When they announced they had signed Giancarlo Stanton to the largest contract in North American sports history, the Miami Marlins sounded optimistic. The club, led by Owner Jeffrey Loria, appeared prepared to win and confident with regard to the future. But according to TribLive Sports' Rob Biertempfel, Loria and Marlins President David Samson told Pittsburgh Pirates President Frank Coonelly that they fully expect Stanton will opt out of his contract after six seasons.
"They thought it was a great deal," Coonelly said. "I just couldn't get my head around the $325 million. They said to me, ‘You don't understand. (Stanton) has an out clause after six years. Those first six years are only going to cost $107 million. After that, he'll leave and play for somebody else. So, it's not really $325 million.' "
The implication from Coonelly is that the Marlins signed Stanton to a record-setting deal with the expectation that he will bolt when it's only halfway complete.
Miami's activity during the Winter Meetings in San Diego last week supports the idea that they want to win now, while Stanton is a Marlin. The club added Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, and Mat Latos and is reportedly still looking for a first baseman. Signing Stanton to a long-term deal was Miami's primary offseason objective, and by mid-November the extension was agreed upon. Although the two sides were initially off on the duration of the contract and clauses to be included, Stanton was quick to accept the deal. The deal included no-trade and opt-out clauses, which made sense for both parties.
Stanton, after being hit by a Mike Fiers fastball last September, has yet to appear in a major league game. The Marlins had him evaluated and are confident he will be completely healthy come spring training, however the deal didn't revolve exclusively around Stanton's health considering it is intended to last 13-years.
The Marlins improved by 15 wins in 2014, however Stanton wants to see consistent progress. The expectation was that he would opt-out if he felt the Marlins were not going to be competitive for the second half of the contract, but Miami was content with the deal, making Samson and Loria's comments, if true, questionable. Why would the Marlins have signed him to a 13-year contract if they knew he was only going to stay in South Florida for six?
Financially, the Marlins will initially benefit whether Stanton remains in Miami for all 13 seasons or not. The first portion of the deal is only worth $107 million, which at the time was justified with Marlins executives saying he accepted a smaller salary to enable the front office to build a competitive team. Maybe Stanton accepted the deal thinking that he if he is healthy, he will opt out and attempt to sign a larger contract, but if he returns and struggles, he has long-term financial security.
Miami is looking to become consistent within the National League East, and feels it can do so with Stanton in right field. If he only remains in South Florida for six more seasons, the importance of winning increases significantly.