Once every decade or so, the Dodgers miss out on a chance to have Giancarlo Stanton play at home. The fearsome slugger and reigning National League MVP was traded by a desperate Marlins team on Saturday, but the Yankees were the big-market behemoth willing to swoop in and take advantage. Not the Dodgers.
Stanton to the Yankees is still pending a physical, but seemingly everyone expects that to be a formality. And unlike his rejection of the trade offers made by both the Cardinals and Giants, Stanton is expected to okay his move to New York.
The Dodgers could have drafted Stanton out of Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks in 2007. Instead, they picked Chris Withrow in the first round. Stanton fell all the way to No. 76 and in the second round, where the Marlins selected him. The Dodgers had another pick in between Withrow and Stanton, but drafted left-handed pitcher James Adkins instead.
Adkins never made the majors.
On one hand, the Dodgers don’t necessarily need Stanton. They won 104 games and got to Game 7 of the World Series without him, after all. Complaining about not having Stanton feels a little bit like whining that your luxury sedan doesn’t have seat warmers.
Missing out on Stanton doesn’t mean the Dodgers are doomed. Far from it. They are still the best team in the NL West and a pennant contender without making another move this offseason. No, it doesn’t mean Andrew Friedman is a small market GM as some mouth breathers might have you believe.
But adding Stanton could have been great.
Stanton is 28-year-old slugger who hit 59 home runs in 2017 and led the National League with a .631 slugging percentage.
Since the start of 2011 — Stanton’s first full season — there have been 11 individual seasons in the majors with a .600 slugging percentage in at least 500 plate appearances. Stanton and Miguel Cabrera are the only two hitters to do so twice, and Stanton also slugged .606 in 74 games in 2015.
Imagine adding that right-handed thump into the middle of the order that already includes Justin Turner — under contract for three more seasons — and young stars Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger. That’s a perfectly balanced left-right foursome that would be a nightmare for any pitching staff to navigate.
Stanton has had trouble staying on the field in his career, averaging just 127 games in the last seven seasons. But he still averaged 35 home runs and 4.6 Wins Above Replacement per year during that span.
His worst season in the last seven years produced 2.4 WAR in 2013, one of just two years during that span he was below 3.7 WAR. Even with the built-in missed time, Stanton has been extremely valuable.
There are 10 years and $295 million in guaranteed money remaining on Stanton’s contract, including $25 million in salary in 2018. He can opt out after the 2020 season, which would leave $218 million on the table.
There is certainly risk in Stanton’s contract, and legitimate baseball reasons for not wanting to assume 10 years of any player, even as attractive as Stanton might be. After all, nobody claimed Stanton when he was placed on waivers in August, when he could have been had for nothing other than assuming his entire contract.
But there is also risk in signing pitchers like Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy to $48 million contracts, too. That pair, as an example, have combined for 293 innings and 0.4 total WAR in the five pitching seasons with the Dodgers to date. Both have one year remaining on their contracts, and both were names speculated to have been discussed as potentially headed to the Marlins in any type of Stanton trade to ease the Dodgers’ luxury tax burden for 2018.
The Dodgers paid $113.5 million in luxury tax from 2013-16, and will likely owe at least $30 million for 2017. They will probably be over the $197 million threshold in 2018 as well, so the concern is real.
It is completely reasonable for the team to at some point want to get their payroll under the threshold, even if only to reset the tax from 50% to 20% the next year they go over. But it’s also reasonable to expect fans to be able to watch Dodgers games on television, especially when the team owns the very network that televises the games. Good luck getting the benefit of the doubt on that one.
The Marlins are reportedly receiving Starlin Castro — who has two years and $22 million remaining on his contract, plus an option for 2020 — along with minor leaguers Jose Devers and Jorge Guzman. These are not top prospects. In addition, Miami is sending $30 million to New York, which lessens Stanton’s luxury tax number:
Source: Stanton’s annual luxury-tax number with #Yankees will be approximately $22 million. #Marlins’ $30 million contribution if he does not opt out after 2020 reduces luxury-tax burden of 13-year, $325M deal. Luxury-tax number based on average annual value.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 9, 2017
This was a salary dump by the Marlins, plain and simple. And the Dodgers didn’t pounce.
In theory, there is still a way for the Dodgers to take advantage of the Marlins’ self-inflicted sorriness. If the new ownership group in Miami is fully committed to the fire sale of their new $1.2 billion toy, there is a chance they could also deal one or both of Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, the other two thirds of the group that, with Stanton was probably the best outfield in baseball in 2017.
Ozuna has two years of salary arbitration remaining before free agency and since the Marlins won’t be good in either of those seasons he seems more likely to be dealt than Yelich, who is signed to a team-friendly deal through 2021 with $44.5 million remaining over the next four years, plus a club option for another season after that.
But neither of those players are Giancarlo Stanton, which makes this feel like a missed opportunity for the Dodgers.