10 Reasons Giancarlo Stanton-to-Rays Deal Makes Perfect Sense for Both Sides
It just wouldn't be Hot Stove season without a little outlandish trade speculation.
Isn't that right, David Schoenfield of ESPN.com?
While everyone was busy shopping and scarfing down Thanksgiving leftovers this past Friday, Schoenfield was putting together a list of blockbuster trades that could go down this offseason. Among them, he envisioned Cliff Lee going to the Texas Rangers, Justin Upton and Shin-Soo Choo going to the Seattle Mariners and Giancarlo Stanton going to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The trade ideas that Schoenfield came up with come off as being more than a little far-fetched, and you get the sense that he may have put together the list with his tongue partially (or maybe even firmly) in his cheek.
However, Schoenfield may just be onto something with his trade proposal that calls for Stanton to go to the Rays. In it, the Rays would also get first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison, and the Miami Marlins would get outfielder Desmond Jennings, right-handers Wade Davis and Chris Archer and minor leaguers Enny Romero and Drew Vettleson.
It would be a big trade, to be sure. A real earth-shaker.
But it's also a trade that could actually happen. Here's why.
There's Little Chance of the Marlins Keeping Stanton Long-Term
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OK, first things first: Why on Earth should the Marlins trade Giancarlo Stanton at this point in time?
In a nutshell: Because the demand for him is sky-high and they don't have much hope of keeping him for the foreseeable future.
Stanton isn't due to hit free agency until after the 2016 season, but he doesn't sound like he's willing to stay with the Marlins any longer than he absolutely has to. He didn't hide his frustration when the Marlins traded several of their best players to the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this month, taking to Twitter to say he was "pissed off."
Soon after that, he voiced his frustration in more detail to Peter Gammons for an MLB.com piece, saying:
I do not like this at all. 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.
Stanton could lighten up between now and free agency, but it sounds like the Marlins are going to have to be a winning team in order for him to do so. Even if (and it's a big if) the Marlins are a winning team a few years down the line, Stanton could be too expensive for them to re-sign by the time they're ready to get down to it.
Instead of running the risk of trying to extend Stanton later, what the Marlins should do is trade him now while he's still a year away from arbitration eligibility. Along with his youth and his off-the-charts talent, Stanton's years of controllability represent a pretty big reason why his trade value is so incredibly high right now.
Trading him while the market is begging for him to be traded is in the Marlins' favor.
Rays Need as Much Offense as They Can Get
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The Rays did not have a scary offense in 2012. They had a slash line of just .240/.317/.394 as a team, and they finished 18th in MLB in runs scored.
Their offense was even less scary when Evan Longoria wasn't in it. He missed much of the season with a hamstring injury, and the Rays had nobody in their lineup to pick up the slack while he was gone. Per the club's official site, the Rays' runs per game output dropped by nearly a full run when Longo was off the active roster.
To make matters worse, the Rays stand to lose B.J. Upton to free agency this winter. His production tends to come and go, but it's going to be hard for the Rays to replace the 28 homers and 31 stolen bases he contributed in 2012.
Adding Stanton, however, would change everything.
If the Rays add Stanton, they'll be adding a hitter who led all of baseball with a .608 slugging percentage in 2012. He and Longoria would make for a killer middle-of-the-lineup duo, and Stanton's presence would make any injuries to Longo much easier to overcome.
Plus, let's not forget this is the AL East we're talking about. The Blue Jays now have one of the deepest lineups in all of baseball, the Yankees are always going to have the personnel to match, the Orioles have a lineup with plenty of thump, and the Red Sox could have a quality lineup of their own by the time they're done shopping this winter.
If the Rays add Stanton, their offense will suddenly look much more at home in the AL East.
It's Conceivable That the Rays Could Keep Stanton Long-Term
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If any team manages to trade for Stanton this winter, finding a way to keep him around long-term will become an immediate priority.
For the Rays, locking Stanton up wouldn't be too tall of a task. After all, locking up young players is something of a house specialty in Tampa Bay.
We saw the Rays lock up Longoria for the foreseeable future with a cleverly arranged contract extension when he was a rookie back in 2008, and they locked him up for at least another decade with a second surprise extension on Monday (per MLB.com).
Andrew Friedman has also worked his magic on James Shields, Ben Zobrist, Wade Davis and young lefty Matt Moore. He just has a knack for conjuring up contracts that are both team-friendly and appealing to the players they're presented to. That's not a simple trick to pull off.
Because Stanton could become one of the highest-paid players in the game if he just waits for free agency to come around, it would take something very clever to get him to commit to the Rays for the long run.
If there's one person who can put together the kind of proposal needed to get the job done, it's Friedman. He could put down some numbers that will make Stanton want to forego arbitration, add a signing bonus and some options, top it off with a little whipped cream and let that be that.
