Archive for Marlins

Giancarlo Stanton’s Opt-Out Caps His Trade Value

The better Stanton performs over the next few years, the more likely he is to opt out. (Photo: Corn Farmer)

With the Marlins looking to cut payroll, Giancarlo Stanton seems likely to be traded at some point this winter. Stanton not only takes up a lot of that payroll, but his talents are desirable to other teams. The grounds for a trade are obvious. At the same time, the 10 years and $295 million remaining on his contract present a roadblock to acquiring him. So does his no-trade clause, which he could use to block a trade to one of the clubs willing to take on his salary.

Another concern is Stanton’s opt-out clause. While less of an obstacle to the eventual completion of a deal, it’s a factor. By the terms of the opt-out, Stanton will have the choice, in three years, either to become a free agent, or exercise a player option for seven years and $218 million. In late June, when Stanton had a 131 wRC+ and looked to be on pace for “only” a four-win season, the opt-out didn’t seem to matter too much; the probability that he’d exercise it seemed pretty low. A monster second half and MVP Award later, though, and that opt-out is back in play, and it negatively affects Stanton’s value.

Without revisiting whether player opt-outs benefit a team (Dave Cameron wrote about it over the course of multiple posts two years ago with the last one here), let’s just dig into the numbers a bit and see what they say. Last week, Eno Sarris advocated for trading for Stanton, noting that if Stanton ages normally, there’s a big surplus on the contract. Sarris also noted that, even if Stanton ages poorly, the contract would remain pretty close to the current market rate.

Here’s an estimate of Stanton’s value were he to age normally, starting with $9 million a win. I’ve used Steamer’s win projection (5.3 WAR) for Stanton’s 2018 season.

Giancarlo Stanton’s Contract — 10 yr / $295.0 M
Year Age WAR $/WAR Est. Contract Actual Contract
2018 28 5.3 $9.0 M $47.7 M $25.0 M
2019 29 5.3 $9.5 M $50.1 M $26.0 M
2020 30 5.3 $9.9 M $52.6 M $26.0 M
2021 31 4.8 $10.4 M $50.0 M $29.0 M
2022 32 4.3 $10.9 M $47.0 M $29.0 M
2023 33 3.8 $10.9 M $41.6 M $32.0 M
2024 34 3.3 $10.9 M $36.1 M $32.0 M
2025 35 2.8 $10.9 M $30.6 M $32.0 M
2026 36 2.3 $10.9 M $25.2 M $29.0 M
2027 37 1.8 $10.9 M $19.7 M $35.0 M
Totals 39.0 $400.6 M $295.0 M

Assumptions

Value: $9M/WAR with 5.0% inflation (for first 5 years)
Aging Curve: +0.25 WAR/yr (18-24), 0 WAR/yr (25-30),-0.5 WAR/yr (31-37),-0.75 WAR/yr (> 37)

As structured, the deal looks pretty good for the team, with a surplus of over $100 million. Except for one thing, though: this version of reality isn’t ever likely to occur. In three years, Stanton will be just one year older than J.D. Martinez is right now. If he puts up three five-win seasons in a row — better than what Martinez just did in one season — his value on the free-agent market is going to exceed the $218 million he is owed. In that case, Stanton would almost certainly opt out, cutting the surplus by 30%.

The above case represents just one scenario, though. To play this out, let’s consider a bunch more and see where it leads. For the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume the 5.3 WAR figure is a good estimate of Stanton’s present talent. Note that the higher estimate you put on his talents, the more likely Stanton is to opt out. If you put a six-win talent estimate on Stanton and give him 18 WAR over the next three seasons, that place among the greats. The only primary right fielders to do better than that from 28 to 30 since 1947 are Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, and Frank Robinson. Even in that scenario, the surplus is under $100 million. There’s a limit on how much high-end value Stanton can provide because of that opt-out.

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Which Teams Most Need the Next Win?

Not every team approaches the offseason looking to get better in the same way. That much is obvious: budget alone can dictate much of a club’s activity on the free-agent market. A little bit less obvious, though, is how the present quality of a team’s roster can affect the players they pursue. Teams that reside on a certain part of the win curve, for example, need that next win more than teams on other parts. That can inform a team’s decisions in the offseason.

