Free Giancarlo Stanton: Why the Marlins need to trade baseball's home run king

MLB columnist
Yahoo Sports

Every day that goes by with Giancarlo Stanton in a Miami Marlins uniform is a wasted opportunity for a franchise begging to be run properly. And after years of the most feckless ownership group in baseball alienating an entire metropolitan area with lies, mismanagement and a seeming contempt for decency, its going-away present to new ownership should be to either trade Stanton now or lay the groundwork for a deal come the offseason.

For the next 16 days, the Marlins can present contending teams with an alluring possibility: Trade for the hottest hitter alive, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound machine whose 10 home runs in his last 11 games give him a Major League Baseball-leading 43 this season. Stanton cleared waivers on Sunday, multiple sources told Yahoo Sports, allowing the Marlins to deal him to any team through the end of August.

The market for Stanton may not be as limited as believed, either, according to sources, despite the 10 years and $295 million remaining on his contract. At least four teams have inquired about the possibility of trading for him, sources said, and talks on a potential Stanton deal with one team before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline had progressed to the point where the sides were exchanging names of players who could come back to Miami in return.

The deal dissolved amid questions of whether the Marlins could trade Stanton with the team’s ownership situation unresolved. With Saturday’s announcement that owner Jeffrey Loria would sell the Marlins to a group led by money man Bruce Sherman and public face Derek Jeter, the opportunity for the Marlins to truly push the reset button and capitalize on the best season of the 27-year-old Stanton’s career is ripe.

It’s time for the Miami Marlins to move Giancarlo Stanton. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
It’s time for the Miami Marlins to move Giancarlo Stanton. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

“Anyone who knows anything knows you sell high on him,” said one source familiar with the Stanton talks. “You can relieve yourself of that burden.”

The burden isn’t just monetary, though that’s the obvious liability. In a market like Miami, where revenue trickles and the entire identity of the franchise needs a reboot, a near-$30 million-a-year player is simply incompatible. With Stanton next season, the Marlins’ payroll would hover near $125 million – and that’s if they don’t make a single move this offseason to improve a team that’s not even .500.

An even greater imperative is to bring stability to a franchise that has seen enough fire sales to brand Loria a baseball arsonist. Dealing Stanton would fall under a different category: a practical, tactical strike whose motivation goes beyond money. The notion that Marlins fans have some sort of affinity for Stanton presupposes there are actually Marlins fans to begin with. Some exist, of course, and they’re to be pitied for remaining loyal to a team owned by habitual miscreants. For the rest of those in South Florida that ignored the Marlins – in addition to a mirage of a season-ticket base, the team has the fourth-worst local TV ratings in MLB – this is the perfect opportunity to start anew.

Holding on to any piece of what the Marlins were – and that includes someone the caliber of Stanton, with his epic home runs and .283/.374/.640 line – is the play for a cloying romantic, not a chief executive with intentions of actually building the franchise in a proper fashion. This would not be business as usual. It would be the very opposite: business with a more prosperous future in mind.

Moreover, it would be mutually beneficial. Stanton’s desire to play for a contender is obvious, and the likelihood of his no-trade clause getting in the way of that lands somewhere between 0 percent and 0 percent. The Marlins, meanwhile, not only would send Stanton to the sort of team he desires, they would inure themselves from going into next season with the future of Stanton and his level of happiness with the franchise’s direction a prevailing story.

Where Stanton could go isn’t necessarily as limited as it may seem. While no team was willing to take on his contract via a waiver claim, the market isn’t just the very richest teams in baseball. One source with the San Francisco Giants said in pre-July 31 conversations, the Marlins were willing to take back limited money via other major leaguers’ contracts. The Giants’ desire to include a larger contract ended their conversation then.

Though difficult to consummate, such deals aren’t impossible. Nearly five years ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox pulled off one of the most stunning trades ever, with Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and their combined salaries of more than a quarter-billion dollars going to the Dodgers in exchange for a couple of solid pitching prospects, neither of whom really panned out, but salary relief more than anything. A year later, the Red Sox won the World Series.

That won’t be the Marlins. Their starting rotation is a disaster. Their financial commitments, outside of contracts with Stanton and Christian Yelich, are a mess. Their farm system is practically barren. They have blundered their way through the last decade, and it has manifested itself in ugly ways, not the least of which is Loria empowering his stepson, David Samson, as team president. While other teams got the sense that the Marlins’ baseball people wanted to deal Stanton, the opposition of Samson scuttled any potential deal.

It remains unclear whether Samson will be out of the way with new ownership. The prospect of Sherman and Jeter involving a foundational element of the brain trust that spent a decade fomenting the very culture they need to rid seems counterintuitive, short-sighted and plain foolish. Simply fumigating the malodorous reek of Loria and Samson will go a long way to earning the trust of the community.

Dealing Stanton, on the other hand, may feel painful short-term, may even cause temporary outrage among those who have seen this dance before. Ultimately, it would be the right thing for both parties. And whether that means a contender sees the marginal value of a legit cleanup hitter and envisions him carrying it to the World Series down the stretch this year or the Marlins wait to strike during free agency, when a team like Philadelphia might be inclined to commit some of its plentiful cash to a new right fielder, Giancarlo Stanton is not long for Miami.

The downside of keeping him is too high. He could get injured and neuter his trade value. He could stick around on a team that needs improvements but lacks the means to improve and thus finds itself stuck in the same morass of mediocrity that defines the Loria era, outside of his first year, when he inherited a World Series team that he then disassembled.

The choice is obvious: Miami needs to free Giancarlo Stanton – and, in the process, free itself.

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