Thoughts after the Yanks trade for Giancarlo freaking Stanton

(Mark Brown/Getty)
(Mark Brown/Getty)

It came together so quickly. Less that 24 hours after the Giants and Cardinals publicly declared themselves out on Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees swooped in to grab the reigning NL MVP and MLB home run king over the weekend for the bargain price of Starlin Castro, Jorge Guzman, and Jose Devers. Pretty incredible. The press conference is at 2pm ET today. I imagine it’ll be on MLB Network and MLB.com. (Update: YES will have it for sure.) There’s a lot to say about this trade. More than should be squeezed into one post. Let’s start with some miscellaneous thoughts.

1. Know what I love about this trade? The Yankees are back to being the Evil Empire. They went out and got the biggest name and the best player available even though they didn’t really need him. It was an old school George Steinbrenner move made with those new school “wow the Yankees got a great deal” smarts. Didn’t trade top prospects, didn’t give up draft picks, didn’t blow up the luxury tax plan, nothing like that. The Yankees used to be a rich team that threw money at everything. Now they’re rich and smart. I truly believe it is good for baseball when the Yankees are a great team and everyone hates them. The Yankees being the villain is good for the sport, and the Yankees are back to being that villain. It’s also good for baseball that a player like Stanton is now in the game’s largest market. This past season a lot of outsiders fell in love with the young plucky underdog Yankees, though that was never going to last. The Evil Empire is back and it is glorious.

2. This is the epitome of a “too good to pass up” trade. I don’t think the Yankees had any intention of seriously pursuing Stanton when they went into the offseason, even after asking about him at the trade deadline. Another corner outfielder and more right-handed power was hardly a priority. The Yankees did what they always do. They kept an eye on the market, and if the stars aligned and they could get themselves a good deal on a great player, they’d pounce. And that’s exactly what happened. Stanton backed the Marlins into a corner with his no-trade clause, and with Miami’s leverage basically non-existent, the Yankees took advantage. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Stanton fell right into their laps. It takes a perfect storm for a deal like this to come together. It takes a great player, a team desperate to unload him, and an opportunistic team ready to take advantage. Brian Cashman & Co. are nothing if not opportunistic.

3. Speaking of being opportunistic, the Stanton trade is eerily similar to the Alex Rodriguez trade. During the 2003-04 offseason, A-Rod had just completed his age 27 season, in which he led the league in home runs and was named MVP. Yet his team was so desperate to unload his contract that they traded him to the Yankees for pennies on the dollar and ate money to make it happen. Stanton just completed his age 27 season, a season in which he led the league in homers and was named MVP. And yet, his team was so desperate to unload his contract that they traded him to the Yankees for pennies on the dollar and ate money to make it happen. Both contracts included an opt-out clause too. Stanton can opt out in three years. A-Rod opted out four years after the trade. Pretty freaky how similar the A-Rod and Stanton situations are, huh? The A-Rod trade was great. The problem was giving him a ten-year contract at age 32, after he opted out. Stanton is signed “only” through age 37, and his salary for luxury tax purposes is more favorable than A-Rod’s was during his contract. I would be quite surprised if the Yankees give Giancarlo a massive A-Rod contract should he opt out in a few years, though let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

4. Let’s take a second to remember how this all came together. It took a series a moves — a series of opportunistic moves, to use that word again — to get from Point A to Stanton. Here’s a recap:

  • Traded Adam Warren to the Cubs for Castro, who’d been pushed out by Ben Zobrist.
  • Traded four prospects no one misses for Aroldis Chapman, who’s trade value was kaput.
  • Traded Chapman to the Cubs, who were contending thanks in part to Zobrist, to get Warren back.
  • Re-signed Chapman as a free agent after the season.
  • Traded Castro to the Marlins for Stanton, who were desperate to unload his contract.

Pretty ridiculous. There are some other branches on the trade tree — the Yankees traded Brian McCann to the Astros for Guzman, who is going to the Marlins in the Stanton — but that’s the gist of it. This started as Warren (and Brendan Ryan!) for Castro and ballooned into Giancarlo (joining Warren!) in pinstripes. What the what.

5. So apparently I’ve been calculating luxury tax salaries wrong for traded players all these years? I was under the impression that once a player is traded, his luxury tax hit is recalculated based on the remainder of his contract. That is not the case though. Stanton’s huge 13-year, $325M contract has a $25M average annual value (and thus luxury tax hit). There are ten years and $295M left on the contract, so I thought his luxury tax hit going forward would be $29.5M. Apparently not. It is still $25M. Huh. That means I’ve been wrong all these years with guys like Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, and Castro, who the Yankees acquired in the middle of multi-year contracts. My bad, folks. Anyway, Ken Rosenthal says Stanton’s luxury tax hit going forward will be $22M because the $30M the Marlins will pay Stanton if he doesn’t opt out reduces the luxury tax burden on the Yankees. The Yankees might never actually see a dime of that $30M because Stanton may opt out, but they still get the tax credit. Pretty awesome. The Yankees have Stanton with a $22M luxury tax hit, and when you subtract out Castro, they only increased their 2018 luxury tax payroll roughly $11M with the trade. They still have about $20M in payroll space before reaching the $197M luxury tax threshold, though keep in mind they have to leave some of that open for midseason call-ups and additions. There’s still enough money to make more moves though. The Yankees just gave up a painless package for the largest contract in the sport, and it doesn’t even blow up the luxury tax plan. Amazing.

