What it means now that Giancarlo Stanton cleared waivers and is free to be traded
The Marlins slugger has been on a roll of late, if you haven't noticed
Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton has cleared waivers, reports Yahoo's Jeff Passan. This means Stanton is free to be traded to any team. This new reality of course opens up a host of possibilities, so let's explore the many considerations surrounding this tantalizing hypothetical ...
That Stanton cleared waivers isn't necessarily a big deal
It's the August waiver period, which means for a player to be traded he must first pass through waivers. If no team claims him, then he's free to be dealt to any team. If a team does claim him, then that team has exclusive negotiating rights. There's a risk, though, as the team that currently holds the player's contract can in essence force a straight salary dump after a player is claimed. Also, these are revocable waivers, so if a player gets claimed, then his current team can simply pull him back and put a stop to the entire process. Veterans -- even stars like Stanton -- are regularly placed on waivers in August, so in that sense the Stanton report isn't notable. All that said, the Marlins do now have until the end of the month (so the acquiring team would have Stanton available for the postseason) to trade Stanton should they decide to attempt it in earnest.
Stanton's contract includes a full no-trade clause
This is pretty standard for major contracts these days, and it's more a device of leverage rather than genuine impediment. Such provisions can be negotiated around by the team trading for the player in question. The important thing is for the player to be open to a trade. In Stanton's case, he has been at times visibly frustrated by the direction of the Marlins, and the chance to go to a contender would surely have some allure. Of course, that no-trade clause isn't the most notable thing about Stanton's deal ...
Stanton's contract is a massive obligation
Stanton is shin-deep in a massive 13-year, $325 million contract. It's a heavily backloaded deal, and he's still owed almost $300 million of it. Framed another way, said contract will run through his age-37 season (assuming his $25 million option for 2028 is bought out). Trading for that kind of debt is, suffice it to say, a risky proposition. Compounding that risk is the fact that Stanton has an opt-out after the 2020 season. At that point, he'll have more than $200 million left on his deal, but if he feels he can best that figure on the open market, then he'll likely exercise the opt-out. If he doesn't, then he won't. That kind of arrangement in essence puts all the risk on the team. More than anything else, the way upside and downside is allocated by that opt-out is the biggest obstacle to a Stanton trade. Certainly, the Marlins can grease the skids by agreeing to kick in cash in the event that Stanton doesn't use his opt-out, but even that's complicated by the club's current straits ...
Don't forget the Marlins are for sale
And Jeffrey Loria has. When a sale of this magnitude is pending, you don't make a franchise-altering decision like trading Stanton without checking in with the new guys. The safe assumption is that, by back-channel means or whatever, the pending ownership group will be fully apprised of any efforts to trade Stanton. They might even have informal veto powers. They're in the loop, is the point. Maybe Jeter and company would prefer to take a wait-and-see tack when it comes to trading Stanton. Or perhaps they see the wisdom of trading Stanton but would want such an unpopular trade to take place on Loria's dying watch. Bad first impressions and all that. Either way, the group poised to take the reins of the franchise surely has Loria's ear when it comes to the Stanton question. Of course, the real reason we're talking about this is that ...
Stanton is on a roll like none other
The cloutsman of note has been on an absurd tear in August. He has homered 10 times in 11 games (and 22 times in his last 34 games) and now leads the majors in home runs by a wide margin. He's also leading the majors in slugging with a mark of .640. His OPS+ of 164 matches a career best (in 2014, when he was runner-up in the NL MVP balloting). He has also played in all but two of the Marlins' games this season. Given Stanton's past health issues, this is a positive development. Regarding all of that, here's Stanton's updated forecast for 2017 via SportsLine (@SportsLine on Twitter) ...
Yep, 57 homers is the new projection. If that comes to pass, it'll be the highest total by an NL slugger since Ryan Howard's 58 in 2006.
Also, at age 27 Stanton should have quite a few peak to near-peak seasons left in him. In other words, Stanton, after showing some worrying signs of premature decline last season, once again looks like one of the best hitters in baseball. In that light ...
Stanton's contract might soon not look so outsized
We've seen time and again that free-agent contracts for superstars outpace any plausible ideas about inflation. Before we even get to that Stanton opt-out, the winter of 2018-19 could see three players best Stanton's current contract. There's Bryce Harper, who's slated to be a free agent after the 2018 season, and he could top $400 million. Then there's Manny Machado, who'll join him in that mega-class. And then there's Clayton Kershaw, who has an opt-out after 2018. Yes, he will be much older than Harper and Machado, but the way the market reacts to starting pitchers? Take the over on whatever figure you have in mind for Kershaw. Framed another way, Kershaw will be the same age as Max Scherzer when the latter fetched $210 million on the open market three years ago. And, relative to Scherzer's deal, Kershaw will have four years of salary inflation in his corner. The point is that soon enough Stanton's contract won't be dropping quite so many jaws.
Want to indulge in hypotheticals? Maybe the Yankees are tantalized by the idea of pairing Stanton and Aaron Judge in the outfield. Maybe the Giants see him as the kind of reboot they need to get back to contention in 2018. The Phillies have all that money coming off the books. Never count out moneyed contenders like the Dodgers and Cubs, one supposes. On that front, Passan's piece puts a number on the teams that have asked about Stanton. This isn't necessarily something we should expect to happen during August -- the offseason might be a better time to get all the moving pieces in place -- or at all. But the first and most basic step, which is getting Stanton through waivers, has reportedly come to pass.
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