Giancarlo Stanton struck out in his final at-bat of the season on Sunday in Marlins Park. As he approached the dugout, he was greeted with a standing ovation and he waved to the crowd, akin to a curtain call. It was a nice moment, with the fans thanking Stanton for his excellent season -- specifically second half -- and run at 60 home runs. Stanton was likewise thanking the fans for their support.
I couldn't help but let my mind wander, though.
Sunday's game was the final Marlins affair under the ownership of Jeffrey Loria. Might it have also been the last with Stanton in a Marlins uniform?
Remember, Stanton has expressed frustration when the Marlins have made trades in recent years that felt like rebuild-type deals. When they sent A.J. Ramos to the Mets in July, Stanton said the following to the Sun-Sentinel:
"Every trade for minor-leaguers is two or three years away from seeing the result of that trade," Stanton said Saturday. "That means two or three years of every person taken away is a couple years until you realize what that means."
Sunday, Stanton reiterated a point he's made several times before, which is that he doesn't want to be part of a big rebuild.
"I wouldn't want to do that, no," he told the Miami Herald.
To be clear, the new ownership group could well decide to build around Stanton. It's entirely possible.
The other reality is that dealing him for a huge return and salary relief might be the best route in building a long-term winner.
Look, Stanton is awesome. He's a beast. He's also going to be 28 years old next year and has now completed two seasons with more than 145 games played. He's only played in more than 125 games three times out of eight seasons in the majors.
His contract is a gargantuan deal with the chances of it being an albatross are pretty decent. There are 10 years and $295 million left on the deal that runs through his age-38 season. Stanton could opt out of the deal after 2020, sure, but there are seven years and $218 million left on the deal after that. Is he really going to be worth that from ages 31-38? C'mon. The chances of him opting out are very low. This deal is going to hold.
Coming off a year where he hit .281/.376/.631 with 32 doubles, 59 homers, 132 RBI and 123 runs, Stanton is clearly an MVP-caliber right in the middle of his prime. He's a force that would alter any lineup. By dealing him now, the Marlins could get long-term salary relief and a good prospect return. Reports for several weeks have indicated that this is a strong possibility in the offseason and it does make some sense.
So who would be interested and be able to take on that contract while coughing up the pieces the Marlins would want back? Let's take a look:
Cardinals - They are committed in salary to $80 million right now in 2020, but after that most salaries as of now go away. Though it's a small market, the Cardinals have plenty of financial wherewithal. They should also be motivated to make a big splash after seeing their biggest rival win the World Series and take two straight NL Central titles. Plus, the middle of the lineup lacked a big bopper this season.
Dodgers - Money isn't much of an object here and Stanton would surely love to return to L.A., where he grew up. The Dodgers also have a huge cache of prospects. Sure, there's an overload of outfielders here, but the Dodgers could flip Yasiel Puig to the Marlins as part of a deal and he'd be a huge hit in Miami.
Giants - They are kind of stuck with this nucleus, as Buster Posey, Jeff Samardzija, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Mark Melancon are all signed through 2020. They'll continue to try and extend Madison Bumgarner as well. That means the Giants aren't in a great position to rebuild and instead need to try and build around what they have. Adding Stanton would give them some power that they are desperate to have. No Giant even hit 20 homers this season. The problem here is that the Giants don't have a ton of prospect power from which to deal.
Phillies - Before arbitration and pre-arbitration salaries are settled, the Phillies -- in a large market, mind you -- have just $6.35 million in salary committed to next season. They could go absolutely nuts in free agency and dealing for Stanton goes hand-in-hand with that. There's some prospect flexibility here and pairing Stanton with Rhys Hoskins in the middle of that order for years to come is a nice way to win back some of the ticket-buying Phillies fans.
Yankees - Money? Check. Prospects? Check. Man, Stanton and Aaron Judge -- not to mention Gary Sanchez -- in the middle of that lineup is scary. Would the Yankees do this one year before Bryce Harper and Manny Machado hit free agency, though?
Red Sox - Again, we know the financial situation here is workable. The Red Sox were relatively punchless in the big power department this season, with Mookie Betts being the team leader in home runs with 24. In order to get Stanton, the Red Sox would likely have to cough up someone like Andrew Benintendi, though, and it remains to be seen if they would do that.
Cubs - The defending champs have deep pockets, but also a crowded outfield. Still, landing Stanton to put behind Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo -- and in front of Willson Contreras -- sounds too enticing to not consider. They are pretty much out of top-notch prospects after deals in the last two seasons, but a move like Stanton would mean dealing at least one from the group of Ian Happ, Albert Almora, Kyle Schwarber or even getting creative with Jason Heyward's deal involved (something like the Cubs picking up most of the tab on both Heyward and Stanton deals).
Rangers - Team an aggressive general manager with financial flexibility and a hole in the outfield. Everything's bigger in Texas anyway, right?
Mariners - I'm not sure they have the talent to flip back to Miami to make this work, but the window is closing quickly on the Robinson Cano-Nelson Cruz-Felix Hernandez nucleus and general manager Jerry Dipoto has shown almost reckless aggression on the trade market.
Braves - There is tons of flexibility here with prospects and adding Stanton to a possibly-stellar young infield makes a ton of sense. Would the Braves part with Ronald Acuna, though? Wouldn't they need to in order for the Marlins to deal within the division?
Sure, we've got a month of playoffs first, but once the offseason hits, buckle up for a hearty dose of Giancarlo Stanton rumors. He's a hot name for the Hot Stove.