The time is now for Marlins to lock up Giancarlo Stanton
On Thursday, Giancarlo Stanton earned his first Silver Slugger award after posting MVP-caliber numbers this season. This news surprised no one, as Stanton paced the National League with 37 home runs and a .555 slugging percentage, knocked in a career-high 105 RBI and could have done more damage had that baseball not smacked him in the face in mid-September.
Now the narrative almost every year since Stanton broke in with the Marlins has been, when will the team sign him to a long-term contract? Or even, will the team lock up their bona fide star or grant him the same exit as the others that came before him? Or, will Stanton even listen to any negotiations after the team has shown basically no will to hold on to big name players and field a routinely competitive roster?
After the Marlins improved by 15 wins in 2014 following a dreadful 2013 rebuild year, Stanton seems to be in high spirits and clearly not upset with the team as he demonstrated after the 2012 fire sale. The font office have made known their intention to keep Stanton in Miami, and it would seem they are taking legitimate action to follow through on that statement.
This is great news! Though “preliminary talks” are just that, well, preliminary, this is an encouraging sign. The World Series ended barely a week ago, and the Marlins are apparently being proactive in trying to improve on their surprising 2014 results. They have said they want to add starting pitching. They have said they plan on locking up their young core to be in place for many seasons to come. And they have a favorable situation with Jose Fernandez waiting in the wings to help make a pennant run in the second half of the 2015 season, should they be in such a position.
But it all starts with keeping Stanton happy. The conundrum the Marlins face being a small-market team (it still blows my mind that Miami of all places can be considered “small-market,” but that’s baseball for you.) is that the budget doesn’t leave room for too many expensive pieces to surround Stanton with. If the Marlins want to keep Stanton for the long haul, they are probably going to have to give him MVP money. But he has openly expressed his displeasure with the club in the past, and will likely stay with the team only if they commit tom building a winner around him.
This is why the Marlins should go for broke in 2015. Without a multi-year contract getting done, next year will in all likelihood be the last that they can afford Stanton. So, if they are truly committed to winning now, they should be up there with the biggest movers at this year’s Winter Meetings, which start in about a month. The Marlins have the pieces looming in the minor leagues that they could use to trigger impact trades at the owner meetings. Having a surplus of starting pitching is a great problem to have, and the Marlins should use that to their advantage to bring in some cost-efficient bats and a rotation arm or two that can really propel this team to postseason contenders.
Of course, this is more of a temporary solution that would risk the farm system in the long run, but what do the Marlins have to lose? How many times have they made trades and rebuilt in the last decade? And how many playoff appearances do they have to show for it?
The Marlins also have Stanton’s injury to use in their favor. As much as it pains me to say this, we don’t know if Stanton will be the same player he was next year. He suffered a pretty brutal facial injury, and it’s evidently still causing him intermittent headaches and vision problems. In their contract negotiations, the Marlins very well might have the leverage to say, “Look, we don’t know if you will have the same eye you had last year, because half your face had to be reconstructed.” It’s an odd scenario, because it could even be argued that Stanton’s trade value might be lower right now because of the unknowns following in the wake of the hit by pitch. He is a finalist to win the MVP, but perhaps not the same player he was all year due to a freak incident. Juan Encarnacion will tell you all about that plight.
More good news is that the Marlins should enjoy an increase in payroll next year. It has been suggested that team payroll could improve to around $60 million, or even $75 million. That would be a substantial jump from the roughly $44 million payroll they had in 2014. And we know Jeffrey Loria can afford it.
But the reality is that Stanton should demand a much-t00-large portion of that budget. The Marlins have long demonstrated an aversion to the “Moneyball” approach, so affordably piecing efficient players in the dugout is usually a challenge. But even if Stanton does agree to a long-term deal, the Marlins have the ammunition to author trades that would position them favorably in the somewhat-short-term. The likelihood of Stanton signing for ten years or some similarly ridiculous length is probably out of the question, but maybe they could coax him with a three-to-five year deal worth a ton of money where they say, “Hey, we are going to sell the farm to get you to the playoffs in the next couple years. Please don’t leave; we love you, Giancarlo.”
The Marlins need to act on their words and do whatever it takes to sign their franchise player. They need to do that now, or it will be too late. For the first time in many years, sans the pre-2012 honeymoon period where they signed all the free agents and promised World Series rings to accompany the shiny new ballpark, Marlins fans have some reasons to be optimistic. Jose Fernandez will be back before you know it. The Marlins have the best outfield in baseball right now. They went from a 62-win team to a 75-win team in one year, a year where they were without their best pitcher and their MVP right fielder down the stretch.
It’s time to put your money where your mouth is, Marlins. If Stanton wants a no-trade clause, give the man his no-trade clause. Swallow your pride, and get the deal done. Or you will regret it in the long run.