There’s a fair amount of belief out there that the Marlins should finish the job they started with the Blue Jays and trade their biggest chip for a huge package now. And the 23-year-old masher now named Giancarlo Stanton is quite the chip. He enters his final seasons at the league minimum just seven home runs short of triple digits, and still has three years of team control remaining after the upcoming one. It’s those years of control that provide room for the most debate about his value.
You can try to do a straight calculation to reduce this to an equation. Stanton’s defense in the corner outfield has been steady, as has his patience, and only an injury kept him from producing six wins last season. He’s pre-peak by any measure, so penciling him in for another 20-25 wins over the next four years is reasonable. You’ll get one or two superstar seasons and one or two more five-to-six-win type seasons for your money. We’re painting with a broad brush here, but the best is yet to come, if most aging curves are to be believed.
How much he’ll be paid over those four years is the tougher question to answer. The methodology in arbitration tends to depend on the traditional stats, though, and Stanton offers the traditionalist’s favorite — home runs — in bunches. Albert Pujols hit 114 homers through his first three years, and then he signed away his arbitration years for $7M in 2004, $11M in 2005, and $14M in 2006. Ryan Braun hit 103 home runs in his first three seasons. He was paid $1M in 2010 (final non-arb year), $4M in 2011, $6M in 2012, and will receive $8.5M in 2013. In the last ten-to-fifteen years, no other player has gotten particularly close to matching Stanton’s power surge to begin his career, so these numbers have to provide us a short sample guide post. Oh if only the Marlins worked like the Rays so we could add cost certainty to his tremendous list of assets.
Let’s split the difference and say he gets paid about $25 million dollars over his final four years. Both Pujols and Braun were/are better players — not a slight, given the crowd Stanton is running with — and you can see that even by looking at traditional stats like batting average and RBI. So, $25 million dollars for 25 wins. Has a nice symmetry to it, even if we guesstimated our way here. Even if you are more conservative and have Stanton at 20 wins over the next four years, or you think he’ll bring in closer to $40 million in arbitration, he’s a great bargain.
Either way, Stanton could easily provide $100 million in surplus value.
It could be even more. Current salaries in baseball add up to $2.9 billion dollars. Teams are about to get $52 million dollars each in 2014 from new national television deals. Even if they only spend half of that money on player salaries, the collective money spent on salary could lurch forward by as much as 25% sometime between now and Stanton’s final year of arbitration in 2016.
But let’s leave that for later, since it’s hard to know exactly how the new money will affect the marketplace. And, since our numbers for the value of prospects are old — Victor Wang’s oft-cited research came in 2008 — it makes sense to use ‘now’ numbers in this case.
$100+ million of surplus value would buy you quite a load in returning prospects.
If you focused on prospects, you could demand as much as two top-ten prospects — a hitter and pitcher in the top ten were worth $36.5M and $15.2M respectively in Wang’s research — and still get more. In fact, without adding major leaguers with surplus value of your own, it’d be hard to get up past eight figures of surplus value with prospects alone. Does any farm system have a top-ten pitcher AND hitter to spare, and then the willingness to add a top-50 hitter and pitcher? They’d still be a ‘live arm’ short of Stanton’s surplus value. For example, none of these possible deals offers $100M in surplus value back to the Marlins:
The Royals are supposedly shopping stud outfield power prospect Wil Myers. They don’t have a top ten pitching prospect, but they could add #28 on Marc Hulet’s mid-season top 100 (Jake Odorizzi) and throw in #33 (Bubba Starling), and they might approach the $80M mark. The Marlins would listen, but why would the Royals — in desperate need of pitching, and owning a power outfield prospect of their own — love this trade? Are they a power hitter short of competing?
The Rangers could need an outfielder once Josh Hamilton is gone. Stanton could hit eleventy-billion home runs in Texas. The Rangers even have Jurickson Profar to offer. Add in Mike Olt (#31) and a nice collection of their down-ranking pitchers, and they could get close. They also scored the most runs in baseball last year.
The Orioles! They fit the top-end requirements to a tee, with Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy in the top ten, but then the rest of their farm isn’t as exciting… and it doesn’t really seem like the trade would fit their needs. They scored the ninth-most runs but allowed the sixth-most runs in the American League, and pitching seems like it might help the team more than an outfield slugger.
Very few teams have the ability to put together a package worthy of Giancarlo Stanton. Even fewer of these trades would qualify as enticing to the Marlins. And it looks like there might not even be one situation where both the Marlins and the other team’s needs lined up to make it happen. Maybe that’s why the newest, from Jon Heyman at CBS, has the Marlins keeping Stanton. It’s practically impossible to trade him.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.