The key year would be 2016. That's Stanton's walk year, and it also happens to be the year before Longoria's new extension kicks in. In all likelihood, Friedman would have to commit more dollars to Stanton beyond the year 2016 than he committed to Longoria to get him to stay.
That would be tough, but Friedman will have some national TV money to play with. And because the Rays' own TV contract is set to expire in 2016, it's probable that he'll have some local TV money to play with as well.
There wouldn't be a whole lot of simple math involved, but something could get done.
Rays Need a Quality First Baseman
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In the trade Schoenfield dreamed up, Logan Morrison comes off as being a mere throw-in.
But from the perspective of the Rays, he'd be more than just a throw-in. They could very much use Morrison's bat in their lineup.
For one, the Rays are rather short on options at first base at the moment. Carlos Pena, Jeff Keppinger and Luke Scott all saw time at first base in 2012, and all three of them happen to be free agents this winter.
The Rays could re-up with any of the three for cheap, but they won't pass up a chance to upgrade seeing as how their first basemen managed a mere .683 OPS in 2012.
Morrison was limited to 93 games by injuries, but his .707 OPS would have been a welcome sight in the Rays lineup this past season. His ceiling is considerably higher than that, as he has a .781 OPS for his career, and he posted an OPS just south of .800 in 123 games in 2011.
Morrison could also end up being a defensive upgrade for the Rays at first base. Though he's spent the bulk of his short major league career in left field, first base is his natural position, and he plays it pretty well. Per FanGraphs, Morrison posted a 17.9 UZR/150 and a plus-four Defensive Runs Saved at first base in 155.2 innings in 2012.
And before anyone asks, I'm sure Morrison's personality would fit just fine in Tampa Bay's clubhouse. Joe Maddon runs a tight ship, but he manages to do so while making sure everyone has fun. Morrison wouldn't be a problem for him.
Marlins Need a Quality Center Fielder
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The Marlins had a lot of problems in 2012. One that existed from the very first day of the season was their lack of an impact center fielder.
Emilio Bonifacio started the season in center field, but he was basically playing out of position and then got hurt. Ozzie Guillen had a revolving door of players out in center field the rest of the way.
This is where Desmond Jennings becomes a fairly major part of Schoenfield's proposed trade.
Jennings played primarily in left field in 2012, but he's a center fielder by trade. He played center in the minors, and he displayed the range and instincts of a center fielder while playing left field this season. He was among the leading left fielders in both UZR and DRS, according to FanGraphs.
Center field defense was one of Miami's biggest problems this past season. Per FanGraphs, Marlins center fielders rated as the worst in the National League and second worst in all of baseball.
The Marlins' rebuilding effort currently has the look of a pitching-oriented affair, in which case they're going to need good defense in order to keep from embarrassing themselves too much. That's an area where Jennings can help.
Oh, by the way, he's also got some potential in his bat. Jennings has work to do to improve his plate discipline, but he managed to hit 13 home runs and steal 31 bases in 2012 despite his inconsistency at the plate and a series of injuries that limited him to 132 games.
If Jennings continues to evolve as a player, he'll eventually become an impact defender in center field with power at the plate and speed on the basepaths. The Marlins are one of many teams that would love to have a player like that.
Jennings Has More Controllability Than Stanton and Will Probably Be Cheaper
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Despite his high potential, Jennings would certainly not be an ample replacement for Stanton in the Marlins outfield. He'd provide good defense and quality production at the plate, but Stanton's a pretty good defender in his own right, and he's already one of the game's elite power hitters.
The trade-off in swapping Stanton out for Jennings is that the Marlins would stand to save some money in the long run.
For starters, Jennings isn't eligible for arbitration until 2015, and he doesn't hit free agency until 2018. He thus has an extra year of controllability on Stanton.
Plus, Jennings is all but certain to be cheaper than Stanton in the long run. Stanton has the look of a player who could command an annual salary worth at least $25 million on the free-agent market if he ever hits it. Jennings' own ceiling doesn't appear now to be anywhere near that stratosphere.
This is a notion that should appeal to the Marlins. They gave big spending a shot in 2012, but now it looks like they're going to go back to building contenders on a budget again. When they're finally ready to contend a few years down the line, you can rest assured that they'll still be one of baseball's cheaper teams.
This will likely be the case even if they hold on to Stanton, but the arbitration process will ultimately force the Marlins into paying him a salary pretty monstrous compared to the one he's earning now. Thus, the Marlins are going to have a small payroll wrapped around one huge salary a few years down the line if they keep Stanton.
It will be a different story if Stanton is swapped out for Jennings. Jennings won't be working for pennies a few years from now, but he's presumably going to be making far less than Stanton, leaving the Marlins with more payroll flexibility than they otherwise would have had.
They could use that flexibility to sign free agents, or they could just choose to stay cheap. Either way would be fine with them.
