Giancarlo Stanton is the last star standing in Miami.
The Marlins weren't an offseason winner. Fans, reporters and analysts aren't anticipating them competing in the NL East.
No one wants to be the last guy stuck at a party after his friends have left. That's not to say that Stanton was best buds with Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio. Maybe he was, but we don't know.
But those players are going to have fun (i.e. contend for the postseason) elsewhere, while Stanton won't. He's the last star standing in Miami, with virtually every other position filled by a veteran stopgap or unproven prospect.
Can the Marlins do anything to convince Stanton that they're building a team he'll want to stay with, not one he'll flee as soon as he becomes a free agent after the 2016 season?
Realistically, however, the Marlins will probably try to trade Stanton at some point during his four years of arbitration eligibility.
Being under club control adds to his value, allowing Miami to ask for more in return. Plus, the Marlins surely don't want to keep paying the yearly salary that will annually escalate for Stanton if he continues his current rate of production.
Alright, I'm pissed off!!! Plain & Simple— Giancarlo Stanton (@Giancarlo818) November 13, 2012
The Marlins could try to sign Stanton to a long-term contract extension, one that would buy out his arbitration years—and perhaps one or two years of free agency—and control costs. As the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman reported, the San Francisco Giants are preparing to take such an approach with National League MVP Buster Posey.
But really, what are the chances of Stanton committing to a multi-year deal with the Marlins? Ownership has already alienated him by selling off the high-priced veteran talent that was supposed to lead the team to the playoffs.
Obviously, the Marlins and owner Jeffrey Loria could try to change Stanton's view of the franchise by offering him a superstar, face-of-the-franchise kind of contract.
But Loria isn't interested in paying that kind of money. He hasn't done so during the nearly 12 years he's owned the Marlins. Why would he do so now—especially if the team isn't going to win anytime soon?
The Marlins could preach patience to Stanton, asking him to have faith that players like Adeiny Hechavarria—a shortstop acquired from Toronto—will develop into big league contributors.
Top prospects such as pitcher Jose Fernandez and outfielder Christian Yelich are perhaps two years away from a call-up to the majors. Jake Marisnick—who also came over from the Blue Jays—could be in Miami even sooner.
Miami could also consider trading away some of its top prospects to bring in more established players that might help the team's chances of contending in the NL East.
What if the Marlins made a play for Justin Upton? How about trying for one of the San Diego Padres' third basemen, Chase Headley or Jedd Gyorko?
Of course, the Marlins could try something really crazy and out of the box like signing free agents who could actually fill key positions for them. We're talking about impact free agents, not bringing in Placido Polanco to play third base and Juan Pierre to man left field. Those are duct-tape signings.
Miami could go bigger. Michael Bourn would certainly help the Marlins in center field and at the leadoff spot. Kyle Lohse or Shaun Marcum could provide a veteran pitcher for the starting rotation.
The Marlins could even sign Bourn or Lohse (who were given qualifying offers by their previous teams) without losing their first-round draft pick, since they have the sixth overall pick and the top 10 selections are protected.
Miami probably wouldn't want to lose its second-round pick either, but at least the penalty for signing either of those players would be less harsh.
However, that's just not how the Marlins do business. They tried it the other way—the large-market way—for one year and decided that waving loads of cash at top free-agent talent didn't work for them.
Besides, would either Bourn or Lohse make a difference in terms of the Marlins competing with the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves or Philadelphia Phillies? Maybe they'd help stay ahead of the New York Mets and out of last place in the NL East. But that's not enough of a payoff for Loria to take another plunge into free agency.
How far are the Marlins truly willing to go to persuade Stanton that the next four years won't be miserable from a win-loss standpoint? There's no such thing as a cornerstone player in Miami because no one's been around long enough to establish a foundation.
That doesn't figure to change with Stanton, though he is certainly a young star that a team could be built around.
Ultimately, he's worth more to the Marlins for what he'll yield in a trade than what he does on the field. Some team—whether it's the Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves or another club—will take a shot at trading for Stanton, knowing it can have him for at least three years and perhaps sign him to an extension.
Stanton's titanic power gives MLB fans a reason to watch the Marlins play and that's probably good enough for ownership at this point.
In the meantime, Stanton will just have to focus on putting up the best numbers he can and making himself more marketable to any team interested in dealing for him. What other choice does he have?
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