The “hot stove” this offseason has been rather quiet for Major League Baseball thus far.
General managers and fans everywhere are holding their collective breath, waiting to see if the St. Louis Cardinals or San Francisco Giants can pull off a trade for Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, or if perhaps a surprise suitor can pull off a deal in the 11th hour.
Stanton is reportedly set to make his decision in the next couple of days, holding out hope that the Marlins can work out a deal with his preferred destination — the Los Angeles Dodgers. Stanton has the power to veto any potential trade due to a no-trade clause in his contract.
A Stanton trade for the boys in blue would undoubtedly boost the Dodgers chances of returning to the World Series for the second year in a row and perhaps finally capturing the rings that have eluded them for nearly 30 years.
However, the reason why a trade to the Dodgers hasn’t already been done is because the team is already loaded and full of a bunch of other players with big salaries or who the team is going to have to commit long-term money to in order to keep. For instance, three-time Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw has three years left on his current deal with the team, but can opt out after the 2018 season and command an even larger contract on the free agent market.
According to baseball reference, Kershaw is owed in the ballpark of $35 million each of the next three years if he does not opt out after 2018.
The Dodgers already had the highest payroll of any team in baseball on opening day 2017. Adding Stanton would tack on another $25 million for the next season and his annual salary would only increase for the next four seasons before reaching its peak of $32 million per year from 2023-2025. His contract doesn’t expire until 2028.
Not only would such a trade balloon up the Dodgers payroll, but it would potentially hamper their ability to resign Kershaw if the ace chooses to opt out or to bring back young stars like Yasiel Puig, Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger once they become free-agent eligible in future seasons.
It would be a risky play for the Dodgers, who don’t need to make the move to contend and stand as a potentially desirable destination to land the pieces it needs to refuel for another shot at the World Series with a substantially lower price tag.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, reportedly have room on the payroll that they’re looking to fill and the team has been in desperate need of a big bat to fill the middle of the lineup. Stanton would check that box in a big way.
However, the deal is a long shot as Stanton has reportedly said he doesn’t want to come to St. Louis, that he prefers to play on one of the two coasts. That gives the Giants a big leg up.
The Giants, though, have an aging team. Their window to compete for championships with the current pieces they have is closing and they don’t have the same level of talent in their minor league system that the Cardinals do.
If the Giants were to land Stanton, they could possibly continue to rearm themselves through free agency once those veteran pieces begin to fade, or they could just as easily be set for a rebuilding phase of their own in a couple of years that could see Stanton on the trading block again.
Meanwhile, nothing much is moving through other trades or free agency while everybody holds out to see who lands Stanton and what the market will be for other slugging outfielders from the teams that don’t get the big fish.
Another reason not much is moving is because of the Scott Boras factor. The notorious agent represents a good crop of this year’s notable free agents, including outfielder J.D. Martinez, Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas, and Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta.
Boras likely isn’t going to sign off on any of these players inking their deals at this juncture until he waits to see the market develop and determine how much more he can squeeze as teams become more desperate after missing out on players like Stanton and Japanese pitcher-slugger hybrid Shohei Otani.
Despite the soft embargo on activity that has taken place thus far this offseason, the Cardinals did already make one move this past week — trading shortstop Aledmys Diaz to the Toronto Blue Jays for minor league outfielder J.B. Woodman.
It was not unexpected that the Cardinals would trade Diaz, who was supplanted after his rookie breakout season of 2016 by another rookie breakout star in 2017 — Paul Dejong. However, it is somewhat unexpected that it would occur now when the Cardinals are on the short list to trade for Stanton. Wouldn’t Diaz have made a great piece to be able to include in a potential trade to Miami?
Diaz, who hails from Cuba, would seemingly be a much more marketable talent in Miami than he would in Toronto. Oh, by the way, the Blue Jays still have Troy Tulowitzki signed at shortstop through 2020 with a team option for 2021.
Meanwhile, Woodman joins a logjam of outfield talent in the Cardinals system that includes Dexter Fowler, Tommy Pham, Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk and Jose Martinez with the big league team along with prospects Harrison Bader, Magnerius Sierra and Tyler O’Neill.
Despite a down year in 2017, I still feel like Diaz has a lot to offer his new team. Trading him away from a prospect that may never see Busch Stadium doesn’t make a lot of sense to me when he could have been a key part of a package to trade for a big star — if not Stanton they potentially somebody else. Why trade down when you can trade up?
We’ll have to wait and see here in the next couple of days if the Cardinals can convince Stanton to come to the gateway city. If not, we could see a couple other moves happen from the team sooner rather than later.