6. To state the obvious, assuming a ten-year contract and $265M in salary obligation is quite risky. The luxury tax hit may only be $22M a year, but the Yankees are on the hook for $265M in real dollars once you subtract out the $30M they’d get from Miami should Stanton not opt out. The good news is Giancarlo is only 28 — he turned 28 last month, so he’ll spend all of next season at that age — so the contract doesn’t take him into his 40s. That’s still a lot of years and a lot of money. It’s risky. That’s just the way it is. At same time, Stanton’s contract is probably going to look pretty good about 14 months from now, after Bryce Harper signs his inevitable monster contract. Think about it. The Yankees have Stanton at $22M against the luxury tax. Harper could end up at $40M against the luxury tax. Is Stanton as good as Harper? No, I don’t think so. I’d take Harper’s next ten seasons over Stanton’s next ten seasons, no question. But is the difference between Stanton and Harper on the field as great as the difference between Stanton’s contract and Harper’s upcoming contract? Almost certainly not. As big and as scary as Stanton’s contract is, it’s going to look a whole lot better once Bryce gets his payday.

Stanton and Harper. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Stanton and Harper. (Rob Carr/Getty)

7. It stands to reason adding Stanton will take the Yankees out of the running for Harper next offseason. I mostly agree with that — I’d never completely rule out the Yankees pursuing a generational talent like Harper — though I don’t think the Stanton addition means the Yankees will automatically steer clear of another monster contract. Instead of Harper, they might instead shift their focus next winter to Manny Machado, who’d address an obvious long-term need at third base. After all, second base is wide open for Gleyber Torres now. I’m a Miguel Andujar fan. You know that if you’ve read RAB long enough. But you don’t let a guy like Andujar stand in the way of adding Machado. I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s see how the season goes for everyone, what the payroll and luxury tax situations look like going into next winter, then circle back and talk about Machado (and Harper).

8. So what’s the best outfield alignment? Given their size, both Stanton and Aaron Judge are deceptively good defensive right fielders. Stanton is at +23 DRS over the last three seasons, including +10 DRS in 2017. Judge was at +9 DRS this year. Left field is pretty spacious at Yankee Stadium, so, in a perfect world, the Yankees would keep Brett Gardner out there. There’s more to range than pure speed (reads and routes are important too), but Statcast’s sprint speed says Judge (27.7 feet per second) is slightly faster than Stanton (27.5 feet per second), so that doesn’t help us figure out who is better suited for left. Stanton has played right field exclusively in the big leagues. So has Judge, though at least he played seven games in left field in Triple-A last year. Right now, I have no idea whether it would be best to keep Judge in right and move Stanton to left on the days they both play the field, or keep Stanton in right and move Judge to left. This might be one of those things the Yankees have to figure out in Spring Training. Get them both some looks out in left field during Grapefruit League play and see who is more comfortable. Chances are the players will make the decision for the Yankees.

9. It is entirely possible the best outfield alignment has Stanton at DH, but not for defensive reasons. For health reasons. He’s had some injury problems in his career, most notably a series of lower body injuries (groin in 2016, knee in 2012, hamstring in several years), and giving him the majority of the at-bats at DH could keep him healthy, both short and long-term. The Yankees have a lot invested in Stanton financially. They want to get as much out of him as possible, and the key to a more productive Stanton down the road could be giving him more DH time now. The same is true of Judge. These are two massive humans — Judge is listed at 6-foot-7 and 282 lbs., and Stanton isn’t far behind him at 6-foot-6 and 245 lbs. — and the more running around they do, the worse it’ll be for their legs. The Yankees would surely love to use the DH spot to get Judge off his feet regularly as well, but the fact of the matter is Stanton has to be the priority because of his contract. The Yankees don’t have much invested in Judge. If things ever go south in the future, they can non-tender him if necessary. There’s no walking away from Stanton. Given his history of leg injuries, giving Giancarlo the majority of the playing time at DH could be the best thing going forward.

10. The outfield alignment is boring. The batting order is much more fun. There is how I would fill out the lineup card if I were manager Aaron Boone (it’s still weird writing that):

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. DH Giancarlo Stanton
  4. C Gary Sanchez
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. CF Aaron Hicks
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 2B TBD

Don’t get too hung up on the outfield spots and the DH spot. I’m not worried about who plays where right now, just who hits where. Anyway, yeah, that’s my lineup. Judge is the better on-base player and Stanton is the better power hitter, so Judge before Stanton seems the way to go to me, not Stanton before Judge. I’ve seen some folks in the comments and on Twitter say Bird or Didi should hit third to break up the righties, and while I get it, it seems unnecessary. Among the 111 right-handed hitters who batted at least 300 times against right-handed pitchers this past season, Judge ranked second behind Mike Trout with a 179 wRC+. Stanton was ninth with a 144 wRC+ and Sanchez was 21st with a 130 wRC+. These are not your run of the mill right-handed hitters. These dudes crush righties. I say stack them up high in the lineup and let ’em eat. Maybe Bird will stay healthy and mash, and force a move to the three spot. That’d be cool. Right now though, squeezing Bird or Didi in there to split up the righties, and thus knocking Stanton and Sanchez down a spot, is unnecessary in my opinion.

