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Giancarlo Stanton was Marlins’ best player, but one of their worst trade chips

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No way to sugarcoat it: the Fish didn’t receive much in return for the NL MVP. Expect a much better haul if they deal another outfielder.

You can be bitter that Stanton wanted to leave Miami, or grateful for his eight outstanding seasons here. This article takes the latter approach.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Marlins and New York Yankees completed a trade for Giancarlo Stanton over the weekend, and several (thousand) of you are unimpressed with the talent coming back to South Florida. A few examples:

All aspects of his game considered, Starlin Castro is an average MLB second baseman. There are already whispers that the Marlins could flip Castro for more minor leaguers that you’ve never heard of, with Mike Puma of the New York Post reporting that the Mets will discuss him at the Winter Meetings.

The prospects directly acquired for Stanton are Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers. Guzman possesses extraordinary fastball velocity and dominated in Low-A ball last season (66.2 IP, 2.30 ERA, 88/18 K/BB, 1.04 WHIP). However, he has previously struggled to control it. The soon-to-be 22-year-old also needs to develop more effective secondary pitches. Devers, a shortstop, is most notable for being the cousin of Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers, rather than his own abilities.

Even objective projection systems were critical of Miami’s side of the deal. Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS model likens it to the expected return from moving a back-of-the-rotation starting pitcher:

Understandably, #jeterthejerk comes out of this blockbuster more unpopular than ever. Fish fans who lost their team’s first-ever NL MVP expected to be richly compensated for that inconvenience. And they weren’t.

The new CEO was hearing boos at a Miami Heat game even before dumping his most marketable and productive player.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In the Marlins’ defense, though, Stanton was always going to be one of their least effective trade chips (despite having the highest profile).

Szymborski mentioned the contract, which was originally a record-setting 13 years and $325 million guaranteed, a $25 million average annual value. Stanton just completed the super-cheap chunk of it and now has $295 million remaining over the next decade ($29.5 million AAV). The Yankees took responsibility for $265 million of that obligation, which is unprecedented for any transaction in MLB history (edging out what the Dodgers accepted from Boston in their 2012 salary dump).

Wait, there’s more! If Stanton overachieves over the next three seasons, he can opt out of the deal and enter free agency. In a piece for FanGraphs, Viva El Birdos managing editor Craig Edwards simulated a variety of scenarios for these campaigns and explained why contenders would be reluctant to make the Marlins generous trade offers:

“Most of the time, Stanton does not opt out, and in the vast majority of those circumstances, the team doesn’t get full value from Stanton. When Stanton does opt out, the team misses out on a good chunk of value. The better you believe Stanton is now and will be in the future, the more a team misses out with that opt-out clause. We often assume that the team with the highest valuation of a player will make the best offer, but in this case, a high valuation is going to put a cap on the value a team believes it will receive due to the opt-out clause.”

Finally, and most importantly, Stanton’s full no-trade clause put the front office in a vulnerable—frankly, embarrassing—position. Agreements with the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals would have reportedly included better prospect hauls. Stanton informed both last Friday that he wasn’t interested in playing for them.

With that saga mercifully over, the Marlins can pivot to their desirable assets in an effort to fortify the farm system. Stanton was actually the third-base trade chip in his own outfield, clearly behind Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich.

Two more years of arbitration eligibility ensure that Ozuna will earn less than his market value in 2018 and 2019.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Ozuna and Yelich are younger than Stanton by one and two years, respectively. They have nearly identical major league experience to each other (653 games, 2,684 plate appearances for Ozuna; 643 games, 2,812 plate appearances for Yelich) and cleaner injury histories than their former teammate. They each earned Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards in previous seasons, with Ozuna’s hardware recognizing his 2017 performance.

St. Louis is particularly interested in The Big Bear, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. The Oakland Athletics targeted both players in November, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.

The only guarantee I can make about these crazy Winter Meetings is that many more teams will be identified as Ozuna and Yelich suitors in the coming days. Their combination of on-field production and affordability—Ozuna is projected for a $10.9 million salary in 2018; Yelich is owed at least $44.5 million through 2021, plus a 2022 club option—simply cannot be found in free agency.