I think we all understand the present circumstances. The Marlins are trying to trade Giancarlo Stanton in order to clear payroll, and they’ve reached general agreements with both the Cardinals and the Giants. From the Cardinals, the Marlins would get talent and salary relief. From the Giants, the Marlins would get talent and salary relief. There are differences, obviously, but right now you’d think there are only these two finalists. Stanton has full no-trade protection, but he doesn’t want to stick around where he is, and so we’re getting to a decision point. Stanton will soon need to pick St. Louis or San Francisco.
Or neither. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but Stanton grew up and played high-school ball around Los Angeles. We’re not familiar with Stanton’s actual thoughts, but the consensus opinion is that Stanton’s ideal outcome would be a trade to the Dodgers. To this point, we haven’t heard much about the Dodgers’ trade interest. Stanton wouldn’t be the type of add they typically make. And yet, here we are. The Dodgers continue to loom over this whole thing.
This can obviously change as it goes, but Giants expect a Stanton decision by the end of the week. I’m hearing they continue to view Dodgers, not Cardinals, as biggest threat.
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) December 6, 2017
Giancarlo Stanton? Stanton has plenty of leverage. But so do the Dodgers. The Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes are unusual, but so is this situation, with Stanton effectively able to hold out until he gets what he wants.
I’m far from the first person to get here. Buster Olney wrote about Stanton’s leverage on November 21. Grant Brisbee wrote about the Dodgers’ position on November 28. The Dodgers have been right there from the beginning, even though rumors of their strong interest haven’t leaked. The Dodgers certainly don’t look eager, in the press. But they also haven’t ruled anything out. The Dodgers have painted themselves as a possibility, and it stands to reason that’s why Stanton is technically still professional property of the Marlins.
Given where the Marlins are, I don’t think Stanton wants to go back. He would presumably prefer either the Cardinals or the Giants. But if his strong preference were to join the Dodgers, then there’s no reason for him to accept anything yet. If the Dodgers might get involved, well, why should Stanton be in any rush? And, for their own part, why should the Dodgers be in any rush? They don’t need very much. They’re already a finalist for Ohtani. The Dodgers benefit from effectively holding up everything else. Other teams want to get more business done, but the Dodgers can keep the market in limbo.
The Dodgers have decisions to make. I’m going to guess they’ve already made most of them. How much do they want Stanton? How much of an improvement would he be? Would his destination have any bearing at all on Ohtani’s frame of mind? Might the Dodgers actually want Stanton to end up with the Giants, at or around the rumored cost? Might the Dodgers prefer the Giants be so burdened? There’s a chance there, although the Dodgers also would understand that Stanton would make them better right away. Not by a full five or six wins, but by a few wins, at least. Get Stanton now and the Dodgers could sit out the whole Bryce Harper circus in a year. It’s hard to turn down a Stanton, when one is available. The Dodgers could make it work.
The key bit of information here is that Stanton can basically dictate where he goes. The key speculation is that Stanton would prefer the Dodgers over anyone else. The other key speculation is that the Marlins are sufficiently motivated to move Stanton now, instead of having to clear payroll by other means. That would be more challenging for them to do, and Stanton would also spend the whole next year as an unhappy reigning MVP. It’s a situation any team would like to avoid. The Marlins are toxic, ever more so when trying to reduce the payroll by tens of millions of dollars.
Rumors of the Cardinals’ offer have floated. So have rumors of the Giants’ offer. I don’t know how accurate they are, but they seem sensible and logical enough. If the Dodgers decide they don’t want Stanton, they can just back away and let him make his decision. But if, alternatively, the Dodgers decide they’d like a more powerful outfield, they can express their interest. And, critically, they wouldn’t have to match the Cardinals or Giants’ offers. Not if Stanton actually wants to play in Los Angeles more than anything else. Then it would be almost all up to Stanton and the Dodgers, because Stanton could simply tell the Marlins he’ll accept nothing else. He can force the Marlins to choose between an underwhelming Dodgers offer and bringing an unhappy Stanton back. That wouldn’t guarantee a Dodgers trade happens, but it would be the most likely scenario.
The Marlins have said they don’t want to take a bad contract or two back. They might not have a choice, because the Dodgers are also reportedly motivated to drop below the competitive-balance-tax threshold. The Dodgers could achieve that by sending the Marlins short-term dead weight. And while I don’t think the Dodgers could get away with not offering the Marlins anything appealing at all, they wouldn’t need to match the other prospect packages. They’d need to offer just enough to convince the Marlins to suck it up. They’d need to offer just enough for the Marlins to prefer the offer over the fallout from Stanton sticking around. Moving Stanton is by far the easiest way for the Marlins to help their financial situation. They might not want to think about the alternatives. They don’t have many alternatives.
Stanton controls this, which we can take to mean the Dodgers also control this. Because of how the leverage here is distributed, it makes sense that Stanton would be available to the Dodgers for a lower cost than the one that would be charged to the Cardinals and Giants. It’s not often you see trade negotiations that are so lopsided in one team’s favor, but this is something teams just have to accept when they give out no-trade clauses. Players earn those clauses, and they’re free to use them however they like. Usually, circumstances aren’t so complicated. But it seems like Stanton wants Los Angeles. Which essentially would leave this up to Los Angeles. If they want him, they ought to be able to get him, for a rather underwhelming return. The Marlins wouldn’t be happy, but even though they’re the ones with their finger on the trigger, it’s hardly their decision to make. Their power here is woefully limited.
Ideally, the Marlins wouldn’t operate this way. Ideally, the Marlins would be a legitimate operation, just like anyone else. It would be great if Stanton were happy where he is, because that would be better for baseball. But the Marlins continue to be a tire fire, and it’s seldom better for a team to trade an MVP. If the Dodgers allow, Stanton will shortly elect to join the Cardinals or the Giants. And if the Dodgers allow, Stanton will shortly become a part of their own impressive core.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.