This probably seems like jumping the gun on an off-season nobody in Boston is focused on, so for that I apologize straight away. But, you see, in this cutthroat business of internet baseball writing, if I don’t write this piece now – I mean right this damn instant – Grant Brisbee will write it and, let’s both be honest about this: he’ll do a much better job than I will. So my choices are write it months ahead of time, think up something different which we both know will be another piece about the minor tweaks Matt Barnes made to his delivery, or get shamed. So my hands are kinda tied on this one. I’m sorry.
One thing that makes the Red Sox media unique is the collective focus on specific players, as in specific players who don’t play for the Red Sox. You may recall the obsession, years before he ever became a Red Sox, of Adrian Gonzalez. It was like the Globe, the Herald, Over The Monster, fans all over New England, and everybody in Red Sox nation pretty much went, “We HAVE to get that guy.” For a while that same kinda it’ll-happen-eventually focus was directed at Giancarlo Stanton as well. It made sense because Stanton fit a similar mold. Both players were/are fantastic. But both were, at the time, under-paid, young superstars on garbage teams going nowhere, and both filled big holes on the Red Sox. The obsession with Stanton ended about three years ago though. In fact, I can pinpoint the day. It was November 19, 2014, the day the Marlins gave Stanton a 13 year, $325 million contract and that pretty much stopped the articles and the drooling on talk radio. Stanton was staying in Miami. Drat.
At the same time in Boston, the Red Sox assembled one of the best young outfields in baseball. Jackie Bradley and Mookie Betts have been joined by Andrew Benintendi and, [counts] one-two-three, that’s a full outfield. So, sadly, that closes the door to acquiring Stanton and his beautiful, prodigious home run swing on both sides.
But [grabs crowbar] how about we jerk that sucker back open again, eh? Yes, this is one of THOSE columns, the kind you thought you were done with, the kind that basically says over and over and over in 20 different ways why and how the Red Sox should/could trade for Giancarlo Stanton. Again, I’m sorry, but you know I gotta beat Brisbee on this, so no time like the present!
A couple of things have happened that have shoved this old door back open again. The first is that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has decided he’s sufficiently ruined baseball in south Florida and it’s time to move on to ruining other stuff. Lollipops, perhaps, or love seats. Maybe goats. Who knows what is next project will be or how he will ruin it, but that’s outside the purview of this column. What inside the purview of this column is that Loria, the guy who signed off on Stanton’s massive contract and who has a violent hatred of lollipops and medium sized living room furniture, is headed out the door, and getting the huge financial commitment to Stanton off the Marlins’ books might help facilitate a sale.
Stanton is only in year three of his deal but the Marlins are, again, terrible. Since Stanton signed the deal amidst much fanfare and promises from the top brass (read: Loria) that the Marlins would do their damnedest to be competitive, the team has gone 203-233, and there’s no particular reason to think things will get much better any time soon. So the Marlins would probably like to deal Stanton and Stanton might not mind being traded away, depending on where he was headed.
Stanton hit his 39th homer Thursday night, a number which leads the league. Stanton, by himself, has 35 percent of the homers hit by the entire Red Sox team.
At first glance though, you might not think the Red Sox would be a team that would need Stanton. Boston’s outfield is full, you remember, with very good young players. Let’s get back to the outfield though. First, this: David Ortiz retired after the 2016 season. That 2016 team hit 208 homers, good for ninth in baseball. This season the Red Sox have had a much harder time hitting the ball over the wall. As of this writing they have 116 long balls, good for 27th in baseball. They need someone to hit some damn dingers. Stanton hit his 39th homer Thursday night, a number which leads the league. Stanton, by himself, has 35 percent of the homers hit by the entire Red Sox team. I’m going to write that sentence again. Stanton, by himself, has 35 percent of the homers hit by the entire Red Sox team.
Stanton isn’t just a home run hitter though. He walks, he hits doubles and singles, and he gets on base (.369 this season). He’s the middle of the order guy the Red Sox had for 14 years in Boston, but don’t have anymore. Bluntly, he’s what this lineup lacks.
Of course, every team wants Stanton, but that’s the thing because now that he’s not making the league minimum anymore, not every team can take him. Now teams must find a way to deal with his salary and that’s not something most teams can handle doing. But the Red Sox can.
Here’s the secret though. Right now Stanton’s deal is an albatross, a massive hit that most teams just can’t afford. But really, secretly, it isn’t! In two years, players like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will reach the free agent market and what they get will dwarf the $32 million Stanton will earn in the most expensive seasons of his deal. Last off-season free agents made about $8 million a win. In a year it’ll be more. It keeps going up, and when Harper and the rest reach free agency, we’ll likely be talking about even more. At this rate Stanton will reach about six wins in 2017. At $32 million, that’s $5.3 million a win. Of course Stanton isn’t making $32 million this year and he won’t make that next year either. He won’t make that much until 2023 when wins will probably we worth about $32 million a piece on the market.
Stanton might not reach six wins each season (this would be the third time in six full seasons he’s done it) and he’s had some injury issues so the team would have to believe he could stay healthy. But Stanton will be just 28 next season. The potential for a middle-of-the-order bat for the next decade and at prices below those on the free agent market is there. Or, if Harper and Machado truly break the bank in two off-seasons, perhaps Stanton opts out of his deal and the Red Sox get him for just the three years and $77 million between now and then. That is not bad and you have to think that, given the structure of the deal (small money before the opt-out, huge money after), that’s exactly what Loria was banking on happening.
Where would Stanton fit on the Red Sox and how much would it take to get him? Easy question and hard question. Easy question: anywhere he wants! Stanton is 27 and he’s an outfielder so he’d fit in the outfield, either left or right field depending (hopefully left). But there’s no room in the Red Sox outfield, right? Well (harder question) trading for Stanton will cost something so it would make sense for Boston to deal one of their starting outfielders for him. Clearly it wouldn’t be Mookie Betts, but depending on the financial situation (i.e. how much money Miami pays of Stanton’s deal, if any) it might make sense to deal either Benintendi (I know, I know) or, more likely, Jackie Bradley with Benintendi going to right field and Betts moving to center. The Red Sox don’t seem to be all in on Bradley despite his amazing defense and occasional MVP impressions at the plate so perhaps that’s a good starting point.
It would be a complicated deal, what with all Stanton’s money, Stanton’s no-trade clause, and the uncertainty of his opt-out following the 2020 season. It’s all very complex and honestly I have no idea how to sort it all out. I just know that the Marlins would love to be rid of Stanton’s money, Stanton would probably love to be on a winning team, and the Red Sox would love to have someone step into the middle of their lineup and fill the David Ortiz-sized hole there. That’s a lot of incentive to make something happen. I’ll let the professionals work it out from there. First though, let me turn on this old rusty Stanton Signal (Chad Finn will be busting through that door any second now) and email Grant Brisbee that he’s gonna have to come up with another topic for Monday.
Photo by Jerome Miron – USA TODAY Sports