It leaked out over the weekend that the Miami Marlins are “willing to listen” to offers on their sole remaining star player, Giancarlo Stanton, which is, of course, very different from actively trying to trade him or shopping him around. The Marlins, this offseason, have sabotaged any chance to compete this upcoming season in yet another rebuilding effort, but to this point, have stopped short of trading Stanton, who is their one remaining draw for fans and likely the only above-average position player in their everyday lineup.
So the question remaining is why, and for how long?
For the Marlins, it appears to be a question not of if they trade Stanton, but when? There is the outside possibility that they could hold on to him for the four years remaining in his contract, and if the Marlins get back to being competitive during that time and shift their organizational philosophy back to 2012 mode, they could re-sign him. But that would be a very un-Marlins thing to do.
It’s understandable for the Marlins not to want to trade Stanton, the only marketable asset on their roster. That Wade LeBlanc banner hanging outside the stadium isn’t exactly bringing in fans. And while it may not be their best decision to hold on to him much longer, the Marlins haven’t exactly been in the business of making the best baseball decisions lately.
Given that they have gone mostly-all-in on their rebuilding process by trading every valuable asset outside of Stanton, there is little reason to keep him at this point. After all, the difference between 62 wins and 67 doesn’t really do them any good. And if they can turn Stanton into a few pieces for their future, for example a couple of potential three- or four-win players, then they need to do it.
Which brings us to the real question here. What should the Marlins hold out for in a trade for their best player?
We don’t have a lot of precedent for a player who has been worth 12-13 wins through just his first three seasons getting traded with so many years remaining before free agency.
Roberto Alomar had 11.7 wins through his first three seasons when, before the 1991 season, he and Joe Carter were traded to the Blue Jays for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez. That wasn’t a prospect deal, so it’s tough to gauge our return from that. Mat Latos got traded at a similar time in his career but was only a 7.5 win player to that point in his career, and the Padres still landed a big league starter, a nice bullpen arm, their starting first baseman and their catcher of the future.
Mark Teixeira got his career off to a similarly hot start as Stanton, but the Rangers waited until he had just a year-and-a-half of team control left and still landed Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in their deal. You can read Baseball America’s full write-up of that trade from 2007 here, but needless to say, it was a big package at the time and became an even bigger one as Feliz and Andrus fulfilled their potential.
If that’s the price that’s been set here, then only a few teams even have the goods to land Stanton. I had a little fun breaking down each team’s chances over the weekend, but in reality, regardless of need or room in their outfield, most teams would consider acquiring Stanton while few have the prospects to get a deal done. Furthering the complications is that the Marlins aren’t likely to take much major league talent in return unless it’s cheap (like Henderson Alvarez in their earlier deal with the Blue Jays), because their window for competing clearly isn’t for a few years. Adding talent that will be hitting arbitration by 2014-15 defeats their purpose.
I’ve long advocated that, when a team blows itself up or trades its best asset(s) in a rebuilding deal, it must get a centerpiece for its next competitive team. For instance, in the Latos deal, the Padres got back Yasmani Grandal, who is a potential all-star catcher, and Yonder Alonso, who isn’t an all-star but could still develop into an average major league first baseman. And Stanton is almost twice as valuable as Latos was at the same point in his career.
This was my issue with the Marlins trade with the Blue Jays. While they got a lot of interesting talent and potential, Jake Marisnick is still a significant risk to not pan out at all and Adeiny Hechavarria is a nice player but won’t be a cornerstone type. There is no guarantee that, in a trade that eliminated any chance of them being competitive for at least the next two years, they got any of the best players on their next competitive team, and that’s not good. They can’t afford for that to happen again if they move their only remaining asset.
Especially when it’s an asset this valuable.
When it comes down to it, Stanton has about as much trade value as any player in the game not named Trout or Harper. If the Marlins are going to trade him, they need not one but probably two cornerstone pieces of their next competitive team. Not every organization has that in its farm system.
The Phillies, for instance, would love nothing more than to land Stanton, but even if the Marlins were willing to trade him within their division (I have no idea about their thoughts on this), the Phillies don’t have that kind of talent left in their farm system. And that’s even if you still think Domonic Brown can be that type of player.
A package for Stanton would have to include, ironically, something like what the Rangers could offer (but likely won’t), using Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar as the centerpieces of a deal. Dangling Profar (something the Rangers have been extremely reluctant to do) would get the Marlins on the phone and offering Profar and Olt would get them listening intently, although still might not get the deal done. It would be a solid start though.
If the Marlins move Stanton, they must be sure to do it right. When they cleaned house after their last title and traded Josh Beckett, they got Hanley Ramirez in return. If they’re going to make a similar move, they need to get a similar centerpiece-type player they can build around. Trading a promising young player to aid in a rebuilding process can help speed that process up by a year or two if done right, but if done wrong, it can set them back just as far.
Listening, and eventually trading Stanton, isn’t a bad move, but for the future of the Marlins, it’s essential that they get it right.