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The Giants Need More Than Just Giancarlo Stanton

If the Giants weren’t 2017’s biggest disappointment, it’s only because the Mets lived their own waking nightmare. The Giants remain a popular product, but with popularity comes expectations, and the Giants have been garbage for a year and a half, in large part because the home-run spike seems to have passed them right by. Fast-forward to the present day, and the Giants find themselves in a situation of some urgency. They want to maintain their market share in the region, and they could stand to add some dingers. The Giants haven’t hit many dingers. They don’t want to spend another year in the basement.

It seems like the stars are aligning almost perfectly. When the Giants have needed help the most, there has become available a certain player, a certain dinger-hitter and league MVP, a lineup-changing colossus who’s rumored to want to play out west, around where he grew up. It’s no secret the Marlins are looking to trade Giancarlo Stanton, and it’s no surprise the Giants are deeply involved in the mix. Nothing has yet actually happened, but the two current favorites would have to be the Giants and the Cardinals. They’re the suitors who’ve been most aggressive.

And yet I’m not sold the Giants make such great sense. One can speculate only so much about a move that would be undoubtedly complicated, but the Giants don’t find themselves in an enviable position. Acquiring Stanton could be an awfully dangerous commitment.

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The Impact of Payroll Tax on the Pursuit of Giancarlo Stanton

“I know all teams have plenty of money.”

Giancarlo Stanton

This season’s National League MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, recently addressed rumors that Miami might trade him, noting that the club could immediately become a postseason contender with the addition of pitching. His suggestion that all teams have plenty of money certainly appears to be a response to speculation that the Marlins intend to slash payroll a few months after having been purchased for more than a billion dollars.

It also stands to reason that he was commenting upon the fact any club could theoretically afford to acquire Stanton and the $295 million remaining on his contract. In one sense, he’s probably right. Revenues in baseball are at an all-time high. For a number of reasons, however, there’s not a direct correlation in baseball between revenues and spending.

One main reason is the competitive-balance tax, formerly known as the luxury tax. The cap for the tax has increased at only about half the rate of MLB payrolls. Accordingly, more teams find themselves up against a tax that was made more painful in the last CBA. Those taxes have pretty drastic effects on the trade market for Giancarlo Stanton, putting some teams out of the bidding and making the cost for others high enough that a competitive offer might be unreasonable.

Two years ago, Nathaniel Grow wrote an excellent piece about the implications of the luxury tax this century, showing how many teams used the tax as a cap, which has driven down spending relative to revenue over the last decade. In the last few years, the tax threshold has grown at a very slow rate, such that, by the end of the current CBA, teams with an average payroll will find themselves just a single major free-agent signing away from transcending it. The graph below depicts both average team payrolls and the tax threshold since 2003.

Over the last 15 years, payroll has grown at a pace 50% faster than that of the competitive-balance tax amount. However, the chart above actually overstates the rate at which the competitive-balance threshold has grown. From 2003 until the beginning of the previous CBA in 2011, the luxury tax grew at a rate pretty close to MLB payrolls, even if it did depress salaries compared to revenue. Beginning with the CBA that started in 2011 and the new CBA, which goes through 2021, the competitive-balance tax has seen barely any growth, especially when it comes to payroll.

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The Case for Acquiring Stanton

There’s no player more polarizing this offseason than Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. The Marlins’ new ownership group has indicated that they’d like to reduce the club’s payroll by as much as $50 million before the start of the 2018 campaign. With 10 years and $295 million remaining on his contract, Stanton is the logical place to begin with any such cuts.

The prospect of a Stanton trade isn’t particularly straightforward, though. There appears to be little consensus on the relative value of his production to the costs required to employ him. Is he overpriced and injury prone — should he be treated as a salary dump? Or is he the rare available peak-aged star who should be coveted?

What follows is a series of points in support of the latter case.

He’s not necessarily injury prone.
Much has been made of Stanton’s inability to put up 600-plus plate appearances — probably too much. It’s true that he’s only crossed that threshold four times over eight years in the bigs (yes, we can count the 636 he put up over two levels in his rookie season), but that’s not as damning as it may seem. And that’s not just because one of those four injury-shortened seasons came from a broken jaw on a hit by pitch — that is, by means of a one-time event, not a chronic problem.

