Don't sleep on the Dodgers when it comes to the Giancarlo Stanton trade sweepstakes
The Dodgers don't appear to be desperate, and they have some leverage
When it comes to the Marlins' desire to trade reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton and the $295 million still on his contract, you can be forgiven for thinking that it's the Giants or Cardinals or bust for the slugger. After all, those two teams have , and it's up to Stanton to decide whether he'll waive his no-trade clause in order to go to San Francisco or St. Louis. Consider this, though, a necessary reminder ...
Yep: The Los Angeles Dodgers, lest we forget, remain very much on the periphery of the Stanton trade talks, and as the tweet above says, the Giants see them as a real threat. So when it comes to this perhaps under-reported wrinkle, let's lay out some essential takeaways when it comes to the Dodgers and their fitness as a destination for Stanton:
The Dodgers are reportedly Stanton's top choice
Stanton is a native of Southern California, and he makes his offseason home in the Hollywood Hills. He has already stated that he prefers to play on the West Coast, and according to a number of reports the Dodgers are his. That makes sense, of course, given his roots in the area, and it also makes sense for a contention-starved talent to have designs on a club that has won five straight division titles and is fresh off a pennant. All of that's important because ...
Stanton has a full no-trade clause
You know this, of course, and it's why teams in pursuit of Stanton must not only strike a deal with the Marlins but also persuade Stanton to approve said deal. Given that the Marlins are heavily focused on offloading his contract, the second part of that formulation -- i.e., luring Stanton himself -- is perhaps the more challenging of the two. There's also this ...
The temptation is to consider that a distinction without a difference, but it does provide the player with a bit of "cover" when it comes any potential public backlash against the scuttled trade. Stanton has a lot of power over this process, and that power seems to benefit the Dodgers. Even so ...
The Dodgers aren't desperate
We're of course talking about a team that won an MLB-best 104 games last season, played to a +190 run differential and came within a single game of winning the World Series. As well, in 2018 they're going to return a core that includes Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig and Kenley Jansen. With Puig, Bellinger, Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez all in the fold, they also have plenty of outfield options. Outfield prospect Alex Verdugo might also play his way to Chavez Ravine for good at some point next year. Stanton would necessarily make any team better, but the Dodgers don't have to have him in order to be the favorites in the NL West. That's still the case even if the rival Giants land Stanton (and Shohei Ohtani, for that matter).
M.I.A.M.I. (Money Is A Major Issue) for Marlins and Dodgers
Miami's motivation for shopping Stanton is, of course, the $295 million he has left on. Yes, Stanton has an opt-out after the 2020 season, but the likely outcome is that he plays out his current deal. By all appearances, the Marlins are willing to take a less-than-premium return in terms of young talent in order to offload the vast majority of that remaining obligation.
On the Dodgers' side of things, they've been over the luxury-tax threshold for five years running. They would like to get under that bar at some point, so as to reset their penalty clock (the penalties get steeper the more consecutive years you're above the cutoff). That's especially the case now that the punishments are even more costly under the new collective bargaining agreement. All of that is a real impediment, even for a team with coffers as deep as the Dodgers'. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. did a great job of breaking down the Dodgers' current straits on this front. The upshot is that taking on a contract like Stanton's would make it difficult for them to get under the threshold.
The Dodgers, however, might have some leverage
If Stanton passes on a trade to the Giants or Cardinals, then the Dodgers will be in a good spot. Yes, the Marlins have floated threats of tearing down the team around Stanton if he doesn't approve a deal. However, for a team with a below-market TV contract, no ballpark naming-rights deal and major troubles selling tickets, the best path to cutting costs is first and foremost trading Stanton. Given Stanton's no-trade clause and his likely preference to play for the Dodgers, L.A. can perhaps leverage those factors and agree to assume less of Stanton's salary obligation than the Giants and Cardinals have. That's perhaps why the Dodgers front office is "slow playing" this to an extent. How much can they take on while still hitting their payroll targets and addressing other roster needs both now and in the years to come? To what degree can the Marlins be cornered into paying more of that $295 million that Stanton is owed if those San Fran and St. Louis frameworks fall apart? And beyond all that ...
It's also about next offseason
Maybe the Dodgers wish to retrench, get under the threshold for 2018 and then go all out next winter. After all, franchise icon Kershaw has an opt-out after the upcoming season, and the free-agent class will include the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. As a high-revenue, big-market franchise, the Dodgers can be players in the winter of 2018-19, but taking on too much of Stanton's deal would complicate that. On the other hand, don't you want to make the most of what is potentially Kershaw's final year in L.A. by improving the 2018 team as much as possible? No one available moves the needle like Stanton would.
Trading for a player like Stanton with that kind of contract isn't easy, but it's especially complicated for the Dodgers. Perhaps that's why they've been relatively quiet. As every offseason teaches us, though, it's the quiet ones who often end up making the most noise.
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