For nearly a decade the fixture of a Miami Marlins future that never came and likely remains years away, Giancarlo Stanton on Saturday agreed to become part of the Yankees’ present.
The Yankees have a deal in place to acquire Stanton, sources said. Details of the trade, including players returning to the Marlins and how much of Stanton’s considerable contract would be picked up by the Yankees, were not immediately known. The deal is pending Stanton’s approval and physical.
Under new ownership, including CEO and former Yankees icon Derek Jeter, that was uncomfortable with a contract that will pay Stanton at least $295 million over the next 11 seasons, the Marlins dealt Stanton and got out from under a salary they believed would stagnate their rebuild. Stanton, under terms of his contract, had to approve the trade.
World Series contenders again, the Yankees struck near the conclusion of a week in which Stanton killed potential trades to St. Louis and San Francisco. Boxed out, and having already begun the organizational strip-down by trading second baseman Dee Gordon to Seattle, the Marlins turned to the Yankees. Stanton, a right fielder, led the National League last season with 59 home runs. Aaron Judge, the Yankees’ incumbent right-fielder, led the American League with 52.
On Friday, the Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani had agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Angels. Not a week before, the Yankees were stunned to learn Ohtani would not consider a career in New York.
Stanton had no-trade protection and therefore could have remained in Miami, where, only three years ago, upon signing the contract, had said, “This is for newfound confidence and trust. We need a new environment. A winning environment.” The club president, David Samson, had echoed, “This is the first time I’ve ever felt like the Marlins were in a stable position.”
These three years later, the Marlins had fired two managers. There is a new general manager, a new president, a new owner. They have not had a winning season. And so the trade of Stanton is as much about the continuing and robust failures of the Marlins as it is Stanton’s next destination. Along come the Yankees, who acquire a right fielder who, healthy in 2017, hit 59 home runs, drove in 132 runs, slugged .631 and was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player. The personable Stanton had become the face of a franchise that underachieved under the erratic hand of previous ownership. Part of the trouble, however, was keeping Stanton on the field. Prior to 2017, when he played in 159 games, he’d played in more than 123 games once in five seasons.
The Yankees looked past the injuries and to the talent and then to an improved lineup. Given the choice of watching the Marlins regroup around his salary or playing for a competitive franchise, Stanton on Friday approved the trade. The Giants and Cardinals proved to be most aggressive, while Stanton, raised in Los Angeles, hoped his hometown Dodgers might engage. The Dodgers declined to commit to the contract, an opening for the Yankees.
In 2017, powered by the likes of Judge, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius, the Yankees led the AL in home runs. Judge was Rookie of the Year and runner-up to Jose Altuve for MVP. To that they add Stanton, who, across leagues, was having his best season, for a failing franchise.
Whether injury prone – a fastball to the face, which is how his 2014 season ended, hardly qualifies – or unlucky – say, a broken hand in 2015 or a groin strain in 2016, an upright Stanton remains a ferocious batter’s box presence. From July 5 to Aug. 29 last season, for example, a stretch of 176 at-bats over 48 games, Stanton hit 30 home runs and 12 doubles and batted .347.
So, Stanton is in his prime, routinely hits the ball as hard and as far as anyone in the game, plays a better than average right field, is a four-time All Star, an MVP and an MVP runner-up, is revered in the community and could one day be a Hall of Famer. He also, however, seemed to have priced himself out of Miami, at least in the opinions of owners Bruce Sherman and Jeter, who in October purchased the club from Jeffrey Loria for $1.2 billion. The Marlins’ opening day payroll in 2017 was a franchise-record $115 million, nearly three times what it was in 2014. The club was last in the National League in attendance for the fifth consecutive year. Its current television deal brings in $20 million annually through 2020. By contrast, the Los Angeles Dodgers reap approximately $320 per season through their television contract.
Sherman and Jeter are of the opinion payroll must be cut, perhaps by as much as half, which would make Stanton’s salary as much as half of that, with yet another Marlins’ rebuild ahead. The apparent solution was to trade Stanton, along with other young Marlins stars, including Gordon, possibly including outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich. According to the terms of his contract with the Marlins, agreed to three years ago, Stanton, 28, could opt out after the 2020 season and become a free agent.
The game, meantime, has come to value home runs more than ever. To this end, the free-agent market offered J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Jay Bruce, among others. Next year’s could bring the likes of Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado. But, no one hit more than Stanton did in 2017.