The biggest name that Cardinal fans drool over is Giancarlo Stanton, the highly paid slugger of the Miami Marlins. Stanton’s name has been a trade rumor staple since rumors circulated about the Marlins ownership changes prior to the 2017 season. The reason is simple: Stanton is a very expensive player.
Stanton signed a 13-year, $325M contract prior to the 2015 season; he’s got a guaranteed $295M, which includes a $10M buyout for his 2028 option (a club option worth $25M). The Marlins also included an opt out clause after the 2020 season; this puts the remaining value of the contract at $77M. There are also a bunch of financial perks included in the contract, like performance bonuses and limited rights to season tickets (max of 8 annually) and luxury boxes (5 games per season).
The contract is the first hurdle for the Cardinals; they typically don’t give out this sized contract. This outweighs the offers they made to Albert Pujols, Jason Heyward, and David Price. As we’ve seen with those players, deals like this have not worked out very well for the teams that ultimately signed them. On top of that, this would tie up a significant portion of payroll for the team; this would be a sixth of the Cardinals payroll in 2018.
The opt out is another a hurdle. If Stanton lives up to the contract, there’s a good chance that he’ll opt out; for a team that hasn’t really pulled off a big trade like this in a while, trading a large load of prospects for him might cripple the system for a guy that only plays 3 seasons with the team. The flip side if he doesn’t play well, they are stuck paying a premium price for sub par talent. After one season of paying Dexter Fowler, fans are already upset about the amount of money he’s making compared to the production (which I’ve talked about already).
The final hurdle with Stanton is the no trade clause; there were rumblings around the middle of the season that Stanton didn’t want to play in St. Louis. To me, it would appear that he wants to be in a large market. Maybe it’s the smaller city of St. Louis, maybe it’s the rumblings that players don’t like Matheny; either way, it’ll end up taking some extra motivation for Stanton to waive the clause to join the Cardinals.
How do projections treat Stanton for 2018? They have him falling off a little bit from this past season, which shouldn’t be surprising since he had a really good season. There are 2 marks against Stanton: his health and year to year inconsistency.
Stanton has had 3 seasons with more than 125 games played: 2011 (150), 2014 (145), and 2017 (159). The projections have him at 130 games in 2018, which is more than I expected when his last 3 years saw him average 117 games. His comps were pretty reliable in their age-28 season; only 2 were below 125 (Jose Canseco and Manny Ramirez) and 1 didn’t play at that age (Tony Conigliaro). For the amount of money and prospects needed to have Stanton, you’d want a little more durability.
The inconsistencies could be tied to the health. The graph below shows the fluctuation in WAR:
His 3 highest years coincide with the 3 years of his best health.
My system projects that his numbers will be solid, but unspectacular after 2017. He’s got a solid slash line of .273/.364/.580 with an ISO of .285. He’ll hit a more than respectable 36 homers and have a WAR of 4.1. His K rate is lower than his 3-year average (22.29% vs 3-year average of 26.89%), but it’s not a very significant difference. The good news is 4.1 WAR is worth more than $25M per season.
The cost of acquiring Stanton will be higher than expected. Due to the large amount of money owed to Stanton and the fact that the Marlins want him off the books, most believe that the acquisition cost of Stanton should be low.
The Giants and Phillies are both thought to be interested; the Giants are said to be the favorites and most interested. These 3 teams will drive bidding up.
I expect the Cardinals would need to send a package of Jack Flaherty or Dakota Hudson, Harrison Bader, Delvin Perez, and a mid-level prospect to start with; it could be higher than that if more teams get involved.
I’m not against making a deal for Stanton, but I’d want to see the cost of J.D. Martinez first; he’s a lesser version of Stanton and will be a fraction of the price. I’d also see how much it would cost for Marcel Ozuna; again, he’s a lesser version of Stanton but could give the team flexibility.