On the heels of the latest in long-term extensions for young, pre-arbitration players in Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs, it seems the Miami Marlins have once again re-opened discussion regarding a long-term extension for Giancarlo Stanton, according to Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post. (H/T MLB Trade Rumors).
Miami Marlins fans should not be surprised that David Samson and company have discussed a long-term extension for Stanton, as if there was anything the Marlins did right in their long-term contracts in recent years, it was the extensions to Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson.
Also, it should come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I support any decision that involves locking up Stanton to a long-term deal with multiple free agent years bought out. In fact, I've expressed my interest in this quite a few times before, and indeed I thought an extension for Stanton was a critical aspect of the offseason plan for this past offseason.
So there is no question that the Marlins should do this. But two aspects are probably somewhat in the way of a deal happening: Stanton's willingness to sign long-term and the injury concerns on Stanton's knee.Stanton's Desires
Obviously, a long-term contract always carries risks for both sides, but in the case of the Miami Marlins, their risk is less prevalent. The question for them is whether they are interested in paying Stanton's free agent seasons, as the team is undoubtedly going to get an arbitration discount and would have likely kept him through arbitration barring disastrous injury.
For Stanton, however, he has to weigh his interests in being set up for life with a long-term deal versus risking the free agent market and potential collapse. If the Marlins and Stanton get together for a deal sometime before the 2013 season, Stanton will likely have to give up free agent years at a reduced cost based on his current resume. But this is the price he would have to pay for long-term security; no matter what happens to Stanton's career from here on out, those six or seven seasons, including those larger free agent years, will be guaranteed. Even in the case of a serious injury, his financial future will be more than secure.
The downside is that he will risk losing high-end arbitration salaries that he could have gotten by going year-to-year, along with losing his shot at an earlier free agency and a potentially monster contract. But there is a precedence for star players to do this, and for Stanton, the odds of a monster contract may still be present. For example, Albert Pujols signed away his arbitration years and four free agent seasons following a stretch in which he hit .334/.412/.613. Troy Tulowitzki signed a deal following his first full pre-arb season in the majors that took two free agent years away. Hanley Ramirez signed a large deal that signed away three free agent seasons. And yet, these three players would have reached free agency (or in the case of Pujols, did reach free agency) still at a prime age; Pujols reached free agency at age 32, while Ramirez and Tulowitzki would be 31 and 30 respectively in their first post-extension year. Stanton, were he to sign a seven-year deal, would be 30 years old, easily young enough to get a six- or seven-year contract that could earn him big dollars if he deserved it.
For the Marlins, the only concern is the risk of injury, but in 2012, that risk has come to the forefront. Stanton missed a month after having undergone knee surgery to remove "loose bodies" in the joint space, and he missed time during Spring Training for the same issue, minus the surgery. The Marlins have to carefully examine how well Stanton will hold up in order for them to consider the long-term deal.
Of course, the good news about the injury is that any injury concern can be incorporated into the contract. If the Marlins feel Stanton is more of an injury risk, they would be right to dock some of the salary to account for that. It does not mean that Stanton has to accept such a dock in payment, but it would be a reasonable move for both sides.
It Will Get Done
I doubt that the Marlins and Stanton will be able to agree to a contract within the season, especially since the team wants to see Stanton play the rest of the year out with no lingering health concerns. But with the Fish being good about long-term extensions in the past, I do not see how the Fish will fail to get a deal done now unless Stanton is simply uninterested in signing long-term. The Marlins clearly understand his value as a franchise cornerstone, and it is almost certain that they will do anything in their power to lock him up for a long time. Based on moving the needle of an estimate from before the 2012 year one extra free agent season, I suspect a seven-year extension that buys out four free agent years will look something like seven years and between $71 million to $84 million. This would be an absolutely believable deal and one that should benefit both sides.