A Mike Stanton Extension: Possible or Not?

When the Miami Marlins signed Heath Bell to a three year, $27 million contract Thursday night, the reaction on Twitter was…well, do I even need to tell you? It’s like clockwork; some team signs Proven Closer X to an expensive contract, and the sabermetric Twitterverse nigh explodes with negativity and snark. All this has happened before. All this will happen again.*

While the standard critique of this signing rings true — Why bother paying a premium for closers? Especially when relievers are so fungible and unpredictable?  — there was a side argument that especially piqued my curiosity. The Marlins are now committing $9 million per year into one reliever, but wouldn’t they have been better served trying to sign young slugger Mike Stanton to an extension? They could have use the money that went into signing Bell and locked Stanton up for a considerable amount of time instead. Considering Stanton is one of the best and most exciting young players in baseball, that’s an attractive option.

So I’m curious. Does the Heath Bell contract preclude the Marlins from locking up Stanton? If the Marlins were to engage Stanton in discussions about a long-term contract, what would the deal look like? Let’s find out.

*Kudos to all you fellow nerds that got that reference. I’m currently five episodes away from completing Season 4 of Battlestar Galactica. Frak, I don’t want it to finish.

Before we delve into those questions, first we need to establish the context of the situation. As currently constructed, the Miami Marlins are probably around an 80-win team. If they have a healthy club, get a couple lucky breaks, and sign a few more big free agents — think Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle — they could push themselves into the playoff picture. There are plenty of “ifs” in that sentence, though, so they’re far from a lock at contention. But regardless, they seem ready to increase their payroll significantly with their new stadium, and most reports peg them falling around the $80-95 million range when all is said and done.

And as you all know, Mike Stanton is the new young star in town. Hanley Ramirez is still the team’s superstar and Logan Morrison grabs the headlines with his antics, but Stanton is the future of the franchise. At 21 years old, Stanton hit 34 homeruns last season (.274 ISO) while playing excellent defense in the outfield, making him a 4.5 win player in his first full season in the majors. The Marlins have five full seasons of team control left with him, and he looks to be juuust under the Super Two cutoff.

So what would an extension for Stanton look like? It’s been a few years, but the Marlins would probably want to base an extension around Ryan Braun‘s original 8 year, $45 million deal. Braun signed his extension around the point in his career that Stanton is at now, and it bought out six years of team control and two of free agency:

I felt proud of myself for finding such a great player comparison, but then realized that Michael Jong from Fish Stripes had already beat me to the punch (and done a better job of it). I blow my nose at you, Jong.

Would Stanton be willing to sign a similar type of deal? That depends on Stanton. It’d guarantee him more money, but if he has faith in himself (like B.J. Upton did back in the day), he could likely well out-perform that by going year to year with his contracts. As a slugger, he’s ideally situated to get a large payday from arbitration, and arbitration salaries have only inflated in recent years anyway. If he has another good couple of seasons, Stanton could put himself in a position to match (or beat) Ryan Howard’s record $10 million salary in his first year of arbitration.

If Stanton has that kind of mindset, then there’s very little the Marlins can do. They could offer to increase the total value of the contract some, but they might have a tough time convincing Stanton to stay in Miami that long. After all, with the up and down nature of their franchise history, who could blame him for feeling that way?

The Marlins appear to be trying to change their image, and you could make the argument that signing Bell makes it more likely for Stanton to want to resign with the Marlins. It shows him the team is committed to winning (even if they’re not being terribly smart about it), and they’re willing to put money into the team to make it a contender.

So now we hit the final question: does the Heath Bell contract make it difficult for the Marlins to sign Mike Stanton to an extension? Nope, not in the slightest. Due to their past frugal ways, the Marlins have very few payroll obligations past 2013; right now, they only have two players under contract for 2014: Hanley Ramirez and Heath Bell. Even if they were to sign Stanton to an extension this offseason, he would begin to draw a large salary until his first arbitration season – 2014. In other words, if the Marlins want to sign Stanton to an extension, they have all the flexibility in the world to make it happen.

The Heath Bell signing was a very short term deal; it locked up payroll dollars over the next couple of seasons, but it shouldn’t impact the Marlins’ ability to make a long-term commitment to Mike Stanton. If the Marlins go out and sign Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson, though…well, then things might start getting difficult. The Marlins will need to decide how high they expect their payroll to be in 2015-2020, and to determine how much of that they want to commit to a handful of players.

I’m not a fan of the contract the Marlins gave to Heath Bell, but at the same time, I’m not going to decry it as a franchise killer. The Marlins still have around another $20-30 million in payroll space for 2012, and they have the ability to make a commitment to Mike Stanton right now. The question is, what will the Marlins do from here?

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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.

