Column: Pressure builds towards Stanton decision

There are a few natural deadlines built into the MLB offseason as teams discuss trades and other moves. The first is the Rule 5 Draft protection deadline that came and went on November 20th. The next, the non-tender deadline will come on December 1st, Friday night, and would seem to be the next natural deadline. Meanwhile, the baseball world waits for the Miami Marlins and Giancarlo Stanton to decide what they are going to do this winter.

Yesterday a report from Clark Spencer reiterated that back in October that the Marlins told Giancarlo Stanton that he can either accept a trade this winter or he can remain in Miami while they trade everyone else to get payroll down to their desired level. That it comes up again now could just be happenchance or it could be someone asking for it to be brought up again to put the pressure on Stanton.

It’s been pretty apparent since day one that the Marlins wanted to trade Stanton. And it makes sense.

At 10 years, $295 million remaining on his contract, Stanton is their highest paid player. So highly paid that I pointed out when he signed this contract three years ago that the Marlins committed more money to him than they’d spent on payroll from 2009 to 2013 combined. So when the new ownership of the Marlins talks about reducing payroll, trading Stanton is the biggest single move they could make towards that goal.

But of course they don’t just want to dump the contract, they need to get some prospects in return. Good ones who can help them build their foundation so they can pull off what the Cubs did in 2016 and the Astros did this year. Lose for a few years and then win big. It was actually the Marlins that first perfected this concept. Unfortunately, they never kept those teams around long enough to see if they could sustain that success.

So you have a team that wants to trade Stanton. And several teams lined up to take him. What’s the problem?

Well, the confounding factor in all of this is that Stanton possesses the only no trade clause that the previous Marlins ownership had ever given out. Not even in their pursuit of Albert Pujols back in 2011 did they slip a no trade clause into an offer.

This situation has also been rather opaque from all sides.

The Giants and the Cardinals seem to be the most aggressive in their pursuit of a trade for him. The Red Sox are probably next in line. The Dodgers, rumored to be Stanton’s preferred destination as they play in his home town, have kicked the tires, but don’t seem to be very motivated to make a big offer. Probably because they know they are Stanton’s preferred destination.

The Marlins find themselves in a difficult situation. Apply too much pressure and back Stanton into a corner on one trade offer and he might exercise his no trade clause and torpedo his trade value. That’s why I think this had dragged on. The Marlins want to give Stanton options to reduce the risk that he exercises that no trade and effectively puts an end to their ability to get anything of value for him on the trade market other than salary relief.

On the other hand, I am not convinced that Stanton actually wants to leave Miami. After all, you don’t sign a 13 year contract to play somewhere you don’t want to live.

In all of this we have not heard Stanton ever once say that he doesn’t want to be in Miami. That immediately signals to me that this is not a “trade me and get me out of town ASAP” kind of situation. What Stanton has said is that he does not want to take part in another rebuild because he’s tired of losing.

And if tired of losing is your criteria, it’s honestly hard to find a place that wants him that fits the bill.

The Giants have been reported to be the most aggressive in their pursuit of Stanton, but they have a severe lack of talent depth and the free agent contracts they’ve signed in recent years have not panned out. They finished last season 64-98 and tied for the worst record in baseball. If you want to win out of the gate, San Francisco is out.

The Cardinals want him, but let’s be honest here that there are more questions than answers right now in St. Louis. The team has missed the playoffs for two straight years now, something they’ve only done once since the turn of the century. And there is little to suggest that it won’t be three. They’ve effectively finished further from the World Series than they did the year before for the past four years. And they have three big holes they need to fill this winter in order to have a chance next season and no proven ability to make the big deal to fill them.

That’s not to deny that the Cardinals’ future does look bright and a player like Stanton is the missing piece to their long term success, but even with Stanton on the roster there are big questions about whether they can contend right away. So winning in St. Louis is not a slam dunk.

So as you can see, it’s not a guarantee that Stanton would accept a trade to the Giants or Cardinals and they’d win. Too many questions and that creates reluctance if winning really is his criteria.

So while he might be tired of losing, arguably the two most serious suitors for him don’t guarantee him a much better situation. And arguably, given what the Marlins could get for the other players on their roster, it might serve him better to stay in Miami, force them to rip up the roster and turn it around in a few years,

That’s what brings me back to the belief that the Marlins are more interested in trading Stanton than he is in being traded.

I think he is happy to remain in Miami, even if he has to endure losing for awhile longer, because there isn’t a team in serious pursuit who gives him a situation that’s guaranteed to be better and losing in Miami is better than losing most other places.

I said earlier this winter that he would be dealt by November 20th or not at all and I’ve seen nothing recently that changes my mind. It would not surprise me at all to see him starting in right field for the Marlins next season. Because I’ve seen nothing to indicate he actually wants to leave.

I think Stanton is very happy to wake up every morning overlooking the ocean and paying no state income taxes on his $325 million salary. Unless something better comes along. And I don’t see that happening either.