bat to protect me.
Jose, Bonifacio, Hanley ... all three are gone now. I had people warn me that something like this could happen, but it runs against the competitive nature every athlete has, that nature that everything is about winning. This kind of thing is what gets talked about all the time around this team. Former Marlins come back and they warn us. It gets talked about during the stretch, in the clubhouse, after games, on the road. Again, I do not like this at all.
At this point, Stanton's transformation into a green monstrosity was completed, and he was last seen tearing downtown Miami to pieces. His whereabouts are still unknown.
Stanton will resurface again at some point. And when he does, everyone and their uncle expects him to march right into Jeffrey Loria's office and demand to be traded. It's what any reasonable (see "super-angry" and "super-disillusioned") person would do in his shoes.
If Stanton does ask to be traded, he'll have some leverage. He'll be able to state very clearly that he is not going to sign an extension to stay with the Marlins, and he'll be able to point out that he's not going to be cheap for much longer with arbitration just around the corner. The only way for his $480,000 2012 salary to go is up.
The fact that Stanton is cheap is half the reason the Marlins are holding on to him. The other half of their reasoning consists of how much they need Stanton's star power with their roster stripped to the bone, as well as the fact that Stanton is still going to be in his prime when the club is ready to contend again in a few years.
But trading Stanton would allow the Marlins to augment their rebuild by bringing in a huge package of prospects, and it would ensure that no single player would be making a ton of money a few years down the road when the Marlins are a young team looking to do some damage. Trading Stanton may be the only way for Loria to guarantee that he'll have a dirt-cheap payroll on his hands for years to come.
We've already assumed that the Yankees trading Granderson is a legit possibility for this little exercise. Now, let's go ahead and assume that the Marlins trading Stanton is a legit possibility as well.
If one thing leads to another thing in this case, you better believe that Cashman would call the Marlins about Stanton. Stanton would be a more than perfect solution for the club's need in right field, and he'd be well worth giving up a boatload of prospects for.
The prospect the Yankees will have gotten in our theoretical Granderson trade could be the centerpiece of the trade, and the Yankees could round out the trade with several of the high-ceiling youngsters they already have. And given Stanton's youth, his already-impressive career numbers and his explosive potential, I'm marking none of my youngsters as untouchable if I'm Cashman.
That means I'm willing to give up Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Ty Hensley, Dante Bichette, Jr. and my own first-born son if that's what it takes to land Stanton.
This is indeed a rare case where no price is too high to pay. Stanton just turned 23 years old earlier this month, and he already has 93 home runs and a career OPS of .903 in three seasons. Per FanGraphs, he also rates as an above-average right fielder as far as the advanced metrics are concerned, with a strong arm to boot.
In Stanton, we're talking about a player with perennial MVP potential who still has room to get better. That's a very, very scary thought.
Just as important for the Yankees is the fact that Stanton wouldn't impact their payroll plans in a major way. Arbitration is going to make him expensive for the Marlins, but not so much for the Yankees. Best of all, he's due to hit free agency in 2017 after Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez will have seen their contracts expire. If the Yankees were to trade for Stanton, he could therefore be suiting up in pinstripes for a loooooooooooong time.
I'm assuming this sounds good to you Yankees fans out there. Indeed, who wouldn't want to see their favorite team trade for Stanton? The price would be astronomically high in this case, but the potential payoff is enough to justify it.
The big question you may have at this point is why the Yankees would have to trade Granderson before trading for Stanton. Why not keep Granderson and have Stanton play alongside him in 2013 before waving goodbye to him?
For one, trading Granderson could conceivably allow the Yankees to slash $15 million off their payroll for the 2013 season, which would give them greater financial flexibility in regards to the holes on their roster that they need to fill with free agents.
Two, we're operating under the assumption that somebody would give up a worthwhile prospect for Granderson, and said worthwhile prospect could be needed in order to swing a deal for Stanton. Ideally, he'd be a major league-ready prospect, something that happens to be in short supply in the Yankees' farm system at the moment.
Three, this is a case where the Yankees have to weigh what they really stand to gain from Granderson in the end. Even if they hold on to him for the 2013 season, it seems unlikely that they'll sign him to an extension due to his unreliability and their strict payroll plans for the 2014 season and beyond. They'll probably just end up giving him a qualifying offer and then collecting a draft pick when he signs elsewhere.
If so, the choice is between collecting a draft pick or trading Granderson for a prospect who the Yankees know is good right now. That doesn't sound like such a bad idea in and of itself, and a Granderson trade would become an utterly brilliant idea if Cashman were to turn around and trade for Stanton.
For one thing to lead to another, Cashman would surely have to traverse a long, winding road full of plenty of phone calls, all-nighters at the office and a whole bunch of potential pitfalls. As far as master plans go, trading for Stanton via a trade of Granderson wouldn't exactly be the simplest endeavor.
Then again, nobody ever said that all master plans have to be simple in order to work.
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