MLB Teams with Prospects to Lure Marlins into Giancarlo Stanton Blockbuster
As a trade rumor, it's been speculated about longer than just about all others, and now that the Miami Marlins' hopes to be surprise contenders in 2014 have been all but torn apart along with the right elbow of ace Jose Fernandez, well, it's about time to at least reconsider the possibility that Giancarlo Stanton could be traded in the near future.
This isn't to say there's been much in the way of reports or developments on this front, but the idea of swapping Stanton is always a popular one given his equally immense talent and potential. Throw in what Stanton has done so far this year in dominating to the tune of .305/.400/.588 with 12 homers and an MLB-high 44 RBI (through May 21), and his value may never be higher.
Of course, actually carrying out a trade of one of the biggest bats in the sport isn't easy. It takes finding just the right match of talent—both quality and quantity—and finances on each side of a potential transaction.
On the Marlins' end, they are going to want a whole heaping pile of elite prospects and young, club-controlled, impact big leaguers. And with their limited budget, they won't be into taking on any high-salaried players in return. Right away, that limits the number of suitors who even could propose a reasonable offer for Stanton.
Meanwhile, because Stanton remains under team control for a few more years himself—he'll be a free after 2016—presumably any team interested in acquiring him will want to be able to lock him up in a long-term deal. Especially considering the value of the package it will take to land him in the first place.
In other words, as we run down a handful of clubs who have the best chance to make a run at Stanton, the focus will be on teams who meet at least one of the following two criteria (if not both): One, a farm system deep and talented enough to meet the Marlins' craving for young, cheap talent; and two, an ability to pay out a multiyear, nine-figure contract to Stanton.
Although the Marlins certainly don't have to trade Stanton any time soon, the point here is to try to highlight the few clubs who actually could concoct a theoretical—yet realistic—proposal the Marlins might not be able to refuse.
Boston Red Sox
The reigning world champs have started their title defense by looking unsteady and uninspired, especially recently while dropping six straight to fall a season-worst five games under .500 at 20-25.
Boston has been decidedly blah on offense, ranking smack in the middle of the pack with 183 runs scored through 45 games so far. If that pace continues, the club will finish with nearly—get this—200 fewer runs in 2014 than they did last year.
Only 4.0 games out of first in the AL East, though, the Red Sox remain contenders. They showed they mean business by bringing back shortstop Stephen Drew for some stability, and pulling off a blockbuster to bring in Stanton would beef up their bats big time.
Boston's farm system at the moment is among the very best in baseball, a veritable prospect pipeline. While the club is unlikely to part with rookie Xander Bogaerts, who's been starting for them all year after breaking through in the postseason, there are a number of others who would entice Miami.
In particular, there's a bundle of talent at Double-A in 21-year-old left-hander Henry Owens (3.22 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 10.2 K/9), 22-year-old catcher Blake Swihart (.780 OPS) and second baseman Mookie Betts. The 21-year-old also is blocked by Dustin Pedroia for the next, oh, half-dozen years, but he's off to a fantastic start (.368/.440/.575, 23 XBH, 19 SB, 14:23 K:BB) and would fill a position of need for the Marlins.
At Triple-A, the Red Sox have 23-year-old third baseman Garin Cecchini (.385 OBP), as well as a stable of solid right-handers all just waiting their turn at Triple-A, including Matt Barnes, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo, each of whom is either 23 or 24 years old.
There's more than enough here to get a deal done without gutting Boston's system. Plus, this is a franchise that could afford to pay up in more ways than one as a big-market team with little in the way of financial obligations over the next few years outside of Pedroia (and maybe Jon Lester, if he signs an extension).
Of all the teams that have the talent and financial fortitude to take a shot at Stanton, the Red Sox are best positioned to do so. Considering they won it all last year, that's pretty scary for the rest of baseball.
St. Louis Cardinals
Last year's NL pennant winner, the Cardinals are perennial contenders. They're also perennial possessors of more than a few top-tier prospects and youngsters, which is the case this year yet again.
After having the likes of first baseman Matt Adams, second baseman Kolten Wong and righties Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez cut their teeth in 2013, any of those four could be included as part of a package to get Miami to give up Stanton.
Beyond that bunch, St. Louis still has a bevy of eligible prospects in the minors who are just about ready to make an impact. The biggest name, of course, belongs to outfielder Oscar Taveras, a 21-year-old consensus top-five prospect currently at Triple-A (.313/.361/.512). While he may have less upside, Memphis outfield-mate Stephen Piscotty, a 2012 first-rounder, also merits mention as a surefire future big leaguer.
A little further away, St. Louis has other Cards up its sleeve in lefty Marco Gonzales, last year's No. 19 pick who was just promoted to Double-A after putting up a 1.43 ERA at High-A, and Alex Reyes (11.7 K/9), a 19-year-old in A-ball who remains raw but could be next in the club's long line of electric right-handers.
General manager John Mozeliak indicated via Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he's not yet ready to make any major moves. "We’ll survey markets and see where we might go," Mozeliak said. "It’s a little too early to say what we might chase."
Offense, in general, would make sense as a target, seeing as this lineup ranks just 24th in the majors in runs scored. And Stanton, in particular, would be a great get for a team whose 25 home runs checks in at next-to-last.
This makes for quite a prospects-for-power possibility.
Los Angeles Dodgers
It's no secret that the Dodgers not only know how to make a splash but also love doing so. Scoring Stanton would be right up there with the roster-remaking swap that netted Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett. Or the signing of Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig. Or the record $215 million extension handed out to two-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.
