The Miami Marlins will be without Giancarlo Stanton, the team's undisputed best player, for the next four to six weeks as he recovers from a hamate bone fracture in his left hand. We spent time explaining the injury in more detail, and it sounds as though surgery and rehab should clear Stanton to return to reasonable form. There have been concerns brought up about decreased grip strength in the left hand after such an injury, and while the thought is a possibility, it is far from a guarantee in an otherwise healthy player.
Of course, "otherwise healthy" is something Stanton has had trouble being. The big righty has had a checkered past in terms of injuries, and this one is the latest example of a series of unfortunate sidelinings.
|Stanton, Season||Days (games) missed||Injuries|
|2011||12 (11)||R hamstring strain, R quadriceps strain|
|2012||46 (36)||R knee loose bodies, abdominal strain|
|2013||50 (44)||R hamstring strain, L shoulder soreness|
|2014||17 (17)||HBP facial fracture|
|2015||??||L hand fracture|
Exclude the facial fracture, which was clearly a freak incident and unlikely to be repeated. The other injuries all occurred during play, and Stanton has a lengthier-than-average history of lower body injuries, particularly to the right side. It seems like his lower body is doing better now, as his defense appears crisper and cleaner and the defensive metrics are once again lauding his surprisingly rangy play in the outfield. At the same time, it is not as though Stanton never suffered from minor other ailments, and now he has his first non-leg injury that will hold him out for an extended period.
We have no history that a hand or arm injury could be recurrent, but we could consider the possibility that such injuries could lead to future issues with Stanton. He suffered some minor strains in the right lower extremity in the past and, perhaps due to poor compensation of his balance, could have helped aggravate his future right-sided injuries. Could the hand be a similar issue, particularly with the known complications of things like decreased hand grip?
Now that we know that Stanton will probably miss another 35 days most likely this year with this latest injury, is it possible that this will keep happening in the future? Without knowing anything about his medical records, obviously it is impossible for us to say, but that is what we imply when we place the "injury-prone" label on a player. The only thing we can honestly answer is how much this would affect the Marlins in the future. Stanton is in the first year of at least a six-year commitment with the franchise, complete with a no-trade clause. The Fish are committed to his play in future seasons.
Is Stanton a good enough player to be worth his salary if he plays only, say, 130 games a season? The most enduring example of a superstar who does this regularly is Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies. The shortstop has reached the five-win mark by FanGraphs in four out of the last five seasons despite having reached 600 plate appearances only once in that time frame. Tulowitzki has had an extended run of MVP-caliber play with continued injury issues, the same issues that have plagued him all throughout his career. His history points to repeated injuries, but his amazing play has made that irrelevant despite the long-term contract.
Stanton is being paid significantly more, but the first half of his deal is only six years and $107 million, which is not all that dissimilar to what Tulowitzki signed. Can Stanton also reach the five-win mark despite injuries? He did so in 2012, when he went on a post-surgery tear in August and September en route to his best season at the time. He showed that possibility when he reached six wins in 600 plate appearances and change in 2014. And if he comes back this year in good timing, FanGraphs' Steamer projections expect him to finish the year with 1.7 wins in 184 plate appearances, meaning that he could end the year with a total of 5.4 wins in 502 plate appearances, very similar to the 2012 season.
That projection of 1.7 wins in 184 plate appearances means that, in a 500 plate-appearance campaign, Stanton would be expected to put up 4.6 wins. That falls just shy of what Tulowitzki has done, but it would still be well worth the salary the Marlins are currently slated to pay him. As years continue, that kind of production would definitely match his salary as the cost for wins continues to increase. However, the Marlins are expecting superstar production now so that the later years, when Stanton is less effective in his mid-30's, are "paid off" by his earlier production. Injuries could hamper the already poor value of the back end of the contract, should Stanton require that.
However, with Stanton likely to play well enough even with injury to warrant a possible opt-out, Miami may not have to worry about that high-cost future. They need Stanton healthy for other reasons, mostly because the team's talent base right now necessitates a full Stanton year to remain as competitive as possible. But the team's financial investment in the player would still be met, at least in the first half of the deal, even if Stanton is "injury-prone." We have no clinical reason to suspect this to be an ongoing issue, as this is not a repeat of his lower-body problems. However, the evidence and numbers are mounting, and the question is legitimate.