There is an element of Kabuki theater surrounding the fate of Giancarlo Stanton. On one hand, there are ballclubs across the country aching to add the 23-year-old slugger to their rosters. Their fan bases are no less anxious. With headlines like “How could the Cubs Acquire Giancarlo Stanton?” and “Should the Rays Make a Run at the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton?”, it is clear that there is ample interest in the kid that can knock baseballs into parking lots.
Stuck in the middle is Stanton himself. Spending his third big-league season with a high-potential, high-payroll, high-disappointment team, he watched the bailiffs come into the clubhouse and clear out all of the furniture, right down to the filing cabinets and staplers. Except for himself and a scant few others, the Marlins are unrecognizable from the 2012 club. Ineligible for arbitration until next year and not hitting free agency until 2017, he is a marquee player stuck on a last place team for less than $500k per year. If anyone was surprised that he expressed his frustration via Twitter, it might be a good idea to spend less time following professional table tennis.
Playing the role of the top-hatted villain with the curled mustache is Jeffrey Loria. Clearly, he spent some time researching his role. He cut a stadium financing deal that was offensive to those who care how public money gets spent. July trades that got rid of Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez were just teasers for the payroll slash of the decade that looks more and more like a way to pocket revenue sharing and “luxury tax” money.
So what do we make of the persistent rumors from Toronto, San Diego, Tampa Bay and Chicago? Not much, I suspect. Loria has taken every single possible step to alienate ticket buyers, except one. Should he cut a deal that gets rid of Stanton, especially this close to the start of Spring Training, he will have gotten rid of the one remaining box office draw in the organization. His legal-but-unethical stadium deal and his post-season trades have angered Miami fans to the point where he would almost lose a popularity contest with Fidel Castro. And if the stories about the promises made (and then broken) to Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes are true, then he will have made it impossible to sign any more truly top-shelf players without having to pay a huge “jackass owner” penalty.
Unfortunately for Stanton, he’s stuck in Miami for 2013. Look for his intentional walk stats to skyrocket this year.