Milton Berle once said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” Shohei Ohtani gave the Yankees one hell of a cold shoulder, so the Yankees built one hell of a door. A door in the biggest market in baseball, operating on the biggest budget in baseball, complete with a tidy opening for the best slugger in baseball.
Amid what’s quickly turning into one of the strangest offseasons to remember, baseball just witnessed an unbelievably backwards trade. A team possessing the reigning MVP, a 28-year-old superstar with 10 years of team control and the weight of a franchise on his shoulders, should have all the leverage. They should have a line of suitors going out the door, the opportunity to pick among several deals that would pave their farm system with gold and set them up for a future of success. Instead, the team had none of the power. Rather than an auction house full of bidders, two heavily interested teams were eliminated with a wave of a hand by Stanton, leaving a quartet of tepid buyers.
The Marlins wanted a bidding war, a chance to choose the crowning jewel shining from a mass of gold. But that wasn’t the case. A critical misstep in communication, a horrid playing of the cards, and turmoil in Miami has instead led to a nightmare situation for Derek Jeter’s new team: Stanton and his full no-trade clause had the leverage to dictate his future home, and his future home had the leverage to dictate what he was traded for. Sure, the Marlins could have hung onto Stanton and let time pass, but they’re in severe financial strain under a new ownership group and they’ve already made it clear that the face of their franchise was no longer wanted
The Marlins were in a lose-lose situation, which meant that another club was in a win-win situation. Who but the Yankees to swoop in and take advantage? Now, the faces of the Yankees lumber at a combined 13 feet and one inch tall, as Stanton and Aaron Judge team up after leading their respective leagues in homers (and hard-hit balls, period) last season. A pair of imposing mashers whose soaring dingers may force the FAA to make Yankee Stadium a no-fly zone. It’s an unforeseen and unprecedented combination, one that’s almost too good to be true. It’s the new Murderer’s Row, but with two players over the original six.
Of course, Stanton isn’t without his faults. He’s hit the disabled list four times in seven seasons and spent 2015-2016 hovering near a strikeout rate of 30 percent. He looked human for the first time ever in 2016, giving us a peek into what a post-prime Stanton might play like. This isn’t the profile to age gracefully, but his contract pays him like he will: the 6-foot-6 outfielder will be owed anywhere from $25 to $32 million from 2018-2027 (with a slightly optimistic team option for 2028, his age-39 season).
Then again, it’s Giancarlo Stanton. Those injuries are worrisome, but it’s hard to flag a player as “injury prone” when two of his ailments were freak injuries (multiple facial fractures after being hit in the face by a pitch, and a hamate fracture after swinging so hard it broke his hand). He’s one of the best players in baseball, just now entering his prime after his finest season yet, and he cut his strikeout rate down to a career-low 23.6 percent while boosting his Isolated Power to a career-high .350. There’s significant downside, but only a few players in the world can match Stanton’s upside.
It’s not the perfect deal for the Yankees, but when the biggest concern is the contract of the reigning MVP, it’s hard to be pessimistic. It’s the same kind of money the Yankees might have shelled out had Stanton hit the free agent market, a deal that will likely be ugly at the end but most certainly should be worth it while Stanton’s mashing next to Judge. At the same time, it was enough money to eat without giving up significant value from the personnel side. The Marlins were desperate and the Yankees have deep pockets, so New York took on all but $30 million of the $295 million owed to Stanton and avoided giving up any elite-level prospects.
New York’s new skipper Aaron Boone will have a challenge figuring out how to distribute playing time between his two star sluggers and a host of other solid bats, including the dependable and long-tenured Brett Gardner (3.8 WARP in 2017), breakout surprise Aaron Hicks (1.8 WARP in 88 games), former top prospect Clint Frazier, and, well, overpaid afterthought Jacoby Ellsbury. Center field is likely to be held down by Hicks, with the corners and the DH spot slated to be a revolving cycle of Stanton (most likely in left field), Judge (right field), and Gardner. Frazier turns into enticing trade bait or one of the more intriguing backup outfielders in the league.
Starlin Castro is the lone big leaguer to leave the Yankees in this trade, serving more as salary relief than a main piece for the Marlins. Replacing his sturdy bat at second base is expected to be a combination of Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade, at least initially. Torreyes is a better fit as a utility player and Wade brings some value across the board with a well-rounded profile. Luckily, Gleyber Torres is waiting in the wings, ready to hit the ground running either once his surgically-repaired elbow is ready or when the Yankees are done with their service-time manipulation. Despite only playing 55 games above Single-A, Torres was a sure bet to play in the big leagues last season had he not torn his UCL. He’ll slot in for Castro by midseason. —Ben Diamond
Blessed with 80-grade, top-of-the-scale raw power, Stanton finds himself among the exclusive class of elite sluggers who are virtually unaffected by park factors. The introduction of Statcast only confirmed what our eyes had been telling us for years: Stanton could hit a baseball out of the Grand Canyon. From a fantasy perspective, the move to Yankee Stadium’s launching pad and the high-octane offensive environments of the AL East has a positive impact on his long-term fantasy value. However, projecting any future growth in the power department seems unlikely. When you reach the top, there us no more upside, merely fluctuation. —George Bissell
Hot damn. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is the most lopsided trade that I’ve ever seen come across my desk while writing about baseball … and I covered the last Marlins fire sale. Back then I was embarrassed by Jeffrey Loria’s decision to slough off bad contracts attached to talented players in exchange for minimal future value. Almost exactly five years later, a different ownership group did the same thing, except instead of jettisoning the team’s highly-paid, recently-acquired mercenaries, they’ve sent away the best player in team history–sorry Miguel Cabrera, but it’s probably true–in Stanton.