11. So that TBD I have at second base, what’s going to happen there? This is something we’re going to have to discuss more in the coming days and weeks, but my guess right now is the Yankees will look for a low cost veteran to plug in for the time being, and if nothing really comes along, they’ll stick with their internal options. Those internal options being Ronald Torreyes or Tyler Wade (or Thairo Estrada?) until Torres is ready. If the Yankees don’t sign a free agent for second base, boy oh boy are the calls for Gleyber to start at second going to be loud in Spring Training. I think the chances of Torres breaking camp with the team next year are much better than they were this year, though I still think the Yankees would send him down to Triple-A Scranton for a few weeks, for two reasons. One, to make sure he’s back up to speed after suffering a major elbow injury and missing half the season. I mean, that’s obvious. Give the kid a chance to shake off the rust in a low pressure environment — Torres only had 96 plate appearances with the RailRiders before the injury, and has 235 above Single-A total, so it’s not like the extra at-bats would be a bad thing — before asking him to take over second base. And two, service time. The Yankees usually don’t manipulate service time, but in this case, it is worthwhile. Two weeks in Triple-A in 2018 equals gaining control of Gleyber’s age 27 season in 2024. That is pretty huge. We’re talking about buying a peak year of a potentially great player. Possibly his career year. The Yankees didn’t manipulate Judge’s service time because he’s already 25 and under control through his prime. That wouldn’t be the case with Torres. There is definitely something to be said for taking the best players regardless of service time. In this case, the potential reward is too great to not send Gleyber down for a bit, second base situation be damned.

12. Literally the only thing I do not like about the trade is that it adds more strikeouts to the lineup, but that is more of a minor nuisance than a major problem. Stanton is effectively replacing Matt Holliday in the lineup and Holliday struck out a ton this season (26.7%). Travis Sawchik wrote a neat post examining some adjustments Stanton made at the plate this past season, specifically the way he closed up his stance, which stops him from flying open and swinging through pitches on the outer half, and the result was a significant drop in strikeout rate:

giancarlo-stanton-strikeout-rate

Stanton cut his strikeout rate from 29.8% in 2016 to a career low 23.6% in 2017, which was only a bit north of the 21.6% league average. Two extra strikeouts per 100 plate appearances. Not a huge deal. His previous career low was a 26.6% strikeout rate in 2014. Stanton has made adjustments to cut down on his strikeout rate and that’s great. He’s still going to strike out a bunch. The Yankees ran into some problems at times last season (especially in the postseason) when they couldn’t put the ball in play, and adding Stanton won’t solve that. But, when you’re getting the game’s premier power hitter in his prime, you live with the strikeouts because the reward is so great.

13. I can’t help but feel a little bad for Castro. He spent all those years with the Cubs while they rebuilt, got to the NLCS with them in 2015, then was traded away the offseason before they won the World Series. He went through all the rebuilding pain without reaping any of the reward. Now Castro spent two seasons with the Yankees, made it to the ALCS this year, and got traded right before the club looks poised to take off. That must suck. This is a business though. That’s the way it goes. I can’t imagine Starlin will be with the Marlins long — they’re probably going to flip him elsewhere for prospects since he’s making real money ($22M total from 2018-19) — so maybe he’ll get traded to a contender (the Angels and Mets jump to mind as possible landing spots). The timing just stinks. Castro was with the Cubs and got traded before they won the World Series. He was with the Yankees and now they traded him right when it looks like they’re on the verge of being a powerhouse. Poor Starlin.

14. This is another one of those things worth a full post (or a series of posts) at some point in the future, but Clint Frazier is going to shopped around for a starting pitcher now, isn’t he? I like Clint, he’s pretty awesome, but Stanton and Judge aren’t going anywhere, so he is capital-B Blocked as a corner outfielder. It only makes sense to put him out there on the trade market and see what offers come along. The Yankees could try to package Frazier for an established controllable big leaguer like, say, Gerrit Cole or Sean Manaea or Danny Duffy, though I wonder if they’ll look to trade him for a pitcher version of Frazier. A young guy with a some MLB time under his belt who is not yet established in the show. A prospect-for-prospect challenge trade, essentially. Someone like Diamondbacks lefty Anthony Banda (they have to replace J.D. Martinez) or Braves lefties Max Fried or Luiz Gohara (Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis are sooo bad) might work. I dunno. Just spitballin’ here. A trade doesn’t have to happen now. The Yankees could hang on to Frazier and stash him in Triple-A when the season starts, then see what materializes at the trade deadline. This isn’t something that has to be taken care of right now, before Spring Training. My point is it’s just hard to see where Frazier fits now. Cashman and his staff wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t at least put Clint’s name out there to see what kind of return they’d get.

