Even though it was the most homer-happy season in Major League Baseball history, 2017 somehow missed out on a truly historic pair of slugging teammates.
To be clear, no such trade is imminent. Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reported on November 15 that there was "little momentum" in talks between the Dodgers and Miami Marlins. With reports from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Jon Morosi of MLB Network, respectively, that the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals have made offers for the 28-year-old right fielder, that puts the Dodgers outside the center of the Stanton sweepstakes.
Still, never say never.
Fresh off a heartbreaking World Series defeat in which their offense couldn't hang with that of the Houston Astros, the Dodgers aren't without incentive to go all-out for Stanton. With deep pockets and a deep farm system, they also have the means to take on the $295 million remaining on his contract and/or to satisfy Miami's desire for real prospects.
Perhaps most important of all, Stanton himself may view a trade to the Dodgers as an ideal excuse to waive his no-trade clause.
"Some friends of Stanton believe if he could have his choice to play for any franchise, it would be the Los Angeles Dodgers," wrote ESPN.com's Buster Olney. "He attended Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California, about 15 miles from Dodger Stadium."
It's not a question of whether the Dodgers can trade for Stanton. They absolutely can. They just need to decide they want to. If they do, then BAM. He'll be in Dodger blue in no time.
The biggest potential benefit for them would be the end of an ongoing World Series quest that's thus far been a close-but-no-cigar affair. A definite benefit for both the Dodgers and the dinger-loving public, meanwhile, would be Stanton and Bellinger forming a home run duo for the books.
Stanton owns 267 career home runs and is fresh off earning the National League MVP on the strength of 59 homers. Despite not debuting in the majors until April 25, Bellinger claimed the NL Rookie of the Year by clubbing an NL-rookie-record 39 homers.
It's safe to assume there's more where this came from. And not just because modern baseballs allegedly contain more juice than a fleet of Tropicana delivery trucks.
Stanton is a 6'6", 245-pound behemoth whose raw power is probably best measured in megatons. But since Statcast is the best we have for now, here are some tidbits: He leads everyone in batted balls of at least 110 mph and home runs of at least 450 feet since 2015.
What changed in 2017 was the efficiency with which Stanton applied his huge pop. Alterations to his stance made him better able to stay with pitches. That helped cut his strikeout rate to a career-low 23.6 percent. With more balls in play came even more balls over the fence.
At 6'4", 210 pounds, Bellinger is a big drink of water with impressive raw power in his own right. But the 21-year-old's power output is less about efficiency and more about volume.
Stanton is so strong that he doesn't need to get under the ball to drive it to the cheap seats—to wit, quite a few of his homers are line drives with legs. Bellinger, on the other hand, spent 2017 establishing himself as one of MLB's top fly-ball specialists, thereby giving himself abundant opportunities to clear the fence.
True, one of these slugging methods was more fruitful than the other in 2017. But the gap looks less extreme when the focus is shifted to the rate (homers per plate appearance) at which Stanton and Bellinger went:
Of course, the best possible home run duo would be Stanton and J.D. Martinez, according to this table. The next-best would be either Stanton and Joey Gallo or Stanton and Aaron Judge.
But don't count on those coming true.
Whoever takes on Stanton and his massive contract won't be able to afford to sign Martinez—who'll likely cost around $150 million—as a free agent. While Gallo's Texas Rangers and Judge's New York Yankees are interesting fits for Stanton, both clubs should have their resources trained on arms rather than bats.
Thus, Stanton-Bellinger is probably the best slugging partnership that the current MLB landscape is capable of producing. And lest anyone have doubts, they could be more than good enough to take their place among the most lethal home run duos ever.
Put their 2017 home run outputs together, and you get 98 total homers. That's within earshot of 100 combined home runs, which only five duos have ever achieved:
|Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle||1961 NYY||115|
|Barry Bonds and Rich Aurilia||2001 SFG||110|
|Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig||1927 NYY||107|
|Mark McGwire and Ray Langford||1998 STL||101|
|Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro||2002 TEX||100|
Do Bellinger the courtesy of stretching his 132-game performance over 162 games, and his output rises from 39 to 48 and pushes his and Stanton's combined total to 107 home runs. Not quite a record, but in record-challenging territory.
At worst, Stanton and Bellinger would each have a shot at topping 40 homers year after year. While duos of 40-homer sluggers aren't unheard of, it's rare for teammates to do it more than once. There have been only six instances of that, with the most recent being Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz in 2004 and 2005.
For now, this all constitutes a textbook example of the phrase "strictly hypothetical." Standing in the way of the idea and the reality are the Dodgers shaking off their apparent disinterest and trading for Stanton, as well as a litany of factors (injuries especially) that could slow his and Bellinger's home run outputs.
But until the Hot Stove season finally heats up, there's not much to do besides dream. We might as well dream of something worth dreaming about.