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Revisiting the Mike Stanton Extension Idea

As you will recall, I have previously written about the idea that Mike Stanton should receive a contract extension this season in the midst of the Marlins' significant spending spree. It seems the Marlins have that idea in mind as well, but since they are in no rush to sign him because he is under team control for a long period of time; the Marlins have Stanton under control until 2016. I have heard the arguments that there just is no need to commit right now from fans as well

I venture that the Marlins should be interested in rushing an extension to Stanton's hands. As I argued before, the earlier a team can secure a young player, the cheaper those future years of that player come. And while a player that is approaching his prime during arbitration (think Gaby Sanchez and Dan Uggla before him) could be at risk to bottom out and not be worth a long-term deal, a player like Stanton at his age is hardly a danger to lose value.

Perhaps the most important thing in signing Stanton early is that it avoids the very real future costs of arbitration. Mike Axisa of MLB Trade Rumors dwells on this idea and more:

The Marlins went on a spending spree this offseason, importing Ozzie Guillen, Jose Reyes, Carlos Zambrano,Heath Bell, and Mark Buehrle, but perhaps their wisest signing could be locking Stanton into a long-term deal. There's certainly no rush since he won't be arbitration-eligible until after 2013 or a free agent until after 2016, but power pays in arbitration and Stanton could get expensive in a hurry. Look no further than Fielder, who turned his impressive power output into $33.5MM during his three arbitration years. It would have been more if he hadn't given up his first two arbitration years as part of a two-year, $18MM contract.

As Axisa mentions, power can get really expensive during arbitration, and this is a prime reason for exploring a Stanton extension as soon as possible.

A Reminder

Here is what I said in the previous article about a possible realistic Stanton extension.

This is exactly the sort of contract the Marlins could sign to Stanton. Let us assume Stanton will make Super 2 status, even though this is no guarantee. Here is how an extension could look like.

Year Status Salary (millions)
2012 Pre-Arb $1
2013 Arb 1 $5
2014 Arb 2 $8
2015 Arb 3 $10
2016 Arb 4 $12
2017 Free Agent $14
2018 Free Agent $14

This extension very closely mirrors the changes that would have occurred in Braun's contract had he qualified for Super 2 status. This deal signs Stanton for seven years and $64 million, locking him up through two free agent seasons and making him a Marlin through age 29.

Remember that this contract was supposed to mirror that of Braun's. He was coming off a Rookie of the Year campaign when he signed that extension, while Stanton is coming off a season and a half of major league success.

Two Comparisons

Of course, for every reasonable extension, there are always a few unreasonable comparisons. Because of Stanton's power, he might always be compared to the great power hitters of the game, and that undoubtedly leads to unfair comparisons to giants like Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard.

Fielder, as Axisa mentions, earned $33.5 million during his three years of arbitration, including a very expensive $15.5 million final season. The above reasonable extension gives Stanton $30 million during his final three arbitration seasons, and that considers that he is a four-year arbitration player. It is very possible he makes a lot more than the $35 million in those four arbitration seasons, especially given that both players have very similar power profiles through their first two seasons. Through age 23, Fielder hit 34.5 home runs per 600 PA, while Stanton is clocking in at 33.7 homers per 600 PA for his career. Stanton and Fielder have identical 130 wRC+ (meaning both players were 30 percent better than the league average on offense) through their first two full seasons. Given that Stanton will be compared to a lower offensive threshold as a corner outfielder, it will likely make his payout in arbitration even bigger.

That might happen if Stanton stays at the level he currently is at. Of course, Fielder turned into an even better hitter, and it is not out of the realm of possibility that Stanton has a season on par with Fielder's or Howard's 2009 season. If he ever reaches a monster-elite year like Howard's 2006 campaign, the Marlins may be stuck footing an enormous bill if they do not extend Stanton quickly. Howard's singular amazing season, the only one which truly had him at an MVP-level, almost single-handedly warranted his massive arbitration payouts. While Fielder earned $7 million in his first "arbitration year" under his extension, the monster 2006 campaign bought Howard a first-year payout of $10 million. From there, he received $15 million and $19 million in the following two seasons under a three-year extension. Given what we have said about how close a comparison Howard and Stanton are, it is scary to consider the possibility that the Marlins may be shelling out a mid-teen million-dollar payout for a second season of arbitration for Stanton.

Commitment Schedule

So clearly the Marlins have monetary incentive to sign Stanton to a long-term contract in order to save potential millions in the future and buy out free agent years. This deal makes even more sense given how little the Marlins have committed to in the future.

Player 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Jose Reyes $10.0 $10.0 $16.0 $22.0 $22.0 $22.0
Hanley Ramirez $15.0 $15.5 $16.0
Mark Buehrle $8.0 $13.0 $18.0 $19.0
Josh Johnson $13.8 $13.8
Ricky Nolasco $9.0 $11.5
Heath Bell $9.0 $9.0 $9.0
Mike Stanton $1.0 $5.0 $8.0 $10.0 $12.0 $14.0 $14.0
John Buck $6.0 $6.0
Omar Infante $4.0 $4.0
Randy Choate $1.5
Total $77.3 $87.8 $67.0 $51.0 $34.0 $36.0 $14.0

As you can see, even after the Marlins make that signing, they would only have committed $30-plus million for the post-2014 seasons, as their roster only would have Stanton, Mark Buehrle, and Jose Reyes locked in. If the rest of the current Marlins core fails to achieve postseason objectives, the team could still have enough financial flexibility to build a club at a very doable $70 million payroll, with the possibility to cut it down further if necessary. If the Marlins can maintain the sort of payroll they are boasting at the moment, then you are looking at more than enough leftover cash to rebuild a core and still have two players combining for nine to ten wins in 2015 (and Mark Buehrle, however good he is at that point in his career).

In other words, the Marlins have all the incentive in the world to get an extension done soon. Sure, there is time to wait around and allow Stanton to "prove" that he is worthy of a long-term commitment, but every season the Marlins allow to pass is another year in which Stanton's performance gets better and his cost rises. After the All-Star-worthy season he delivered last year, the time is now for an extension. If he goes on to a have a monster campaign next year or the year after, he might end up costing the Fish $10 million to $15 million more by the end of the extension's lifetime.