15. A cool thing about the trade is that the Yankees gave up lower level prospects in Guzman and Devers. Guzman is really good, he could be a top 100 guy by midseason next year, but he’s yet to pitch in a full season league. Devers is in rookie ball. You trade guys that far away from MLB for a dude like Stanton every single time. Anyway, my larger point is that the Yankees didn’t give up any of their upper level depth pieces. They kept Frazier, they kept Wade, they kept Billy McKinney, they kept Luis Cessa, they kept guys like that. Are they great? No. But they’re useful pieces who are a phone call away. Keeping Cessa means no scrambling for a spot starter at midseason, for example. I thought the Marlins would seek upper level talent in their salary dump trades but that has not been the case. Not with the Stanton trade and not with the Dee Gordon trade. They went with lower level players who aren’t particularly close to contributing at the big league level. The Yankees got Stanton and got to keep their depth players. That shouldn’t be overlooked. One of the reasons the Yankees look so formidable going forward is the way they’ve been able to raise their own internal replacement level, if that makes sense. They have quality players waiting in Triple-A as reserves.

16. Beyond his on-field impact, Stanton is going to boost television ratings as well as ticket and merchandise sales massively. The Yankees were already trending up in ratings and attendance. They’re going to jump even more now. Stanton is one of the few players in baseball whose value transcends what he does on the field. He puts butts in the seats and gets people to tune in regularly. Know what the Yankees should do now? They should open the gates a little earlier prior to home games so fans can watch batting practice. Gates open two hours before first pitch now, so by time you walk in the door, the Yankees are pretty much done with batting practice. You get to see the bench guys hit their final round and that’s it. Open the gates a half-hour earlier and fans will get to see Stanton and Judge do their thing, and as someone who has seen both of them take batting practice multiple times, it is fun as hell. The Yankees wouldn’t necessarily make money from that (other than getting 30 extra minutes of concession sales) but it would still be a cool thing to do for fans. If they don’t want to do it every single game, maybe do it once a homestand or something. Make these great players more accessible. There’s the Judge’s Chambers in right field. Put Stanton Island in the left field bleachers or something. Market the hell out of them.

17. And finally, wow does the trade look terrible for MLB and the Marlins. The Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter ownership group bought the Marlins for $1.2 billion a few weeks ago and now they’re crying poor and salary dumping their best players because they came into this venture without much capital. They’re already looking for new investors for a cash infusion. They don’t have any money and I don’t see much of a plan to make the team competitive down the road. Their only focus seems to be eliminating debt. What are the odds the Marlins are going to spend all that revenue sharing money they receive next year on players? The Sherman/Jeter group knew the team’s financial situation going into the purchase and so did MLB. They league reviews the finances of every prospective buyer. They knew this fire sale was coming, yet they approved the sale anyway. Pretty terrible. Forget the conspiracy theories about Jeter helping the Yankees. That’s nonsense. Stanton would be a Giant or Cardinal if Jeter had his way. But instead, Stanton is a Yankee because instead of turning the franchise over to owners ready to invest, MLB allowed them to be sold to a cash-strapped outfit. Yeesh. Bad look.

Yankees add Giancarlo Stanton in blockbuster trade with Marlins

That poor baseball. (Mark Brown/Getty)
That poor baseball. (Mark Brown/Getty)

December 11th: The trade is official. The Yankees made the announcement this morning. It is as reported: Stanton and cash for Castro, Guzman, and Devers. Here’s the press release.

December 9th: For the second straight offseason, the Yankees are set to acquire the reigning National League home run king. Something tells me Giancarlo Stanton will work out better than Chris Carter.

According to multiple reports, the Yankees and Marlins have agreed to a four-player trade that brings Stanton to New York in exchange for Starlin Castro and two prospects. There is also money involved. The trade is pending physicals — Jon Heyman says Stanton is on his way to New York for that — and neither team has announced anything, though that’ll happen soon enough. Here are the trade details:

  • To Yankees: Stanton and $30M in conditional money
  • To Marlins: Castro, Jorge Guzman, Jose Devers

Ken Rosenthal says the Yankees only get the $30M if Stanton doesn’t exercise his opt-out clause following the 2020 season. There is still ten years and $295M on his contract overall. Thanks to some fancy accounting, Stanton will count as approximately $22M against the luxury tax during the life of the contract, per Rosenthal. His actual salary ranges between $25M and $32M over the next ten years.

The new Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter led ownership group has been clear they want to slash payroll to get the Marlins’ finances in check. The easiest way to do that? Trading their most expensive player, who happens to be the reigning NL MVP. Stanton is waiving his no-trade clause to join the Yankees, who are said to be his second choice behind his hometown Dodgers. He used the no-trade clause to block deals to the Giants and Cardinals earlier this week.

