The biggest news in baseball right now is that the Marlins have signed their biggest star to a new contract. Giancarlo Stanton will receive $325 million over the next thirteen years to play for a team whose yearbook picture is labeled “Least Likely to Succeed”. That’s the largest contract in MLB history.
Congratulations to Mr. Stanton. Hopefully team owner Jeffrey Loria will honor his agreement to aggressively pursue players who can make the Marlins competitive. Not for Mr. Stanton’s sake–he signed his deal with his eyes open–but for the team’s fans. It’s lonely in the stands at Marlins Park. The fans, used to Mr. Loria’s failure to follow up, stay away in droves. A few seasons of “Stanton and the No-Names” is likely to drive them so far away that even a World Series appearance couldn’t fill the stadium.
That’s depressing to think about.
Then there’s the matter of Mr. Stanton’s escape clause. He can opt out of the final seven years of the contract and look for a better deal via free agency. The new contract is heavily backloaded. If he takes his option, he’ll be sacrificing $218 million. Realistically, that means the situation in Miami will have to become so toxic that he’s willing to sacrifice a metric buttload of money just to get away.
Maybe he could make that sacrifice. Even if he goes in for riotous living and massive philanthropy, the $107 million he’ll get over the first six years will last him a long time. But if he does cut and run, he’s not going to get anything close to $200 million–or, I suspect, $100 million–over the next seven years. He’ll be thirty years old; Rauuuuuuuul notwithstanding, few players stay at the top of their profession in their late thirties. Teams will be making their offers on the assumption that they’ll get four, maybe five years of production out of him. And that’s assuming he can stay focused and productive through the next six years.
He’s going to have a very interesting 2020 season.
Then there’s 2015. Options for teams looking for hitters (hint: that’s all of them) are narrowing. The top two names have signed: Victor Martinez is staying in Detroit and Billy Butler is going to Oakland. Expect major activity at the Winter Meetings next month, as GMs turn their attention from free agents to trades*.
* That’s not to say that they’re not already thinking trade: see the Heyward/Miller deal the Braves and Cardinals swung. But I expect several of the free agents who received qualifying offers to sit idle until mid-season–the Kendrys Morales career path–as GMs opt to pursue deals that won’t cost them draft picks.
Which brings us back to Giancarlo Stanton. Newspaper stories have made a big deal of the fact that his contract includes a full no-trade clause, the first time Loria has allowed such a provision. The phrase “big, fat, hairy deal” springs to mind here. As long as Stanton is putting butts in seats, Loria will squelch any deal. If Loria did decide Stanton was redundant, he’d have to throw in a huge chunk of cash to cover the remaining years on Stanton’s contract*. Given his historical unwillingness to put money into making the team better, why would he throw money into a trade?
* Did the Yankees get their money’s worth for Alex Rodriguez? Not from what I can see. And that’s the benchmark teams are going to use in deciding whether to pick up a megadeal like Stanton’s.
Marlins fans, I hope I’m wrong. I hope the Marlins can field a competitive team and put some pressure on Washington. Somebody has to. But I have to be realistic, and at this point, the best advice I can you is to find a new team to root for. One with a better chance of improving than Miami. Houston, for example.