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Giancarlo Stanton cleared waivers, and we ranked the teams that might trade for him

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What’s the scarier nightmare: Stanton and Aaron Judge together, or Stanton in Coors Field?

Colorado Rockies v Miami Marlins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Giancarlo Stanton cleared waivers, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, which removes one of the last mysteries of this particular saga. Would another team take the burden of Stanton’s entire salary, even if they didn’t even have to trade a single prospect? The answer is no, at least for now. There wasn’t one team out of 29 that would even take that chance.

This means we get to speculate which teams would want him, and how much of their contract they would be willing to eat.

It’s Hot Stove Christmas in August.

(There’s also the chance that there was some sort of understanding between Major League Baseball and all 30 teams that claiming Stanton would have messed up the particulars of the Marlins’ sale. An unwritten rule, if you will. It sounds tin-foil-hattish, except it also makes a ton of sense.)

For now, we’ll assume that every team in baseball is scared of Stanton’s contract in some capacity. He’s owed $295 million over the next 10 years, and the deal takes him through his age-37 season. If that doesn’t scare you, consider that Albert Pujols is 37 now. Also consider that Albert Pujols averaged 155 games played per year before he turned 30. Stanton ... has not. There are good reasons for letting Stanton pass through waivers and negotiating with the Marlins without the threat of them handing over the contract as a cost-cutting measure.

We’ll also assume that Stanton’s full no-trade clause is something that can be worked out. Because they usually are.

Which teams would be interested in Giancarlo Stanton?

All of them.

Which teams would be interested in Giancarlo Stanton at full price?

Some of them? Maybe two or three.

Which teams would be interested in Giancarlo Stanton at a discount, provided they empty the farm system first?

Some of them.

Our job today is to make a Venn diagram of the likeliest teams to nab Stanton, then.

Not far-fetched at all

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the most obvious bogeyman, here. By 2021, they have only $32 million in obligations, and they can add Stanton’s contract next year and still lower their payroll from this year. That’s the power of getting Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier off their books. Stanton is from Southern California and grew up a Dodgers fan. The Dodgers have prospects. They have money. Maybe just put him on the Dodgers, then?

Ah, but the Dodgers will eventually have to pay Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger. They’ll be paying Clayton Kershaw for a long time, unless he opts out and they have to pay him more. They’re run by a cavalcade of GMs who were weaned on the idea that spend, spend, spend comes at a cost, and while they’ve done a pretty good job of ignoring that when it suits them, I’m not convinced that they would be comfortable with a $300 million commitment.

Just mostly convinced.

The Philadelphia Phillies are a burgeoning big-market bully. I’m old enough to remember when they already were one. But they haven’t spent any money in recent years, likely because they’re saving up for that one cobra strike of a transaction. Bryce Harper? Manny Machado? Dunno, but they have about $100 million burning a hole in their pocket, and if there’s any team that can absorb Stanton’s contract, they’re at the top of a short list.

At the same time, they’re also the team that knows what a drag an oversized contract can be as it stretches on for years and years. Now, Stanton isn’t Ryan Howard on several levels, but that point stands. A bad contract like that can stink for a long, long time and mess everything up.

The Atlanta Braves have the new ballpark, and they’ve been aggressive in their attempts to acquire talent, even if it costs a little scratch. This would be a player they could put on their marquee, and they can market it as the player who can make the home run record Brave again.

What’s more is that if the Marlins want prospects and are willing to pay the contract down, the Braves can load them up that way, too. I could see a contending 2020 Braves roster that’s basically Freddie Freeman, Stanton, and 23 players making pre-arbitration money or close to it.

The only thing stopping me from predicting this is the Braves’ iffy TV deal. They don’t have that sweet cable money like the Phillies. They’ve never been big-market bullies before, so it’s hard to see them starting now.

The New York Yankees are the classic bogeyman, though they’ve waned in that department because of recent austerity. Still, their payroll commitments drop off even more quickly than the Dodgers’. The presence and continued success of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances — as well as the stocked farm system — will allow them a luxury or two. Or three or four.