Once Stanton blocked those trades to San Francisco and St. Louis, the Marlins had very little leverage remaining, hence this sweetheart of a trade for the Yankees. Miami wanted to unload as much of Stanton’s contract as possible, and the Yankees happily took on a big chunk of it while giving up no one they’ll really miss. I don’t think the Yankees came into the offseason planning to pursue Stanton. This is something that fell into their laps. It’s too good to pass up.

Stanton, who turned 28 last month, authored a .281/.376/.631 (156 wRC+) batting line with an MLB best 59 home runs this season. That is a top ten single-season home run total in history. Stanton, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Maris, and Babe Ruth are the only men in history to hit as many as 59 home runs in a season. Stanton’s career averages are a .268/.360/.554 (144 wRC+) line and 44 home runs per 162 games. He’s averaged 5.0 fWAR and 5.1 bWAR per 600 plate appearances.

Even before the Stanton trade, the Yankees had four outfielders for three spots (Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge) plus a top MLB ready outfield prospect (Clint Frazier), so things are getting a little crowded. That’s not big deal though. This is definitely one of those “get the game’s best power hitter for a bargain price and figure out the rest later” situation. I suspect Clint’s name will start popping up in trade rumors soon.

Starlin. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Starlin. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

The Yankees are giving up their starting second baseman in the trade, and while Castro wasn’t great by any means, he was a solid player who brought stability to the position in the post-Robinson Cano years. Starlin, who will turn 28 in March, hit .300/.338/.454 (110 wRC+) with 16 home runs in 112 games around hamstring problems this season. There are two guaranteed years and $22M left on his contract. The trade clears a long-term spot for Gleyber Torres. Short-term? I’m not quite sure. I’d be surprised if Gleyber was on the Opening Day after missing half of 2017 with injury.

Guzman is the better of the two prospects heading to Miami. He came over in the Brian McCann trade and broke out this season, throwing 66.2 innings with a 2.30 ERA (2.47 FIP) and 33.5% strikeouts with Short Season Staten Island. I had the 21-year-old as a top ten prospect in the system in my preliminary top 30 prospects list, and the fourth best pitcher behind Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams, and Albert Abreu. Guzman is a quality prospect. Gotta give something to get something though.

Devers is the cousin of Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers. The 18-year-old hit .245/.336/.342 (100 wRC+) with one home run and 16 steals in 53 rookie ball games this year. He was not in my preliminary top 30 list nor particularly close to making it. Keep in mind former farm system head Gary Denbo left the Yankees to join the Marlins a few weeks ago. I suspect Guzman and Devers were two of his personal favorites.

The Yankees were hardly short on right-handed power, but when you have a chance to get Stanton at that price, you take it. Only once in history has a team had two players hit 50+ homers in a season — Maris (61) and Mickey Mantle (54) did it for the 1961 Yankees — and, if nothing else, Stanton and Judge will have a chance to do it next year, assuming MLB does not un-juice the ball. Heck, those two might hit 50+ even with a regular ball.

With Stanton set to join the Yankees, the next order of business is finding some pitching depth. The Yankees have enough room under the luxury tax threshold to re-sign CC Sabathia, possibly even someone a bit more expensive. They also need to figure out second base. My guess is they’ll look to see if they can score a cheap free agent (Howie Kendrick? Brandon Phillips?), otherwise they’ll stick with internal options like Ronald Torreyes or Tyler Wade until Gleyber is deemed ready. Either way, the Yankees just got a heck of a lot better, and a heck of a lot more fun.

Sorting Things Out

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

A year and a half or so ago, the Yankees traded Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and Carlos Beltran. A year and a half ago, the Yankees were looking at a rebuilding process that, hopefully, wouldn’t be too painful. A year and a half ago, the present reality of the Yankees seemed completely unfeasible. But here we are: after a season of unexpected success from unexpected avenues, the Yankees made their biggest splash in an already splashy year by acquiring Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins for Starlin Castro and two prospects.

With Stanton aboard and Castro gone, there’s plenty to sort out, but let’s start with the emotions of this. Hell, yeah, huh? A week ago, it seemed like Stanton would land in San Francisco or St. Louis, but as the week went on, that all went away and we got word he’d listed the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, and Astros as his preferred destinations. Even then, I thought that there was little or no shot he’d actually end up on the Yankees. To say this was a pleasant and invigorating surprise would certainly be an understatement. Thanks to my son being sick, I was up for most of the morning hours on Saturday and caught a lot of the development of the trade that way. I woke up with him at around 2 AM and didn’t bother trying to go back to sleep–I didn’t want to miss anything.

This felt like a slower version of what happened when the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira out of no where in 2008. Were the Internet the way is now back then, I’m sure the Alex Rodriguez trade would’ve felt the same, too. Regardless of the comparison, the level of shock that this actually happened is sky high. I can’t wait to see what Stanton does in this lineup. Speaking of, things are a bit crowded now, aren’t they?

