After so much waiting, followed by a handful of smaller moves and then more waiting for the offseason to get started in earnest, the hammer finally dropped over the past few days (which means yours truly was travelling without his laptop because that's inevitably how these things work). With Shohei Ohtani signing with the Angels on Friday, we already had our first surprise of the offseason, as the Angels didn't initially seem like the likeliest landing spot for the Japanese Babe Ruth. We'll certainly be coming back to the Ohtani signing soon in various forms over the offseason, but we're here today to address the second surprise of the weekend: the Yankees' trade for Giancarlo Stanton.
While we probably should have been expecting the Yankees to swoop in all along, they hadn't received much mention as a possible destination for Stanton, with most of the attention being directed towards the Giants and Cardinals, who had been loudly and formally pursuing a trade. Those teams were joined by the Dodgers, who may have been Stanton's preferred destination given the hometown connection, but hadn't done much in terms of publicly making any desire to make a deal and seemed willing to wait and see what developed on the market.
It wasn't until last week that the Yankees' name seriously even came up as a possible destination and the rumors didn't really start flying until we learned that Stanton was refusing to waive his no-trade rights to accept a trade to San Francisco or St. Louis. When we learned that Stanton would only accept a trade to the four teams who made it as far as the Championship League Series, it made for interesting hot stove theater, but it shouldn't be all that surprising. One of the best players in baseball signed a contract that allowed him to choose where he plays and he wanted to play for a team that has a chance to win a World Series after spending his career with a team that couldn't crack .500.
We need not go into all of Stanton's baseball accomplishments right here, as it's no secret that the reigning NL MVP is, when healthy, one of the best players in the MLB and was the face of his franchise. But we should at least go into a few of them. He led the MLB in home runs with 59 last season (only the 6th time in MLB history that the threshold has been crossed) and has already hit 267 before he turned 28 after the season ended (putting him in some pretty elite company). Through those seasons he's already been worth 35.1 bWAR and 34.1 fWAR. There's no question that he's potentially a Hall of Fame-caliber player in his prime and those are things that every team (except, obviously and sadly, the Marlins) could use.
All of Stanton's accolades aside, there are reasons to be concerned. Yes, Stanton has only cracked 150 games in a season twice in his career. But there have been some fluke injuries and New York also has the ability to use Stanton as a DH, if needed, something that none of the other purported serious suitors could offer to the slugger.
The contract runs until 2027, when Stanton will be 38 years old, and has $285 million remaining, less the $30 million that the Marlins kick in if Stanton chooses not to exercise his opt out clause in 2020. Which in and of itself raises more questions, since the Yankees might only be paying for three seasons of Stanton and then watching him leave if he performs as well as they hope. But, this was a buyer's market, thanks to Stanton's no-trade clause and long and expensive contract and the Marlins' "need" to get rid of any expensive/worthwhile players on their roster, so the package is certainly not going to get any Miami fans excited about the return.
In terms of what New York sent to Miami, the only player of immediate import to the Yankees was obviously Castro. Despite the fact that they traded away their All Star second baseman, there are a few more things to consider. First, Castro has failed to live up to the lofty expectations of his first two full seasons and has looked more, and often less, like around a 2 WAR player for the last five seasons. That's something the Yankees can look to address quickly since they are still in possession of one of the consensus best prospects in baseball (no. 2 overall by MLB.com) in Gleyber Torres.
Torres tore the UCL in his non-throwing arm in June this year, and underwent Tommy John surgery shortly thereafter. Before the injury, he was hitting .309/.406/.457 in AAA and likely would have gotten playing time down the stretch. Now, the Yankees will have to hope that he recovers smoothly, and it seems quite likely that he'll be ready come Spring Training. If not, the Yankees have a stopgap measure available in Tyler Wade. Wade struggled in his first call up in 2017, hitting just .155/.222/.224 in 63 PAs, but he was also running out a .231 BABIP that obscured the fact that he's likely a viable backup or temporary option at second, even if he's probably isn't set to become a superstar.
So, any worries about the Yankees' loss of Castro should be minimal, especially when considered in light of fact that Stanton will now be slotting into New York's lineup everyday. Then, there's the fact that getting Castro off of the books clears salary for the Yankees, such that Stanton will only add $13.4 million to their 2018 payroll in terms of the luxury tax. That leaves the door open for the Yankees to spend minimally this offseason and reset the clock next season, so they can flaunt their wealth again when there are much better options available.
We didn't address the two prospects included in the deal, Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers, who aren't in the upper echelon of Yankee prospects and don't figure into their long-term plans at the moment. Needless to say, these don't really add much to weight to counter the Stanton-heavy scale, so we'll move along.
While you could certainly make an argument that New York should have held out for next year's premium quality free agent bumper crop, it's not as if Bryce Harper or Manny Machado are going to be cheap with the number of suitors they are going to have. They're going to end up with onerous contracts that are either outrageously expensive, last seemingly until the end of time or both. And it's also not clear that the Yankees would necessarily end up with Harper or Machado, so this was a way to hedge their bets. Bird in the hand and all that.
Stanton also was not cheap, obviously, and the Yankees are paying for the ability to employ a reigning MVP who has a potential Hall of Fame trajectory. The last time they made a similar move, Alex Rodriguez was the reigning MVP that was traded to New York and, despite the tail end of his time in New York and all of the general weirdness that he brought with him, I doubt the organization has any regrets about their decision.
And you have to add to the pot that New York could still end up with one of next offseason's prized free agents. Maybe they come away with Josh Donaldson at third instead of Harper or Machado, but, thanks to their young core, the Yanks have quite a few years of payroll flexibility at the moment and I, for one, refuse to believe that they won't figure out a way to come away with a big name next offseason.
If there's one team that doesn't merit sitting around and worrying about future payroll considerations, it's probably the Yankees. At the end of the day, when you have the chance to add a player of the caliber of Stanton and the issue is mostly money, you shoot first and ask questions later. There will be plenty of time to worry about everything else down the road, and the Yankees now have the reigning MVP and home run champ to pair with the number two home run hitter in Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge.
Grade for the Yankees: A
Given that the Yankees were already a game away from making the World Series, this move has potential repercussions beyond the teams involved. The Yankees' victory in the Stanton-stakes comes at the detriment of all the other teams in the AL East. Boston, with their 168 HRs last season (27th in MLB), was in pursuit of Stanton, and they not only failed to secure his services, but they'll have to send out their lefty heavy rotation against Stanton, Judge and Gary Sanchez next year. The ripple effect of having to face the improved Yankees could lead to quite a few changes in the coming seasons.
Might the Orioles trade Machado prior to the deadline next year? What about the Jays and Josh Donaldson? Will any of these teams decide to go full rebuild in light of the fact that their division just got a whole lot tougher for the next few years? There are a lot of ifs here, as we're still talking about the dream-crushing sport of baseball, but this is the kind of move that changes everything.
Grade for the Rest of the AL East: Ouch
Looking for a reasonable, non-cynical explanation for the Marlins' decision to sell off their most valuable asset in an attempt to trim payroll and enter a rebuild immediately after purchasing the team is a fool's errand. The real loser in all of this is the Marlins organization and, moreso, the fans. I wouldn't wish this sort of behavior from a front office on any baseball fans. It's not as if Miami's baseball fans haven't had a rough enough time yet, and things are certainly not looking any better in the meantime.
Grade for Marlins: F