It happened only a couple of falls ago.
It rocked baseball’s Hot Stove season because of its future implications, seeming to ensure that if Giancarlo Stanton was to ever become the Herculean superstar people expected him to transform into, it would not be with the Miami Marlins.
Prompted by the franchise’s epic salary dump just one summer after committing to spending big to win in 2012, Stanton took to Twitter to make his feelings known.
No one could blame Stanton for being angry toward a front office that vilified itself on several levels, from how it landed its stadium to how it systematically dismantled a city’s hopes for a winning baseball team.
With that Twitter scream, several baseball front offices made Stanton their top long-term target, counting the days until the Marlins would eventually dump him or until he hit free agency as baseball’s next megastar after the 2016 summer.
But then 92 weeks passed. Stanton became a front-runner for the National League MVP and far less angered by the club’s brass. The Marlins are somehow technically in playoff contention. The stench of being despicable has turned into a musty smell around Miami’s front office. And talks of a contract extension for Stanton are wafting through the South Beach nights.
While the Marlins downplay the desire to keep Stanton, telling anyone who asks (via Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com) that the team is focused on winning today, there can’t be any doubt the organization sees Stanton’s marketability with the likes of Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen and Yasiel Puig.
With his sellable looks and smile, cool Southern California attitude, scoreboard-smashing power and an evolving all-around game to give substance to it all, Stanton is the game’s next marketable face. It's up to him whether he wants to be that in Miami or in a bigger market where winning is the annual priority.
Stanton won’t be 25 until November, five days before the second anniversary of his awesome tweet. His youth combined with this era of more PED testing, the game’s desire for all-organic hitters, deflated offense and a serious lack of Bunyan-esque powermen, Stanton stands to clean up.
We are talking A-Rod-in-his-prime kind of loot.
That doesn’t necessarily price out the Marlins, though. They are bottom-feeders in the payroll standings right now, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t stacking money in a secret back-office cave.
Don’t forget the franchise saved what equals a small fraction of the national debt when it pushed Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Anibal Sanchez into Biscayne Bay after one disappointing season.
The Marlins received some talented prospects in return for some of those stars, and young ace Jose Fernandez might be the electric pitching equivalent to Puig. Miami also plans to acquire another front-line pitcher to pair with Fernandez as it raises payroll in an attempt to entice Stanton to keep hitting home runs into that ugly piece of “art” in center field.
However, that infamous fire sale—the second in franchise history—might have been enough to convince Stanton the Marlins will never fully commit to winning year after year under this front office regime of Jeffrey Loria (owner) and David Samson (president).
And even though the team held onto closer Steve Cishek at the July 31 trade deadline this year, the fact that it even flirted with the idea of moving him did not sit well with Stanton, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.
Remember, nearly a month after Stanton’s tweet, his agent, Joel Wolfe, did not try to soften his client’s feelings, telling CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman (h/t baseball writer Matt Snyder), “It wasn’t a reaction. It was a state of mind.” The dangling of Cishek last month should remind people that Stanton’s mindset likely hasn’t changed from two Novembers ago.
If the Marlins don’t trade Stanton and let him stroll into free agency in 2016, it likely means he blackballed them and one of the rich can expect to get significantly richer on the field but a bit poorer in the bank.
Teams will start positioning themselves for Stanton now the way NBA teams did for LeBron James. In this age of teams signing young stars to extensions before free agency, one big fish in the open water brings out all the big-game anglers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are the major players. They print their own money right now, never consider themselves priced out of any player and are committed to winning. Plus, Stanton is from the area, and his ability to market himself in Los Angeles is unmatched by any other locale.
The Boston Red Sox have the Dodgers to thank for being the other front-runner. Without them, Boston would still owe Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez a combined $84.75 million when Stanton hit the market. With that money freed and David Ortiz on his way out by 2017, the Red Sox will need a face of the franchise. Stanton’s would be ideal.
Not only that, but if the Red Sox make a push for him before 2016, they have the prospects stockpiled to entice the Marlins into a swap.
The dark horse here is Theo Epstein. The Chicago Cubs president has resources, and for what Stanton can offer, he should be willing to part with them. Adding Stanton to a blossoming roster of young talent could push the Cubs into relevancy once again.
All three of those franchises also have the competency in leadership to contend for World Series titles for the majority of Stanton’s next long contract. There will be no one-year experiments or embarrassing salary dumps in those places.
If Giancarlo Stanton’s star is going to reach its full potential, something newly appointed commissioner Rob Manfred should desperately want, it has to happen in one of those places.
Miami’s baseball franchise is just too risky a spot to house the game’s next superstar.
Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He previously served 3 years as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News, as well as the Brewers beat writer for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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