Plus, the Dodgers already have a history of trading for the face of the Fish's franchise: Back in July of 2012, Los Angeles dealt for another young right-handed superstar position player—Hanley Ramirez. With the shortstop's contract up after the season, GM Ned Colletti could add Stanton and not have to worry as much about the potential loss of Ramirez.
To make the Marlins mull, the Dodgers would have to put at least three of the following on the table: 22-year-old outfielder Joc Pederson, who is tearing up Triple-A (.351 BA, 1.092 OPS, 14 HR, 13 SB); left-hander Julio Urias, a 17-year-old phenom who's already at the High-A level; infielder Corey Seager, the team's top pick in 2012; and righty Zach Lee, who went 28th overall in 2010 and could probably pitch at the back end of Miami's rotation tomorrow.
There's also Alexander Guerrero, a 27-year-old Cuban-born infielder who was hitting .376 with 10 homers in his first taste of American ball after signing a four-year, $28 million contract last October. Guerrero has had issues defensively at second base—and had a recent bizarre altercation with Miguel Olivo in which part of his ear was bitten off—which is why he's not with the Dodgers right now. But if he can get back and eventually figure out the keystone, Guerrero could team with defensive wizard Adeiny Hechavarria to give Miami an all-Cuban middle infield.
The Dodgers might not be the best fit, though, because such a trade would completely wipe out their top-heavy farm system. Besides, the club's biggest strength—and least area of need—just so happens to be outfield, which is already overcrowded as is with Puig, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier.
New York Mets
The Mets have been rebuilding for years, which has allowed them the opportunity to cultivate a strong farm system through draft picks and trades. It's taking a while, yes, but GM Sandy Alderson has been going about the process the correct way.
Thing is, the vast majority of this franchise's top young talent plies its trade on the mound rather than on the infield dirt or in the outfield grass. Being so steeped in pitching isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the Mets are going to need some players who, you know, can hit at some point if they're going to pull off this slow-play turnaround.
Perhaps, then, the best course of action is to deal from strength in order to address weakness. The Mets currently have a rotation that features Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero and Jake deGrom—all of whom are right-handers between the ages of 23 and 25.
And then there's Noah Syndergaard, who would have to be the centerpiece of a Stanton swap. Aside from Matt Harvey (don't forget about him, too, while he's recovering from Tommy John surgery), Syndergaard is the most prized pitcher of the bunch and also the youngest at 21. The 6'6", 240-pounder has dominated his way to Triple-A (2.85 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 10.0 K/9 career) and is expected to join Montero and deGrom, both of whom debuted in mid-May, in Flushing some time in the next month or so, per Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.
The Mets do have some fine position player prospects, too, including outfielder Brandon Nimmo (.477 OBP at High-A), catcher Kevin Plawecki (.317 BA at Double-A) and 18-year-old first baseman Dominic Smith, who were first-round selections in 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively. Any of that trio, along with Syndergaard and another arm or two, would have to make the Marlins meditate.
Overloaded in young pitching, New York certainly could use bringing a bat aboard, like Stanton's, to help speed up the rebuild and give David Wright a friend in the middle of the lineup. Perhaps the biggest questions here are if Mets ownership could afford to pay Stanton long term, and if the Marlins actually would trade their star slugger within the NL East.
Folks, this one's obviously a longshot. The Pirates just don't have the budget to give Stanton a big-money extension, but that doesn't completely make trading for him an outrageous idea for Pittsburgh either.
That's because this franchise has one of the three best systems in the entire sport, and it's brimming with so many youngsters that the Pirates conceivably could put together a worthy package for Stanton that does not include the very best of them—Gregory Polanco. The 22-year-old outfielder has been arguably the best position player in the minors this year, hitting .374/.435/.598 with 24 extra-base knocks and 10 steals in his first real taste of Triple-A. He'll be up in June.
Granted, the Marlins might simply refuse to part with Stanton unless they get Polanco, but remember: While Polanco very recently turned down a long-term contract, outfielder Starling Marte, 25, inked a team-friendly, six-year, $31 million extension in March that would be rather appealing to Miami.
Giving up Marte, who has proven he can play in the majors (unlike Polanco), would not only free up a position for Stanton to play alongside Polanco (whenever he does debut) and reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, but it would also get the ball rolling on the Marlins' side.
As for the rest of the return required, Pittsburgh could add in any number of high-end prospects. On the pitching front, even with 2010's No. 2 overall pick Jameson Taillon recovering from Tommy John surgery, there's still 20-year-old Tyler Glasnow in High-A (4.7 H/9 and 11.8 K/9 career) and fellow right-hander Nick Kingham, who's 22 and a little further along at Double-A.
Among position player prospects, the Pirates have infielder Alen Hanson, outfielder Josh Bell and a pair of first-rounders from last June in outfielder Austin Meadows (No. 9) and catcher Reese McGuire (No. 14).
While trading a chunk of that talent away for one player might be short-sighted, this is a team badly in need of offense (19th in runs per game), and a franchise who can ill afford to return to the doormat it was for the past two decades. Stanton would put plenty of punch in the Pirates lineup for a year or two while he's still under club control, and they could always put him back on the market to restock the farm down the line.
The Pittsburgh Pirates trading for Giancarlo Stanton? OK, that'll probably never happen, but they're one of only a handful of teams who have the talent to actually try.
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