And the dream of a big-boy bookend in the outfield to smack dingers for the next decade is a beautiful dream. I’m not a Yankees fan, but if they’re not giving up Judge, then this is the only way we’ll get this dream.

The Detroit Tigers are the team I’m using in this spot just to make sure that you’re paying attention.

The Boston Red Sox have been one of the more persistent teams involved in these rumors, and like the Dodgers or Yankees, they have a lot of options. They can choose to absorb most of the salary, which would give the Marlins the gift of financial relief, or they can add prospects and young players as a way to avoid absorbing that much money. Would the Red Sox enjoy an $18 million Stanton at the expense of Andrew Benintendi? What about a $14 million Stanton at the expense of Benintendi and a couple of prospects? I don’t know, either, but it seems like there are a lot of sliders to play with in the settings.

Also like the Dodgers and Yankees, the Red Sox have a bunch of young players right now who will be underpaid, which will allow them to spend more on veterans. Starting to think that pre-arbitration salaries and arbitration awards should be tethered to a team’s payroll and market size. I’ll write a manifesto up before the next CBA.

The Chicago Cubs also have a young team without a ton of long-term commitments, and ... look, just copy and paste most of the crap from the Red Sox section. Or Yankees section. All of these big market teams can ride these young players for the next few years, and while Kris Bryant is making less than Justin Grimm, the Cubs can do things like consider a contract like Stanton’s.

The difficulty with the Cubs is that they’ve built their roster and organization in a way that forces them to spend on pitching, so I’m not sure if they would leverage everything to get another outfielder, even if he’s the lord king of dongs.

The Houston Astros oh come on seriously another one of these big-market teams that’s loaded with young, cheap talent and can afford to take a significant payroll gamble on an anomalous superstar who is on pace for a Hall of Fame career come on this is absurd. How many of these teams are there? It’s like we’re staring into the future, and it’s the same teams, over and over again.

Except while the Astros seem like burgeoning big-market bullies like the Phillies, there’s no evidence that they’ll actually be that kind of organization. They also might prefer to keep the payroll open for needs as they arise instead of pouncing on an expensive superstar because he’s a superstar. The future of the Astros’ outfield is kind of rosy, after all.

Pretty far-fetched, but not impossible

The San Francisco Giants’ beat writers had some parallel thinking when it came time to write up Monday’s game against the Marlins.

The Giants have hit -343 home runs since the All-Star break, and Stanton has hit 343, so the symmetry makes sense. You can understand how the Giants and their fans are so starved for power that they’re desperate for someone like Stanton.

Except their only chance is if the Marlins want to do a full salary dump and nothing else. That’s it. And we don’t know that yet. If the Giants claimed Stanton and refused to put forth a good-faith offer of prospects and baubles and trinkets, the Marlins might have yanked him back. They might be far more interested in trying to pry a future star away from the Yankees, Dodgers, or Red Sox. It would certainly be better PR. The Giants can’t match that kind of organizational depth.

They’re also super-leveraged for the future, owing more than $100 million to over-30 players for the next several years.

This isn’t going to end well. Not without a sudden pipeline of young, cheap talent. Stanton is young talent. But he’s not that last one, and that’s what the Giants will need for the next few years.

The Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals are both teams facing a choice. Do they lock up their young superstar for a decade at superstar prices that might even exceed what Stanton is owed? Or do they trade them in for the superstar with a contract they can predict? Both seem pretty unlikely, and the Nationals have some gnarly payroll commitments in the future, but that would be the gambit anyway.

Would you rather have Stanton at $30 million or Bryce Harper at $36 million? What about Stanton at $30 million or Manny Machado at $32 million? I’m not answering. I’m leaving those hypothetical questions on the floor and running out of the room.

The St. Louis Cardinals are excellent at not spending, not spending, not spending, BAM, Matt Holliday! But American’s favorite mid-not-big-but-kinda-big-market team isn’t usually one to blow up their future commitments that much. If they were, they’d still have Albert Pujols.

Stanton makes sense on their roster, but only because he makes sense on every roster. It’s harder to see how the Cardinals actually acquire him, though.