Castro’s inclusion in this trade is subject to much derision, but that shouldn’t be taken personally; he’s a roughly average second baseman on a fair contract, with two years of team control left. Yes, he was an All-Star last year, but not a particularly deserving one, especially when you look at his end-of-season numbers. In many ways, he’s like the Marlins’ departing second baseman Dee Gordon, in that most of his offensive value is tied up in a solid hit tool, and he can play a comfortable but not exceptional second base.
Unlike Gordon, Castro no longer has upside, nor top-end speed and value on the basepaths. He can hit for a little power, though it seems unlikely that he’ll hit more than a dozen homers in Marlins Park, were he actually going to stick around in Miami. I don’t think that he will because, hey, if the Marlins were in the market for a decent second baseman who makes around $10 million per season, they would’ve kept Gordon. Castro is a solid second baseman who almost assuredly will be traded away to clear more payroll, likely before ever putting on a Marlins uniform.
I’ll let wiser minds than mine break down the prospects, but they’re just shy of being insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Often when a team deals a world-class hitter with years of team control, the return at least includes one prospect who would make a Top 101 list. Sometimes even a top-20 guy! For example, one year ago the Nationals acquired Adam Eaton from the White Sox for three prospects. Lucas Giolito wasn’t far removed from being a top-three pitching prospect in baseball, Reynaldo Lopez was another top guy, and Dane Dunning wasn’t a throw-in. Yes, Eaton’s contract was small compared to Stanton’s, but the idea that the Marlins could only bring back these two dudes is an indictment of a) the decision to give Stanton a full no-trade clause, and b) ownership’s insistence on dealing him now rather than making him a part of the team’s present and/or future.
The NTC is a serious issue here, as it prevented Miami from taking better offers from St. Louis or San Francisco, and you can’t argue that such a decision was the fault of the team’s current ownership. That put the return behind the eight-ball. But this team should not have had to trade its best player. This is a team that reportedly threatened to surround Stanton with the hottest possible garbage in order to get him to accept a trade, which is an awful bargaining position. This only could have happened because the Marlins were committed to moving Stanton, hell or high water. They couldn’t wait. Whether that’s because the organization’s debt financing issues are too immediate and massive to resist, or because they have an outmatched tyro running the team’s baseball side, we may not know.
The Marlins without Stanton may not reach 70 wins, and they’re not much better off for the future. And this is without taking into account any more fire-sale trades they have coming. You can’t tear down a franchise without any care for how you’re going to build it back up in the future. There have now been four of these fire sales in the Marlins’ 25-year history, each more debilitating than the last. Marlins fans, such as any exist, must be so numbed to the idea of a future that you can’t expect them to care much about anything. There’s a long-running joke about Derek Jeter having trouble going to his left. We don’t have to worry about that anymore, because in Miami nothing is left after this deal. —Bryan Grosnick
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in June 2014, Guzman has one big tool, and it’s quite loud. A fastball that’s a true 80-grade offering, one that touches 103, sits upper 90s, and has produced swings and misses at a constant rate. But this is where the positives end for Guzman. He’ll be 22 in January, hasn’t shown a consistent off-speed pitch, and has yet to get out of short-season ball. If it weren’t for those things, Guzman would’ve ranked prominently in our Yankees top 10. But those things exist, and he was thus excluded. There isn’t much of a floor here, but the ceiling is that of a premier setup man if it comes together. —Steve Givarz
Signed for $250,000 in July 2016, Devers is right out of central casting as a toolsy shortstop. Lean and wiry, there’s a lot of projection remaining in the frame, as he was playing all of this past season at 17. Devers does have strong wrists and hands, so he isn’t bereft of power. You can see average raw power in the frame with strength gains and the already present strength in his hands. Devers does have a good idea of the strike zone, but I saw him beaten with good velocity on the inner half. A plus runner down the line, Devers is graceful in the field, showing quality range to both sides, but is inconsistent with his hands and can rush throws. The arm is average to a tick better, so while not a weapon, still suitable for the six spot. This profile can go a lot of ways, but he does have quality tools to dream on. —Steve Givarz