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Ten Players I’m Excited to Watch in 2018

We’re currently in the midst of a lull in the baseball calendar. The offseason has officially arrived and yet the Hot Stove hasn’t really been lit yet. I suppose I could get excited for Awards season, but the painfully slow roll out and the heated arguments wear me down fairly quickly.

So, instead, I try to make my own baseball entertainment. For me, one exercise is simply to look over the league and attempt to identify the players about whom I’m most excited for next season. Not superstars, necessarily: everyone is always excited to watch the game’s brightest lights. And not prospects who haven’t yet reached the Show, either. I’m not really qualified to talk about those players in a meaningful way, so I’ll leave those players to Eric (and Chris) and all the scouts out there.

Outside of those groups, though, there are still hundreds of players from which to choose. I’ll be excited to watch more than these 10, of course, but in surveying the league, these are ones who caught my eye. Note that this isn’t in any particular order. I’m equally excited about all 10. Perhaps you’ll agree with me, perhaps not. Feel free to conduct your own exercise and let me know who your 10 players are in the comments.

Rafael Devers

The new Red Sox third baseman enjoyed a meteoric debut month, swatting his way to a 224 wRC+ in his July call-up. That covered just 27 plate appearances, though, and as we moved into August and September, he cooled off significantly. He hit safely from his second game (July 26) through his eighth game (August 4). At that point, he was hitting .389/.463/.694, for a 205 wRC+. From August 5 through the end of the regular season, though, he hit .263/.312/.441, for a 92 wRC+. Doom and gloom, right? Not entirely, no, because in Boston’s abbreviated playoff run, he was one of the few bright spots, slashing .364/.429/.909. He slugged two homers — one off of Francisco Liriano and one off of Ken Giles. The latter was of the inside-the-park variety, but it was impressive nonetheless:

So, it’s hard to know what to expect from young Devers. Andrew Benintendi was similarly hyped coming into last campaign and was decidedly mediocre for large swaths of the season. Will that be Devers’ fate too? And what of his fielding? He made seven throwing errors and seven fielding errors in his short time in Boston. If the Red Sox acquire a legit first baseman this winter (or a legit DH and move Hanley Ramirez to first) and it turns out that Devers can’t hack at it at third, the Red Sox will have a conundrum to solve.

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The Teams That Will Run the Off-Season

Today, the off-season begins in earnest, as free agents become eligible to sign with new teams at 5 pm eastern. And given the number of interesting players on the market and which teams look like buyers, it should be a more active free agent atmosphere than we’ve seen in past years. Toss in a number of high-profile trade targets, and we could be in for a pretty interesting winter.

But every year, it seems, a few teams end up driving the off-season action. Last year, White Sox GM Rick Hahn became the most popular guy in town, as he shopped Chris Sale and Adam Eaton around at the winter meetings, eventually making blockbuster trades for both. The Dodgers were the big spenders, bringing back their trio of top-tier free agents, though at rates that proved to be bargains in every case.

Of course, in prior years, teams like the Diamondbacks, Padres, and Tigers have dominated the off-seasons with their aggressive attempts to get better, only to see those moves push the franchise in the wrong direction. So being the hot stove kingpin isn’t always a good thing, and with a particularly risky set of premium free agents, there’s a decent chance that whoever makes the most big moves this winter will also end up wishing they had been a bit more cautious. But as we head into the time when a few teams are looking to remake their franchises in significant ways, let’s take a look at which teams might end up being the ones who have the most impact — one way or the other — on their clubs this winter.

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The Players Teach Us How to Start a Reliever

The first of two Wild Card games is scheduled for tonight. In addition to must-win baseball, this time of year is also typically marked by the appearance of a Dave Cameron piece on the merits of “bullpen-ing” a game — that is, the practice of using nothing but relievers in a single contest, of attempting to exploit matchups in order to maximize the chances of winning.

While the logic of “bullpen-ing” is sound in theory, it also fails to account for the comfort of pitchers who’ve potentially become attached to their roles. To get a better idea of how they might adapt to such an approach and how it might be handled in practice, I asked some actual players about it. Turns out, there’s a particular type of reliever who’s best suited to take the ball in the first few innings of a win-or-go-home game. And a particular type of pitcher who should follow him.

The first thing revealed by my inquiries is that relievers love the idea. “I’m down for whatever,” said Giants reliever Hunter Strickland with a smile. Nationals closer Sean Doolittle just laughed for a while. “Would I get paid like a starting pitcher?” he finally asked after the laughter had subsided.