Even before acquiring Stanton, the Yankees were probably heavy one outfielder. Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, and (maybe? Probably?) Clint Frazier were all going to have to figure out how to share time in the field and at DH.  As has been the looming case for a while, it seems that time has run out for one of Ellsbury and Gardner as well; if the Yankees–and, I’m willing to bet, most of us–get their way, Ellsbury will be gone with Gardner, Hicks, Judge, and Stanton as the main outfielders and DHs. Perhaps they let Frazier hang on the bench and fill in depending on matchups, as I’ve suggested in the past. Or, they could send him to AAA again and let him get every day at bats there.

Minus Starlin Castro, the Yankees now have a void at second base. Enter Gleyber Torres? Eventually. Unless he has a Spring Training like Aaron Judge did last year, I don’t see him breaking camp with the team. If he doesn’t, though, the Yankees could sign a stop gap for one year, or run a platoon of Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes out there, or run a competition between those two during Spring Training. No matter what they do, the Yankees won’t need to get much production out of second, given what the lineup will look like with Stanton included now.

I’m still in shock this trade happened, frankly, but it’s a damn good shock. And even when the shock wears off, the feeling will be great, grand, wonderful. In a cliche of cliches, the Yankees have certainly given their fans an early holiday gift; given the surprise of this one, I can’t help but wonder if more is in store.

Saturday Links: Profar, Ohtani, Stanton, Ellsbury

Didi and Profar in the WBC. (Matt Roberts/Getty)
Didi and Profar in the WBC. (Matt Roberts/Getty)

Monday should be a pretty busy day, folks. It is the deadline the MLBPA has set to hammer out the posting agreement for Shohei Ohtani. If a deal isn’t done by Monday, he’s going to stay in Japan next season. Also, Monday is the deadline for teams to set their 40-man roster for the Rule 5 Draft. There’s going to be plenty of roster shuffling that day. Here are some other bits of news to check out.

Yankees interested in Profar again

Once again, the Yankees have some interest in former Rangers top prospect Jurickson Profar, reports Joel Sherman. Pretty sure this is the third straight offseason the Yankees have been connected to Profar. They’ve been trying to buy low on him since his shoulder problems started a few years ago. Interestingly, Sherman says Texas has interest in some depth arms at the bottom of New York’s 40-man roster, and a deal could be built around them. Huh.

Profar, 25 in February, missed both the 2014 and 2015 seasons with shoulder surgery. He’s hit only .227/.316/.315 (71 wRC+) since coming back, including .172/.294/.207 (40 wRC+) in 22 big league games in 2017. The Rangers sent Profar to Triple-A, where he hit .287/.383/.428 (116 wRC+) in 87 games. They did not give him a September call-up though, and Profar is reportedly preparing to file a grievance because the non-call-up pushed his free agency back a year.

Acquiring Profar would be very similar to acquiring Aaron Hicks. The Yankees would be betting on talent and a chance of scenery. Profar was a tippy top prospect not too long ago, he’s still only 24, he’s a switch-hitter, and he’s played basically every position other than pitcher or catcher. He is out of minor league options, so it’s MLB or bust. That’s one drawback. Ultimately, just stockpile high-end talent. If all it takes is some fringe 40-man roster arms, this is a no-brainer.

Ohtani wants to hit and pitch

Not surprisingly, Ohtani wants to both hit and pitch whenever he comes over to the big leagues, reports Yahoo! Japan (translation via @NPB_Reddit). “Ohtani said he wants to play both ways in MLB. I plan to respect that wish,” said his agent. If you’re interested, Dan Szymborski put together statistical translations and ZiPS projections for Ohtani, which seem quite relevant. Here are the 2018 projections:

  • As pitcher: 3.55 ERA (119 ERA+), 10.4 K/9, +3.3 WAR in 139.1 innings
  • As hitter: .266/.328/.466 (112 OPS+), 12 HR, +2.2 WAR in 305 at-bats

That would be pretty incredible in his first year as an MLB player. And, for what it’s worth, ZiPS projects a 125 ERA+ and 121 OPS+ at Ohtani’s peak at age 27. That would be amazing. I think everyone has kinda assumed Ohtani will want to hit and pitch when he comes over, but now we know for sure. His agent confirmed it. We’ll see how it goes. Doing one thing well is hard enough. Doing both well would be rather remarkable.

Yankees checked in on Stanton

Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton. (Eric Espada/Getty)
Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton. (Eric Espada/Getty)

As expected, the Yankees have reached out to the Marlins to discuss Giancarlo Stanton this offseason, reports Jon Heyman. They also checked in back around the trade deadline. Stanton is the big trade commodity this offseason — Heyman says at least eight teams are involved, and I expect more to get involved before it’s all said and done — and so far the Cardinals and Giants have emerged as the most serious suitors.

The Yankees typically check in on everyone during the winter, especially any star players who become available. That doesn’t mean they’re seriously interested in acquiring Stanton. Would they take him if the Marlins make an offer that’s too good to be true? Of course. In that case you get Stanton and figure out where he fits later. That’s why you make the call. In case a favorable deal can be made. Otherwise this is just due diligence. The Yankees have more than enough outfielders as it is.

