Giancarlo Stanton might become a very rich man sometime in the near future. If the Miami Marlins have it their way, he will be a very rich man under their employ for a very long time.
According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Marlins are prepared to offer Stanton a record contract offer, one that would far and away eclipse anything the team has offered in the past. After the 2014 season in which the Marlins were surprisingly competitive, Stanton may be more prepared than ever to sign on for the long haul in Miami. But as we discussed earlier this year, signing him long-term will be very expensive. The Marlins have only once dished out a contract worth more than $100 million (to be fair, there have only been 24 deals of that kind in baseball history), and that Jose Reyes deal will not even come close to approximating Stanton's contract. The time for decently-priced deals is over, especially with contracts like those of Freddie Freeman's this past offseason getting surprisingly expensive.
So how much are the Marlins looking at if they sign a deal this offseason? First off, let's look at the alternative, to which the Marlins are fully willing to commit. If the Fish simply go year-to-year with Stanton, this will likely occur:
Stanton's contract in free agency might shatter previous average annual values and climb into the $28 million or even $30 million range over a nine- or ten-year period. As a free agent, Stanton may be in line for the most lucrative free agent contract in history if it gets to that point.
That seems absurd, but it is absolutely true. A player of Stanton's caliber has yet to reach full-fledged free agency. I can think of only two times when a player reached free agency at this young an age and at this relative level of performance. One case was Alex Rodriguez in 2000, which does not fit because he was a better player than Stanton. The other, Adrian Beltre, was probably a bit worse than Stanton. One of those two, however, earned a landmark contract at the time. With the way baseball salaries are climbing, Stanton is set to earn a landmark free agent deal as well.
So Stanton may be staring at a $28 million to $30 million a year offer from any team he wants in two years. What would entice him to stay in Miami? Part of it, and perhaps the most important part, may be the competitive core surrounding him. The Marlins were lucky to have found two core players from their minor league system in Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich. If Fernandez recovers from Tommy John surgery well and Yelich continues his quiet domination in 2015, Stanton will be flanked by two five-win players who will be under team control for another three to four years after this. Tack on the solid players in the rotation and Marcell Ozuna in center field and you can see how the Marlins may be truly competitive in 2016 or even sooner.
That may be enough to convince Stanton that Miami is a possibility, but the dollar offer may have to be significant for him to forego free agent rights. Last time, I estimated a $24.5 million average annual value for seven free agent seasons along with $27 million for his final two arbitration years, leaving the Marlins with a nine-year, $200 million contract. The Fish could go even further with Stanton and offer the Joey Votto package, offering him all the free agent seasons in the world and essentially locking him up for his career at an absurd rate. Would Stanton sign an as-of-yet unheard-of 13-year, $302 million deal to stay in Miami for life?
Or is the opposite more likely? Stanton may want to leave earlier rather than later, and an offer that allowed him free agency at an earlier time may be preferable. Stanton could sign a contract now for seven years (five free agent seasons only) and head into free agency for the first time at age 32. Robinson Cano essentially just did that, and he secured a 10-year, $240 million contract as a result. The annual average value of the deal would have to be more expensive for Stanton, in order to account for the decreased certainty of a longer deal. But would he and the Marlins both be happier at a seven-year, $157 million contract that would allow him to test the waters for a final big-money deal?
It should be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming months. Miami sounds like they are ready for a big-money offer, but would they really commit this kind of cash to one player? It is something we may have to wait and see to truly believe.