Rumor Mill: Giancarlo Stanton

We weren’t even out of the exclusivity period after the end of the World Series when Major League Baseball hot stove started sizzling. Peter Gammons got us started this weekend with a tidbit that the St. Louis Cardinals had indicated to the Miami Marlins that they would be willing to part with one of their high end pitching prospects in a trade for Giancarlo Stanton.

While I still question how much faith I should place in a national baseball writer drumming up trade rumors (remember those years of Tulowitzki trade rumors?) or the Cardinals’ front office when it comes to sealing big deals, this would seem to be a positive indication that there might be a chance for a deal.

This is a tough situation because it’s so hard for us to value Giancarlo Stanton for a few reasons.

First, he’s owed $295 million over the next 10 years. That’s a lot of coin, even for a transformative player like Stanton. But if you were to get 4 WAR out of Stanton on average over those 10 years (in 8 seasons so far he’s averaged 4.4 WAR including injury shortened seasons), he’ll easily be worth that contract. If Stanton were a free agent this winter, he would get far more than $29.5 million in average annual value. That’s all I would really need to know when it comes to whether the contract is worthwhile.

Second, he has an opt out after the 2020 season. Logic would suggest that if he has three productive seasons that he will exercise that opt out to become a free agent at 30 years old. That would be opting out of what is essentially a 7 year, $218 million deal and there are many who think he won’t be opting out, but depending on what guys like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado bring home after next season, there could easily be a market for $30-40 million more dollars.

Third, how much money do the Marlins want to send to St. Louis. The math here is pretty clear. The more of Stanton’s salary they’re willing to cover, the better prospects they can expect to receive in return. But the Marlins are hemorrhaging cash and one of the main reasons they’re trading Stanton away is because he is the biggest move they can make towards profitability. We might be looking at one of the last true contract dumps.

The result, I think, is a player who will likely be traded for far less than anyone expects.

And this is where the Cardinals have an edge. The other major suitor for Stanton is expected to be the San Francisco Giants, who struggled this season and have very few pitching prospects in their system. They have just one MLB.com Top-100 prospect and just one pitcher in their organizational top-10.

Enter the Cardinals with five MLB.com Top-100 prospects, two of which are pitchers, and five pitchers in their organizational top-10.

I wrote last winter about how the Marlins and the Cardinals were natural trade partners. The Cardinals needed a hitter following the death of Oscar Taveras and the Marlins needed a pitcher following the death of Jose Fernandez.

Of course, as I wrote that, it was about Marcell Ozuna, who went and put together the best year of his career in 2017. But Stanton would fit the bill too.

I think there’s enough to indicate that the Cardinals have a real interest in Stanton. But when it comes to the Cardinals’ front office, I always question their willingness to spend money and trade prospects.

The bigger question may be if there was any truth to the rumor from the trade deadline that the Marlins told the Cardinals that they believed Stanton would not waive his no trade clause to join the Cardinals. Though it was later clarified this was more of a midwest thing than a St. Louis thing.

I do believe, for a number of reasons, that if a Stanton to St. Louis trade is going to happen, it’ll happen in the next two weeks. November 20th is the deadline for clubs to protect players from the Rule 5 draft, and a team acquiring prospects will want to protect them if they’re in that situation. Additionally, the club will also want to have completed some trades to thin out the 40 man roster by this point as well. But they won’t want to trade anyone in those deals that might interest Miami. So I do expect a Stanton trade to happen relatively quickly or not at all.