Ellsbury not yet asked to waive no-trade clause

According to Brendan Kuty, Brian Cashman confirmed this week that the Yankees have not yet asked Jacoby Ellsbury to waive his no-trade clause. Last offseason they approached Brian McCann about waiving his no-trade clause fairly early. I assume that’s because there was legitimate interest in McCann at the trade deadline and serious interest again in the offseason, so there was a real chance of a trade. That probably isn’t the case with Ellsbury. Here’s what Cashman told Kuty:

I have not had any dialogue with Scott (Boras), haven’t even approached Scott, I guess it’s a similar situation. I think in both cases — in McCann’s case as well as if there is going to be something for consideration with Jacoby — I would make sure I would stay ahead of it and have to include anybody in the process on their side of it to make sure it’s handled the proper way.

“They have a full no-trade for a reason, and I would walk through that process with the highest level of communication and respect because of it. I haven’t connected with Scott at all, but I know he’s here somewhere, and I’ll make sure I’ll get a chance to talk to him before I leave just generally about everything Scott Boras related for the winter, and I’m sure we’ll also talk about Jacoby as well.

Cashman also said that, as of right now, Ellsbury is the fourth outfielder. Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge are entrenched in the corners, and Hicks is the man in center going forward. “They were the best that we had (in the postseason), and so I think we would anticipate going (into 2018) that way again,” said Cashman. The Yankees are going to have to eat a lot of money to trade Ellsbury, but I think they’re more willing to do it right now than ever before, so I expect them to shop him around pretty aggressively. And when the time comes, they’ll ask about the no-trade clause.

The two very big reasons the Yankees should pursue Giancarlo Stanton

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

The offseason is not yet two full weeks old, but already the two biggest stories of the winter are clear. The first is Shohei Otani’s impending move to MLB. The Nippon Ham Fighters announced they will indeed post Otani at some point this winter. MLB, MLBPA, and NPB still need to work out some posting agreement details, and once that happens, all 30 clubs will make a pitch to the righty-slash-slugger.

The second biggest story — these are stories 1A and 1B as far as I’m concerned — is the Giancarlo Stanton trade sweepstakes. The Derek Jeter led ownership group wants to cut payroll to get the Marlins back into the black, and the quickest way to do that is by trading the team’s highest paid player. Stanton will make $25M next year and unloading that makes getting the financials in order easier.

Trading Stanton, the probable NL MVP coming who is coming off a 59-homer season, is pretty much the worst possible way for the new ownership group to make a first impression, but they seem dead set on doing it. Already rumors are the flying that the Cardinals, Giants, Phillies, and Red Sox are talking to the Marlins about Stanton. I suspect it’s only a matter of time until other teams (Dodgers? Astros? Rangers? Cubs?) get involved.

The Yankees inquired about Stanton at the trade deadline and my guess is they’ll check in again this offseason, if they haven’t already. The Yankees check in on everyone. Brian Cashman & Co. wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t at least pick up the phone and make the call. Acquiring Stanton may seem like a long shot — there are other more desperate teams in the mix — but there are two very big reasons the Yankees should get involved.

1. Stanton is really good! A just turned 28-year-old who hit .281/.376/.631 (156 wRC+) with 59 home runs and sneaky good defense is a true franchise player and someone who makes every team better. Yes, the Yankees basically already have Stanton 2.0 in Aaron Judge, but there are three outfield spots plus the DH spot. You make room for a guy like Stanton. He’s a balance of power player. He can change an entire division outlook by himself.

The Marlins are seemingly so focused on cutting payroll that it’s entirely possible Stanton will come at a relative discount. His contract is massive — he’s owed $295M from 2018-27 — and because of that, Miami might not receive full price in terms of prospects. I don’t think Stanton will come at zero prospect cost. I expect the Marlins to get some very good young players. Stanton is that damn good and enough teams are involved to drive up the price. The idea of getting Stanton while doing nothing but taking on the contract and giving up some fringe prospects is a pipe dream.

Now, that said, the Marlins did recently hire player development head Gary Denbo away from the Yankees, so he knows the farm system. That could facilitate a trade. Denbo undoubtedly has some personal favorites in the farm system and could push for them when he’s inevitably consulted prior to the trade. That could mean getting Stanton at an easier to swallow cost. Unlikely? Sure. But you never know. It’s worth checking in for this very reason.

2. Drive the price up for the Red Sox. This is the big one. The BoSox are desperate for a power bat — they somehow finished dead last in the AL in home runs in 2017 — and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has never been shy about making a big splash. Why trade for Stanton when you could just sign J.D. Martinez, who Dombrowski knows from their time in Detroit? Well, Stanton’s a more well-rounded player and younger, and in terms of average annual salary, he might be cheaper too.

There are enough teams reportedly interested in Stanton that the Red Sox will have competition for him, but bidding against the Cardinals and Giants is not the same as bidding against the Yankees. The history and intradivision rivalry adds another layer to things. Remember the Jose Contreras bidding war? Mark Teixeira? Things are different when the Yankees and Red Sox are bidding against each other. It’s unlike any other rivalry in baseball.

Keep in mind Cashman and the Yankees have a history of feigning interest in a free agent in order to make life complicated for the Red Sox. They did it with Carl Crawford. Doing the same with Stanton is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned, and there are three reasons it could be very effective.

