There's a Giancarlo Stanton-sized mystery on the summer trade market.
With Major League Baseball's July 31 trade deadline less than two weeks away, the Miami Marlins have dusted off their "For Sale" sign and put it out front. They're 42-49 and 13.5 games back of the Washington Nationals in the NL East. Time to cut losses.
Meanwhile, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is working on a sale of his own.
This one involves the entire franchise, and it could be easier to shop to buyers as a blank slate rather than a team pre-loaded with expensive players.
"[The Marlins] told us that they're prepared to dump," a rival executive told B/R's Scott Miller. "They're working on it and talking to clubs. But the conversations always end with one caveat, that they don't know that the owner won't bail at the last minute."
Miamia has a bit of something for everyone. Teams seeking pitchers can ask about Edinson Volquez, Dan Straily, David Phelps or A.J. Ramos. Teams that need hitters can ask about Justin Bour, Dee Gordon, Martin Prado, Marcell Ozuna or Christian Yelich.
And, of course, Stanton. Given that the 27-year-old right fielder remains an obliterator of baseballs and an all-around shining star, it's no wonder his corner of the rumor mill is already buzzing.
Asking about him is the easy part.
Getting around Stanton's record-sized contract (13 years, $325 million) is something else entirely. He's only in the third season of it, and the big money has yet to come:
|2028||38||$25M Option, $10M Buyout|
That's a total of $295 million spread out over 10 years with the buyout. It's less daunting than $325 million, sure, but still $20 million more than MLB's second-richest contract: Alex Rodriguez's 10-year, $275 million pact from 2007.
Stanton's deal also includes full no-trade protection and an opt-out after 2020, which makes the deal massive, awkwardly shaped and thus not an easy thing to transfer from one set of hands to another.
It isn't immovable, though.
Stanton at least looks the part of a superstar right now. Following an injury-marred 2016, he's now rocking a .943 OPS and leading the National League with 28 home runs. If his health holds—knock on all of the wood—2017 will be one of his better seasons.
Convincing Stanton to waive his no-trade clause might not require much effort. He hasn't been one to keep his frustration with Miami's losing ways to himself. And he set a high bar for his frustration level just two months ago.
"It’s probably the highest ever. It’s higher than me being the worst player on the field for a month, the worst player in the big leagues for a month, last year," he told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald in May, in reference to his awful slump last summer.
If a contender or a team with a bright future calls the Marlins and they include Stanton in the loop, all parties should be amenable to getting something done. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
For the Marlins, the ideal trade would involve jettisoning Stanton's entire contract and getting back young talent in return, be it prospects or something like the Alfonso Soriano/Joaquin Arias package that the Texas Rangers got when they traded A-Rod to the New York Yankees in 2004.
But, fat chance.
There are only a handful of teams that can afford to take on Stanton's contract. That puts a natural cap on Miami's negotiating leverage.
Plus, Stanton today is not the equivalent of A-Rod in 2004. The 10-year, $252 million contract he was serving was good value for a young, MVP-caliber shortstop. By contrast, FanGraphs' Craig Edwards ran the numbers and confirmed the obvious: Stanton will likely struggle to live up to his remaining earnings.
The most realistic maneuver involves the Marlins eating some of Stanton's contract and getting nothing (or next to nothing) in return. Not a total salary dump, but as good as they can do.
But Stanton's opt-out could spice things up.
In a since-deleted video on FoxSports.com from early July (h/t Connor Byrne of MLB Trade Rumors), Ken Rosenthal said that Stanton is willing to "talk about his 2020 opt-out."
Maybe he could be convinced to preemptively opt out of the $218 million he's owed after 2020. That would greatly reduce the value of his contract and open the door for a Stanton-for-prospects swap.
Or, maybe there could be a contract restructure centered around the opt-out. As Gordon Edes reported in the Boston Globe, that's what the Boston Red Sox had in mind when they almost dealt for Rodriguez in 2003. The idea was to scale back his guaranteed money but move his opt-out up from 2007 to 2005.
But, again, fat chance.
Even if Stanton is desperate to play for a contender and even if there could be more money available to him in free agency after 2020, it's hard to imagine him discarding a $218 million security blanket.
And while a contract restructure is an interesting idea, what A-Rod and the Red Sox were up to in 2003 is a less-than-perfect precedent. After all, the MLB Players Association didn't allow it.
If there is precedent to be found in that ill-fated trade proposal, it's in the other component of it.
The Rangers weren't just going to offload Rodriguez's contract. They were also going to get Manny Ramirez, who was serving an eight-year, $160 million deal. At its heart, the deal was a big contract swap.
But this, too, could be another long shot.
There are only so many big, bad contracts out there, and only so many on teams that can engage the Marlins on Stanton. And it's plausible there is added pressure from groups looking to buy the team that first want to see the front office shed Stanton's money.
As complicated as the situation is, however, some kind of deal can indeed happen.
The timing is right. And word is there are potential suitors out there. Rosenthal mentioned the Philadelphia Phillies. Craig Mish of SiriusXM radio floated the San Francisco Giants. Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com brought up the St. Louis Cardinals. Then, of course, at least a couple of the titans (Yankees, Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels) should be assumed to get involved.
Don't hold your breath waiting for the Stanton trade mystery to be solved. But don't breathe easy, either. This mystery isn't unsolvable.