Earlier toady, we talked about how Giancarlo Stanton may be interested in staying with the Miami Marlins long-term if the team could provide him the "security" he desired. When he says "security," Stanton of course means not only security in terms of long-term, guaranteed money, but clearly he also wants the security of being in a long-term winning organization. In order for Stanton to commit to the Marlins for the long haul, the team would have to show signs of progress towards a competitive, "winning" franchise for longer than the immediate future.
It would be an understatement to say that Miami has failed to do this in most of its questionable history. Grant Brisbee of SB Nation MLB points out this much himself.
Brisbee essentially says that this would be a monumental task for the Marlins, and that it would take an Oakland Atheltics-style turnaround or better to commit Stanton to the Marlins at this stage.
And he is not wrong.
The Marlins have instilled no confidence in their ability to compete during Stanton's tenure with the team. Beyond that, their one attempt at fortifying the young talent with veteran players failed so miserably that the team veered from its initial plans and held yet another heinous fire sale as a result. Miami is in no position to sell its franchise stability to Stanton right now.
But it appears to be the only chance for Miami. At the same time, we need to be realistic. The Marlins are not likely to have an A's-like turnaround next year and go worst-to-first. But is there anything within the realm of reason that could happen that could help Miami's cause?
1. Christian Yelich turns into a superstar
One way to convince Stanton that the future lies in this franchise is to continue to surround him with elite talent. The Marlins were lucky to have the first step already happen for them when Jose Fernandez surprisingly went from "young phenom" to "one of the best young pitchers ever." For a raggedy team like the Marlins, it is important to show that they not only have copious talent on the way, but that there is already a superstar partner on the signing player's side. Fernandez is that guy for Stanton.
But this is the Marlins, and the Marlins have more history to overcome. If Yelich comes out like gangbusters and becomes another star rookie talent akin to Fernandez, the Fish would have a lot more to pitch to Stanton for the future. It would have an impressive nucleus to start, more impressive than many other young teams, and one that will reside in Miami for a good while. It also eliminates the need for Miami to acquire star-level talent via more expensive outlets like free agency. That would help mitigate some of Miami's problems until arbitration.
2. Front office delineates a clear plan
The Marlins have often been run in the last seven years as though there were too many cooks in the kitchen, and owner Jeffrey Loria served as the less competent version of Gordon Ramsey in the group. The Fish were never able to decide on a strict long-term plan and follow through with the process. If the results ever went awry (see 2012 Miami Marlins), Loria all too quickly bailed ship and embarked in another plan. This process not only frustrates fans who want to attach themselves to players, but it also shows a lack of discipline and knowledge to the players and coaches executing the plan. How can Stanton find stability in a franchise that so quickly abandoned its 2012 goals thanks to a poor first half?
With the news that Loria has been relinquishing some control this offseason, the Marlins have moved a little closer to formulating and sticking with a long-term plan with the next five or six years in mind. With Loria previously involved and likely meddling based on the whims of the present, a future plan would never have come to fruition. The Marlins need to communicate with Stanton that there is a clear plan that will not be left behind so easily. If president of baseball operations Michael Hill and general manager Dan Jennings can show a plan with which Stanton agrees, the Fish will have gained some of Stanton's trust. That may mean also including him in the decision-making process, anointing a de facto player representative in the front office.
3. Follow through on the plan
The Marlins cannot just spew a plan at Stanton, even if they bring him into the war room for decision-making. He needs to see that the franchise is going to follow through on those plans. If the Marlins say that they will improve a certain area of the offense, the team must absolutely accomplish this task in the most reasonable manner possible.
The limiting reagent here is actually time. Plans like these may reasonably take time, but the Fish only have a season and change to impress Stanton enough to get him to agree to a contract. With this being a lost season, wins are less likely to be what buys his trust. The Marlins should be aggressive on their pursuit of ways to improve the franchise given their long goals.
4. Improve the infield
The Marlins' first task in their long-term plan for Stanton should be to immediately find help in the infield. Even a three-year solution at an up-the-middle defensive position like second base or shortstop would be a godsend compared to what the Marlins are going to run out next year. If given more time, Miami's option of signing one-year stopgaps like Rafael Furcal would have been acceptable. But with Stanton's window shrinking quickly, the Marlins cannot afford to dally on this particular task.
The Marlins have to find a way to improve the franchise's weakest point right now in order to prove to Stanton that the team has some urgency in its goals. They did start off well by signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but Adeiny Hechavarria and Furcal could use replacements, and the team should look to the trade market to find a suitable partner. If it means picking up salary, the Fish have to make some commitments to impress Stanton if they plan on holding onto him.
5. Pitch him on the future
No matter how many current improvements the team does make, the Marlins' best pitch remains the future. They have some strong talent at the big league level and a plethora of pitching prospects coming up the pipeline. The Marlins need to take cues from other mediocre to bad teams that still convinced their stars to commit long-term. Players like Hanley Ramirez in Miami in 2008 and Andrew McCutchen in Pittsburgh were not exactly seeing their teams rocket into success when they signed, but it seems clear to me that it was the potential of the clubs' farm systems that helped sway the decision. Miami may need Yelich to already prove himself as a superstar, but the club needs Stanton to know that there is even more cavalry on the way.
The pitch involves Andrew Heaney and the other pitchers in addition to what Miami already has in the big leagues. It revolves around how effective the bullpen and starting rotation will be. The Marlins need to emphasize the strengths of a Colin Moran, mentioning how amazing it would be for Stanton to drive an OBP machine like Moran home consistently. The incoming youth movement, bolstered by years of drafts at the top of the order, should convince Stanton of the long-term health of the organization beyond 2018 and 2019.
Even amid all of this, there is definitely no guarantee that Stanton will think this is the place for him. Loria could go back on everything he promises to Stanton and send all that surrounds him away in trades if the franchise loses games, and the Marlins are almost sure to lose games in the next two years.
And that is where the A's-style turnaround becomes so critical. A slow progression would be nice for Miami, but it leaves Loria's fickle nature and impatience still loose. As Brisbee says, if the Marlins truly want to convince Stanton to stay, a magical season in the next two years would go a long way. It would convince Loria that whatever is being used is working, and it would appease his impatience. He will not be as willing to dismantle and stray from the plan in this case.
But that is not realistic even if the five above things happen. The team's best bet is to follow that plan to the best of their abilities and hope to strike gold like the Pirates did in the last two years. If they can find some luck on their side after three straight years of bad uck, the Marlins' odds of retaining Stanton go at least above zero, which is around where they are currently at.
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