Assessing the Trade Value of Giancarlo Stanton

The Marlins are sellers this year. Adeiny Hechavarria is already gone. Kyle Barraclough, David Phelps, and A.J. Ramos are among the bullpen pieces that might be appealing. Marcell Ozuna is having a great year and has two more years of control after this one, so he would be a desirable piece. If the team opted to, they could get a haul for Christian Yelich, too. And if the team is truly selling for the future and wants to reduce future salaries either for a future owner or because that’s just what the Marlins do, then trading Giancarlo Stanton has to be an option, as well.

It’s not entirely clear how much value Stanton has in trade. He’s obviously been a very good player to this point in his career and has recorded a 130 wRC+ so far this year. The projections see him doing roughly that the rest of the way, as well, coming close to a four-win season. He’s also only making $14.5 million in 2017, which makes him quite valuable in the near term. Detracting from that value in the longer term is the $295 million owed to Stanton over the next 10 years, part of a deal that will pay him through his age-37 season. He also has a no-trade clause. Adding to the complexity is an opt-out clause Stanton possesses in his contract after the 2020 campaign. He’ll be finishing his age-30 season at that point and will be owed $219 million over the next seven seasons.

Given the size of his deal, the return for Stanton might not be great. For that reason and because he’s a good player now and because he’s likely to remain a good player for the next few years, it’s fair to question why the Marlins would bother moving him. It’s probably too easy just to say “Because that’s what the Marlins do.” But, well, that is what the Marlins do. That opt-out might end up being difficult to turn down, and the current owner, Jeffrey Loria, likely has no interest in paying a 30-plus-year-old slugger $30 million a year. There are also rumors that the Marlins will be sold at some point soon. Before teams are sold, we often see large contracts moved in order to make the team more attractive in terms of future commitments.

There might be some additional incentive to moving Stanton prior to a sale — above and beyond the usual reasons. If you were about to buy the Marlins and felt that moving Stanton might be the best way forward to competing, you might not want one of your first moves to be trading away the franchise player. Pinning a Stanton trade to an old owner already hated by most fans might ease the ownership transition and allow a rebuild without a slugger. While some might suggest that Stanton is a draw for the Marlins, the only thing that really brings fans to the park in a sustainable way is winning. Admittedly, if this were a franchise with historically strong revenues or a winning team, it might not be as much of an issue, as $30 million is only going to be around 20% of payroll for an average team.

Clearing Stanton’s contract from the books might facilitate a sale of the Marlins. (Photo: Corn Farmer)

As for Stanton’s value, let’s first take a look at his contract compared to his expected production. In the table below, I’ve attempted to show how much Stanton might be worth over the next decade compared to his contract. We’ll make the normal aging assumptions, as noted in the chart below. We will assume 5% inflation for the first five years, but just 3% thereafter because assuming continued growth well into the future seems a bit too speculative. For the sake of this season, we will look at rest-of-season projections and double the price per WAR for 2017, as anybody who would trade for Stanton right now would be pretty high on the win curve. The final year of the contract includes a $10 million buyout, although his team could pay another $15 million for his age-38 season. Here’s what those numbers look like.

Giancarlo Stanton’s Contract — 11 yr / $302.3 M
Year Age WAR $/WAR Est. Contract Actual Contract
2017 27 2.1 $17.0 M $35.7 M $7.3 M
2018 28 3.7 $8.9 M $33.0 M $25.0 M
2019 29 3.7 $9.4 M $34.7 M $26.0 M
2020 30 3.7 $9.8 M $36.4 M $26.0 M
2021 31 3.2 $10.3 M $33.1 M $29.0 M
2022 32 2.7 $10.6 M $28.6 M $29.0 M
2023 33 2.2 $10.9 M $24.0 M $32.0 M
2024 34 1.7 $11.3 M $19.2 M $32.0 M
2025 35 1.2 $11.6 M $13.9 M $32.0 M
2026 36 0.7 $11.9 M $8.3 M $29.0 M
2027 37 0.2 $12.3 M $2.5 M $35.0 M
Totals 26.7 $269.4 M $302.3 M

Assumptions

Value: $8.5M/WAR with 5.0% inflation (for first 5 years)
Aging Curve: +0.25 WAR/yr (18-27), 0 WAR/yr (28-30),-0.5 WAR/yr (31-37),-0.75 WAR/yr (> 37)

That doesn’t look great, running a deficit of around $30 million without considering the opt-out. There is sometimes a debate about whether an opt-out clause can help a team. On the one hand, if a player opts out, a team is relieved from the future obligations. That can be a good thing. On other hand, though, if a player opts out,and has a good understanding of his market, that means the team likely could have traded the player and the remaining contract for something.

In this case, we could look at $30 million per year for seven years and say Stanton is unlikely to opt out, so that shouldn’t be a factor in this analysis. That wouldn’t be a good idea, though. Even though Stanton is unlikely to live up to his contract in the last seven years of his deal, he’s still likely to provide some value. In the example above, he provides roughly 12 wins — or around $130 million of value in this model. The opt-out provides Stanton some insurance. If the game changes and money increases greatly by 2020 — or, alternatively, if Stanton ages very well — perhaps he can get more than what he’s owed. In that positive outcome, Stanton’s team doesn’t receive that benefit. Moreover, if Stanton gets hurt or faces serious decline, he gets the benefit of the guaranteed money with no value headed to his team. The opt-out adds value to the contract for the player by removing the best-case scenario for the team.

However, the above scenario isn’t as dire as it appears for the Marlins or a team trying to trade for Stanton. Money now is worth more than money later and Stanton is providing the most money now given his play and his contract. Let’s take the figures above and take an 8% discount. The value of the contract now looks like this:

Giancarlo Stanton Contract Value
Year Surplus $ (Mil) Present Value (Mil)
2017 $28.4 $28.4
2018 $8.0 $7.4
2019 $8.7 $7.4
2020 $10.4 $8.1
2021 $4.1 $2.9
2022 -$0.4 -$0.3
2023 -$8.0 -$4.9
2024 -$12.8 -$7.1
2025 -$18.1 -$9.3
2026 -$20.7 -$9.8
2027 -$32.5 -$14.1
TOTAL -$32.9 $8.7

The above assumes that a contender would want him right now. At the moment, we could argue that Stanton has some value. Wait until the offseason, however, and that surplus disappears. Even if he has a great first half next season, that isn’t going to make him a net positive — even after accounting for higher prices at the trade deadline. We don’t know that the Marlins want to trade Stanton right now, and we don’t know that there is a team willing to trade for Stanton and his contract, and we don’t know that the team that wants Stanton is one he would be willing to go to. There’s a lot we don’t know, but if the Marlins ever want to trade Stanton, and they find a team interested in him, they should take it.





Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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Brett W
4 years ago

The X-factor is how Stanton feels about being traded. If the Marlins decide to sell, he essentially controls the market.

That said, Washington is win-now, is clearly willing to trade future for present, and needs help in left field. I can see a match there.

Josh
4 years ago
Reply to  Brett W

D.C. needs a closer and a SS.