  1. They have the prospects to get Stanton.
  2. They could easily find room for him in the lineup.
  3. They look poised to take over the top of the AL East.

Faking interest in a player to drive up the price for a rival only works if the interest is believable. If the Red Sox wanted J.T. Realmuto and the Yankees showed interest, it would seem kinda weird because they already have a great catcher in Gary Sanchez, you know? Stanton’s a different story. Jacoby Ellsbury hasn’t been good in a while, Brett Gardner is getting up there in age, and we still don’t know whether Clint Frazier or Aaron Hicks are actually any good. The Yankees having interest in Giancarlo would be completely plausible.

* * *

As onerous as Stanton’s contract appears, I think it’ll look pretty darn good in about 16 months, after Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sign their new deals as free agents. Those two could very well end up making $40M annually. Once that happens, paying $30M a year for Stanton will look mighty good. The Yankees should throw their hat into the Giancarlo ring because he’s really good and a deal could come along that is too good to pass up. And, of course, their interest could make life harder for the Red Sox, and that’s always a plus.

The Yankees reportedly checked in on Giancarlo Stanton and it’s not as crazy as you may think

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees have checked in with the Marlins about slugger Giancarlo Stanton. The two sides aren’t close to a deal and it’s unclear how serious the Yankees are about a potential trade. This could have been a due diligence thing. That said, the Marlins are selling and the team itself is in the process of being sold, so it stands to reason everyone is available. It never hurts to listen, right? Right.

Stanton, 27, is hitting .271/.356/.578 (137 wRC+) with 30 home runs this season, most among all non-Aaron Judge hitters in the big leagues. He’s right smack in the prime of his career and he’s averaged 45 home runs per 162 games since Opening Day 2014. The guy is a monster. He’s also owed $295M from 2018-27. Goodness. The contract includes an opt-out after 2020, though Stanton would be leaving $218M on the table by walking away. Opting out is far from a guarantee, even if he continues to stay healthy and play well.

There’s a few interesting angles to the reported Stanton interest. For starters, the Yankees seem to be pretty well set on the outfield corners going forward with Judge and Clint Frazier. They’re definitely set in right field. We know that much. The jury is still out on Frazier, as impressive as he’s been early in his MLB career. I suppose there’s also the designated hitter spot, though tying that up with a big money player signed long-term isn’t a great idea (See: Rodriguez, Alex).

Secondly, Stanton’s contract would hurt the team’s chances to get under the luxury tax threshold next season. The original 13-year, $325M contract came with a $25M average annual value and luxury tax hit. That’s not the luxury tax hit the Yankees would assume, however. They’d take on a luxury tax hit closer to $30M once you adjust for the timing of the trade, assuming they didn’t change the calculation in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement.

And third, the Yankees would have to give up some pretty damn good prospects to get Stanton. The Marlins are not going to take okay-ish prospects in a straight salary dump. It would be shameful. MLB should just fold the franchise if that happens. If the Marlins are going to trade Stanton, literally the greatest player in franchise history and someone who is still in the prime of his career, they’re going to do it because they get blown away with an offer.

My guess is the Yankees checked in because they check in on everyone, and hey, there’s always a chance the Marlins offer Stanton on favorable terms. You’ve got to ask to find out. That all said, what about looking at this through the Bryce Harper lens? Harper, another prime-aged superstar, will be a free agent after next season and the Yankees are expected to be very involved. Players that good and that young are hard to find. You go all-out to get them.

Harper is going to smash contract records and will almost certainly be the first $40M per season player in baseball history. He might get a $500M contract. It’s very possible. Compared to Harper’s upcoming contract, taking on Stanton at $295M from 2018-27 could be a downright bargain. Harper is the better player, but is he $10M+ per year better? Peak Harper and peak Stanton might not be so different, and peak Stanton is available right now (in theory).

I don’t think the Yankees have serious interest in Stanton right now. I think they made the call because they make every call. They wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t. Ultimately, I think the luxury tax plan and keeping the top prospects is too important to swing a Stanton trade right now. Harper will cost a ton of money, but it is just money, and the Yankees have plenty of it. They could wait a year to sign Harper for nothing but cash whereas Stanton costs money and prospects.

Heyman: Marlins, Stanton close to record 13-year, $325M deal

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

This isn’t Yankees-related — not directly, anyway — but holy crap, Jon Heyman says the Marlins and Giancarlo Stanton are close to finalizing a 13-year contract worth $325M. The record contract would include a no-trade clause and an opt-out clause. It would be the first no-trade clause in franchise history. Stanton had been scheduled to become a free agent after the 2016 season.

Depending on the date of the opt-out, this contract may actually increase the chances of Stanton becoming a Yankee down the line. Very few franchises can afford to absorb that kind of money in a trade. Either way, hell yeah Giancarlo. Dude is worth every penny in my opinion. He just turned 25 last week and he’s the top power hitter in baseball at a time when power is rare. Plus he has marquee value that transcends on-field performance. What a world.