23 Responses to “A Mike Stanton Extension: Possible or Not?”

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  1. Max says:

    On the face of it, Stanton would be a fool to sign a team-friendly deal through his age 30 season, but then again, he may end up being injury prone. He’s a hell of an athlete, but he’s already missed some playing time with niggling little injuries. I guess if I were the Marlins I’d offer him 60/6 in the hopes that that negates his potentially much higher arb costs.

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    • Lukehart80 says:

      I don’t 6 years, $60MM makes any sense for the Marlins. If he goes year-to-year, he’d have to shatter the arbitration records when he gets there in order to hit $60MM over the next 6 seasons.

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      • Max says:

        …he’s a 22-year old player who posted a 138 wRC+ and a wOBA of .378, with quality defense to boot, making him worth 4.5 WAR. He’ll probably never post a BA over .275, but Stanton is a monster.
        You do the math. 4.5 WAR*5 million=22.5 million.
        I forget the arbitration %s, but for some reason I’ve got 60% stuck in my head. 60% of 22.5 million>10 million.

        4.5 WAR in future years is a conservative estimate of Stanton’s value to boot. I wouldn’t be surprised by a few 6-7 WAR years out of him. He’s incredibly valuable.

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      • Lukehart80 says:

        But Max, they don’t have to pay him ANY millions for the next 3 years, because he’s on the rookie scale. So 6 years, $60MM is basically choosing to give him 3 years, $60MM on top of the chump change they owe him for 2012-14.

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    • Kampfer says:

      6/60 is player-friendly… not the other way around. 8/60 is about a wash, 8/45 is team-friendly.

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    • philosofool says:

      I disagree that he would be a fool. What’s $10m when you’ve already got $45. Sign that deal and you’re set for life. Why risk that? To be “more set for life”? I guess I can see a sensible person going either way, but I would much rather have the security of great wealth than a merely good chance to have two or three times that great wealth.

      Anyway, I don’t think he’d be irrational to have a utility function with radically diminished marginal value for dollars after the first 30 million are in the bank.

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  2. Chris says:

    High five for being a BSG fan!!!!

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  3. kyle says:

    Id ask for the ryan braun deal with and inflated increase % based on the average salary of a major league player then and now.

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  4. BJ says:

    So he’s got 2 years of being renewed and 3 years of arbitration. A competitive offer through his first 5 years would be something along the lines of …

    Y2 – min ($500k)
    Y3 – min ($500k)
    Y4 – $8m
    Y5 – $10m
    Y6 – $13m

    5/$32 or so to cover his arb years. I’d try to tack on 2 more years at $15m/year bringing the total deal to 7 years / $62m. Not a terribly team friendly deal but given Stanton’s talent level and the heavy bias for players like him in arbitration and FA it seems more than fair. If he were going year to year the deal probably costs him $20m or more. On his side of the equation though the Marlins are guaranteeing him top dollars and assuming that he continues to be a standout player.

    Seems like a win/win deal that is slanted enough in Stanton’s favor to give him a great reason to accept it.

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    • Dba400 says:

      10/100 has the pleasant ring of round numbers. Obviously meaningful risks there for both parties (and quite unlikely to happen as a consequence) but could set Stanton up as the face of the franchise for the next decade.

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  5. Mike says:

    7 year $50 million seems reasonable – more than Braun over one less year.
    Y2 – $2m
    Y3 – $4m
    Y4 – $7m
    Y5 – $10m
    Y6 – $12m
    Y7 – $15m

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    • Gary says:

      I don’t think you can look at this process year by year. The value of getting free agent years without being locked into buying decline years is THE big deal here.

      That’s why these pre-arb deals almost always work out for the team, and why free agent mega-contracts almost always benefit the player. Nobody wants to buy a pension plan.

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  6. Matthew says:

    Mike Stanton would be a fool to sign an extension with the Marlins, especially if it bought out ANY free agent years. He would reach free agency in the middle of his prime and would get a RIDICULOUS contract. I consider to Stanton and Madison Bumgarner to be the most valuable young stars in the game, trade-value/franchise-value wise. They’re both just entering their age 22 seasons, one is in the top 3-5 LH SP in the game, the other is a top 5-10 power hitter (and guys normally don’t show that power at 21, he’s either an early bloomer, or a true HR-record shatterer in the making).

    And really, is there any reason to want to spend the entirety of his career with the Marlins? Or even 8 years of it?

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    • Marver says:

      Well, the Marlins ownership inking Jose Reyes for the next six seasons should be one reason (if you think there wasn’t one two days ago). While I agree that he’s got an opportunity to make a ludicrous amount on the open market, there is something to be said about financial certainty. Unfortunately, though, I can’t find much on Mike Stanton’s childhood to see if financial certainty could play a role.

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  7. Waluigi says:


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  8. Husker says:

    Battlestar Galactica was the best TV series ever, Steve. If you haven’t seen them yet, check out: The West Wing, The Wire, Homicide: LIfe on the Streets.

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