Marlins Need Major League-Ready Arms
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Desmond Jennings would be a star attraction for the Marlins in the trade proposed by Schoenfield, but he obviously wouldn't be the only star attraction. Wade Davis and Chris Archer would also be appealing due to the simple fact that they're hurlers the Marlins could use right away.
Davis spent 2012 toiling away in the Rays bullpen, but he's a starter by trade. The results weren't great, but he started a total of 58 games for the Rays in 2010 and 2011.
A move to the National League could be just what Davis needs to develop into more than just a fringe major league starter. He has a 3.09 ERA in interleague play for his career and has held NL hitters to a .675 OPS.
Archer doesn't have Davis' experience, but he does come highly regarded. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com has Archer ranked as the Rays' third-best prospect, noting that he has the "pure stuff to be a frontline starter."
The Marlins don't have any frontline starters now that Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle are members of the Blue Jays.
For that matter, their rotation is currently a patchwork affair featuring Ricky Nolasco, Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, Jacob Turner and Wade LeBlanc. Nolasco isn't likely to be with the club much longer, as he's on record saying that he's probably next up to be traded this winter.
If this big trade goes through, Davis and Archer could be inserted into Miami's rotation right away. They'd also have the option of using Davis as a reliever, perhaps as their new closer in place of Heath Bell.
Either way, they'd be getting two arms they could use right away, and they could control these arms for the foreseeable future. Davis has a deal that runs through 2017 with options, and Archer is a long, long way away from free agency.
Rays Can Afford To Part with Davis and Archer
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Davis and Archer would not be insignificant additions for the Marlins. On the flip side, they'd be insignificant losses for the Rays.
The Rays are always rich in pitching, and they seem to have more pitching than usual these days. They have an elite ace in David Price locked into their rotation, and he's joined by James Shields, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb and Jeff Niemann.
If this group stays together this winter, Davis and Archer are essentially on the outside looking in. The Rays can either live and be happy with their depth, or they can part with some of it in a trade designed to boost their offense.
To be sure, trading arms for bats does seem to have a way of backfiring, as pitching depth is something that can go away in a hurry and is not so easily found again.
But there are times when you have to take risks, and the fact is that the Rays wouldn't really be taking much of a risk if they were to find a way to land Stanton without giving up any of the pitchers they have locked into their 2013 rotation.
If anything, the real question is whether Bud Selig would step in and make the Rays surrender Moore or Hellickson in order for the trade to be approved.
Big Picture for Marlins: Their Foundation for the Future Gets Stronger
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If the Marlins agree to trade Stanton this winter, team owner Jeffrey Loria's popularity isn't going to increase even if the Marlins are getting young clones of Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams in exchange for their young slugger. On the contrary, people would view the Marlins as more of a joke than they already do.
But there is a method to the Marlins' apparent madness. The deal they made with the Blue Jays was a pretty good baseball trade, and it was also good for business. They got rid of a couple of contracts that they had no guarantee they'd be able to afford in the long run.
The Marlins may be in rebuilding mode now, but at least they're rebuilding for cheap and with some decent young players. They're probably going to be painful to watch for a couple years, but at least they'll have a clear goal in mind.
Trading Stanton could help get them where they want to be much faster. They'd be getting a couple of players they could use right away in Jennings, Davis and Archer, and their farm system would be getting a boost with the additions of Enny Romero and Drew Vettleson. They're two of Tampa Bay's better prospects.
The trade wouldn't pay off in the form of a few extra wins in 2013, but who's expecting the Marlins to win many games in 2013 even if they retain Stanton? If he isn't traded, he's going to be a really good player on a really bad team for at least a couple of years, and his price is only going to go up and his trade value may only go down.
The question is whether it's better for the Marlins to rebuild with Stanton or without him. Provided they get the right mix of players—such as Schoenfield's theoretical package of players—it's better for them to do it without him.
Big Picture for the Rays: They Become an Even Bigger World Series Threat
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Regardless of what the Rays do to round out their lineup this winter, they will be a World Series contender in 2013 so long as they keep their starting rotation together. It was the best in baseball (ERA-wise, anyway) in 2012, and it could be the best in baseball once again next season.
But if they keep their rotation intact while also adding Stanton and Morrison to their lineup, man...
There's no question whatsoever that Stanton and Morrison would make the Rays a more dangerous team than they currently are or ever were at any point in the 2012 season. They'd still have the top pitching staff in the AL East, and they'd finally have a lineup that opposing pitchers would have to tread carefully against.
The Rays won 90 games in 2012 with a mediocre offense that was missing its brightest star for much of the season. With a healthy Longo penciled into their lineup alongside Stanton and Morrison, the bar for the Rays would be set at 95 wins. And the smart money would be on the over.
The scary part, though, is that this version of the Rays most likely wouldn't be a one-year thing. Their new toys would probably be sticking around for a long while.
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