The Miami Marlins would like to sign Giancarlo Stanton to a long-term extension, and Stanton himself would not mind a deal from Miami. But as we have mentioned many times before, neither side is ready to fully commit and both need time to evaluate each other. So the contract extension situation that many fans are clamoring for now is at least a season away, even with the most recent mammoth deal involving superstar Mike Trout.
But regardless of how close or far we are from such a contract, it is always interesting to talk about a deal. And good friend of Fish Stripes Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel did a great job outlining a potential Stanton contract in his latest piece. He compares the potential deal to the deals given to Freddie Freeman and Mike Trout recently, and his breakdown of how to approach an extension is absolutely on point.
Based on Freeman and Trout’s deals, let’s construct a reasonable offer for Stanton, who like Freeman will play this season at 24. Trout turns 23 in August.
Trout’s contract buys out three arbitration seasons and three free agent years. Freeman’s contract buys out three arbitration seasons and five free agent years. Let’s look at the contracts in chunks and form the framework of a Stanton extension. Stanton in 2014 is making $6.5 million in his first arbitration-eligible season.
We know that Freeman is earning $28.5 million over the course of his arbitration seasons if you include his $2.875 million signing bonus. Spread out over the three seasons, and it is essentially as though he earned a $6 million - $9.5 million - $13 million breakdown for those three years. The breakdown for Trout includes a $10.25 million - $15.25 million - $19.25 million payout for arbitration, yielding almost $45 million for those three years.
You can certainly argue that Freeman was overpaid in arbitration or, more likely, that Trout was underpaid, but it is really difficult to break through arbitration-level salaries because they are so based on similar comparisons. Knowing that, we can compare the two payouts and see what Stanton should get. Since Stanton already received $6.5 million for his first arbitration season, we should expect his pay increase to mirror that of Freeman's. Give Stanton $10 million and $15 million over the next two seasons and we have an arbitration commitment of $25 million. Rodriguez estimates a commitment of $23.5 million, so that seems reasonable.
The free agent years are where this gets murky. Rodriguez splits the difference between the amount of years given to Freeman (five) and Trout (three) and puts Stanton at taking a deal that buys out four free agent years. The problem with this is that players do not usually commit to fewer seasons as they approach free agency. I spoke about this with regards to Josh Johnson a long time ago with his agent Matt Sosnick before. The rationale is that the closer a player is to reaching free agency, the more he will want a long-term guarantee close to the one he would receive in free agency. Why would a player commit for fewer years as he approaches free agency and can get a huge, lifetime contract like the nine- or ten-year deals players like Prince Fielder and Robinson Cano have received?
The examples of this interaction is abundant. You can see the contracts that players like Matt Cain, Matt Kemp and Joey Votto received in their final arbitration season as a barometer for the number of years potential free agents expect to get. Cain got five free agent years, while Kemp received seven free agent seasons at good prices. Votto's deal bought out an enormous nine years of free agency. Players like Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki re-signed after initial extensions and committed to seven extra free agent seasons, essentially signing themselves for life with the team. And the long-term commitments are beginning to come earlier, as evidenced by Freeman's five-year commitment. The year totals are only going to get larger going forward.
As a result, I disagree with the sentiment that Stanton would take just four free agent seasons at a reasonable average annual value (AAV) of $23 million. Stanton will be just two years away from free agency and a potential ten-year contract guaranteeing great money. Why would he take less money to commit to fewer guaranteed seasons, only to have to re-enter free agency? The only reason would be to prove himself worthy of a better contract, but to that end, he would still have two more seasons in arbitration prices to do that before reaching free agency. He has time to earn that huge free agent deal if he wants it.
If Miami wants Stanton long-term, they will likely have to go really long-term. Considering that Freeman, the closest comparison to Stanton, got five free agent years while negotiating a year earlier, you have to figure Stanton will want more guaranteed time. Let's consider that Stanton wants a six- or seven-year free agent commitment from Miami, which is less than what Votto received and is closer to on par with Kemp. That still leaves this as an eight- or nine-year commitment by Miami.
Rodriguez brings the annual value details.
The Angels will pay Trout $102.2 million for his first three free agent years ($34 million AAV). Freeman for his first three free agent years is due $63.6 million ($21.2 million AAV). So what’s Stanton worth for his first three free agent seasons? Let’s go with $70 million ($23.3 million AAV), which again is slightly higher than Freeman but well shy of Trout’s mark.
A $23.3 million per season commitment seems completely reasonable. Let's presume he gets $23 million even by adding the extra free agent years. This would lead to an eight-year, $163 million contract or a nine-year, $186 million deal that even eclipses my previous thoughts.
What would a contract offer look like right now? Consider that the Marlins add seven or eight free agent years to the final two arbitration seasons. The Fish could offer something like a nine-year, $179 million contract or a ten-year, $201 million deal.
Adding additional seasons could even drop the overall annual value, but this contract would leave Stanton at age 32 or 33 when re-entering free agency, which gives him both the extended value he would desire and the time to re-enter in search of a Cano- or Miguel Cabrera-style second long-term deal that would take to retirement.
As Rodriguez mentions, there is no way for anyone to tell whether Stanton would accept such a contract. We have an idea that Miami would probably struggle to justify offering such a deal, given that the largest contract the team has ever doled out was a seven-year deal worth $106 million to Jose Reyes. This commitment would be significantly larger, and rightfully so given the increase in money coming to teams everywhere.
What do you think Fish Stripers? Do you think Stanton would or should accept an eight- or nine-year deal for $163 million to $183 million? Is that reasonable to you? To the Marlins? Let us know!