The Texas Rangers have a solid combination of youth and money, but they don’t have that much money. They would have to give up young talent to get the costs down, I’d imagine, which would sort of defeat the purpose of adding Stanton to a pile of young talent.

I’d imagine the Rangers are more concerned about finding pitchers at this point, but they’re not that far away from the Cubs/Astros dynamic of young talent and financial resources. They’re just far away enough.

The Seattle Mariners would need to commit to becoming a regular $200 million team to add Stanton, and I’m not sure if they’re comfortable with that. Like the Giants, their farm system means their best hope would be a Marlins team that just gives Stanton away. Considering the Mariners didn’t claim Stanton on waivers, I would guess that their owners aren’t too wild about that idea.

And if the owners aren’t wild about Stanton at full price, guess which teams are at a disadvantage bidding against the rest of the league for Stanton at a discount?

The Colorado Rockies will need to pay Nolan Arenado, which should take up a huge chunk of their future payroll, but I would like to put the idea of Giancarlo Stanton on the Colorado Rockies into your brain right now. It’s seductive. It’s terrifying. It’s basically the One True Ring of baseball ideas, and we need to throw it into the Marlins’ home run sculpture just to be safe.

This is a team with almost zero financial commitments for the future, though. They’re sleepers. They’re dark horses. They’re sneaking up on the baseball world and threatening to club us over the head with dingers.

oh god this would be terrifying i can’t look away

Almost impossible

The Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland A’s, and New York Mets are all extraordinarily unlikely to pursue a deal if their past history is any indication. I’ll listen to arguments for all of the above, but I’ll be only half-listening, possibly with an ABBA song stuck in my head.

Note that it’s both horrifying and strangely satisfying to see the Mets on that list. I’ll put the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox in the almost-impossible pile because the former has too much salary weighing them down, and the latter is too invested in a rebuilding process to mess around with a $30 million player who might start declining before their vision is realized.

The Los Angeles Angels might be scared because of Pujols, but the real reason they’re probably here is because they know they’ll have to build a moon base for Mike Trout in the future. Getting Stanton would be the Angels’ way of saying, “Later, Mike,” which doesn’t appear to be a wise baseball or PR move.

If they can afford both, sure, I’ll listen, but I’m not sure how many teams other than the Dodgers or Yankees could afford to compete annually with those two contracts, especially if one of them stumbles.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are in a similar spot as the Giants, in which it would take the Marlins wanting to dump salary more than any other consideration. The difference there is that the Diamondbacks traditionally have a lower payroll than the Giants, and they’re also going to be worried about Paul Goldschmidt’s future salary. They probably had one high-salary bolt in their quiver, and they used it on Zack Greinke.

It’s irresponsible to power-rank this sort of thing, but I’m not known for my restraint:

Official Giancarlo Stanton Trade Power Rankings

  1. Miami Marlins
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers
  3. Boston Red Sox
  4. New York Yankees
  5. Philadelphia Phillies
  6. Chicago Cubs
  7. Atlanta Braves
  8. Houston Astros
  9. Colorado Rockies
  10. Texas Rangers
  11. Seattle Mariners
  12. St. Louis Cardinals
  13. Washington Nationals
  14. San Francisco Giants
  15. Baltimore Orioles
  16. Arizona Diamondbacks
  17. Toronto Blue Jays
  18. Los Angeles Angels
  19. Chicago White Sox
  20. San Diego Padres
  21. Cleveland Indians
  22. Detroit Tigers
  23. Minnesota Twins
  24. Milwaukee Brewers
  25. Cincinnati Reds
  26. New York Mets
  27. Kansas City Royals
  28. Pittsburgh Pirates
  29. Tampa Bay Rays
  30. Oakland A’s

Yeah, the Marlins are still number one, you know. The new owners just might keep the face of the franchise around to build trust. Also, hit dingers. That’s the likeliest scenario, but if there is going to be a trade, I’d take the above list with a serious grain of salt. The drop off after the Yankees is steep, and the one after the Astros is pretty much a bottomless pit.

My money is that he stays with the Marlins for several different reasons. I don’t think they’ll mind.