Relievers would be fine with it because they’re accustomed to answering the call whenever. “We’re used to throwing in whatever inning, [if] not usually the first,” said Strickland. Added Miami’s Brad Ziegler: “I don’t think it would be very different for me, as much as it would be for the starter coming into the game [in the later innings]. His whole routine would have to change.”

And a starter probably would have to throw a couple innings in such a game — in order to reach a full complement of nine and still leave some arms for extras, that is. So the question is probably which kind of starter would adapt effectively to an otherwise unusual arrangement.

The answer? Probably a young one. Older starters are more married to their routines. “It’s very hard for me personally,” said Brandon McCarthy regarding the idea of starting a game in any other inning but the first. “My routine as a starter is fixed to the minute and a lot of guys are like that. It’s certainly not something impossible to deal with but could make a team nervous.”

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The Marlins Have Something to Avoid

I realize that I can be a little too often drawn to bests and worsts. It happens because I’m lazy, but it also happens because those make for easy subjects to sell. I don’t need to convince you that the best of something is interesting. Same goes for the opposite. I’m just the messenger, providing exceptional fun facts. Baseball creates the fun facts. I just go and find them.

I have another fun fact to share with you. I have another potential historical worst. Several weeks ago, the Marlins were worth watching, because they were making an improbable surge into the wild-card race. The surge ended as abruptly as it started, and now the Marlins are just playing out the string. There are still players of significance, sure. Fans are still watching to see if Giancarlo Stanton will go yard. But let me give you a statistic to keep your eye on. Want a reason to pay attention to the Marlins’ final stretch? They could badly use some pitcher-hits. Otherwise they’re going to set a new low.

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Here Come the Marlins, Somehow

With the proliferation of both professional and amateur coverage, it’s more difficult than ever for something to happen off of the radar. There are simply too many eyes for much of anything to go unnoticed, and in case you’re unconvinced, think about how much you already know about Rhys Hoskins. Thank about how much you’ve already read about Byron Buxton, or about Giancarlo Stanton‘s home-run pace. If something happens in baseball, it’s going to generate content. That content will find its way to your computer or phone. You’re connected, so you know what’s going on.

And yet, there’s this one thing. I swear that I’m not pulling your leg, and I know this is true because I triple-checked the numbers. I was as surprised as you are right now. Today is Monday, August 28. Let’s go back to May 28 — that’s a nice, clean, even three months. Who’s been the best team in baseball over the past three months? That’s easy. The Dodgers. Everyone knows that. Who’s been the second-best team in baseball over the past three months? That’s less easy.

Best Since 5/28
Team W L Win%
Dodgers 61 18 0.772
Marlins 49 33 0.598
Indians 49 33 0.598
Nationals 48 33 0.593
Astros 45 35 0.563

Only the Dodgers have had a better record than the Marlins. Sure, that gap is enormous. The Dodgers are way better than the Marlins are. But the Marlins are right there, numbering among the elite. You can forgive yourself if you hadn’t been aware. It took a while for me, myself, and this is my job. But all those Stanton home runs haven’t been taking place in isolation. There’s a whole baseball team around that guy, and it’s fresh off a weekend three-game sweep.

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Giancarlo Stanton’s Shot at 74

You’ve probably noticed that Giancarlo Stanton has been on fire lately. After hitting exactly seven home runs in each of the first three months of the season, he powered up and hit 12 in July, the most home runs anyone had hit in a month this season besides Cody Bellinger‘s 13 in June. But that was just him getting warmed up, because after his home run yesterday, he’s already hit 17 in August.

Since July 1st, Stanton has hit 29 home runs. Nelson Cruz, in second place, has hit 17. Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, who are tied for sixth-most home runs hit since the beginning of July, have combined to hit 28. And they play in Colorado. Stanton is, by himself, hitting bombs at the rate of two power hitters on hot streaks who get to play at altitude.

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Updated Top-10 Prospect Lists: NL East

Below are the updated summer top-10 prospect lists for the orgs in the National League East. I have notes beneath the top 10s explaining why some of these prospects have moved up or down. For detailed scouting information on individual players, check out the player’s profile page which may include tool grades and/or links to Daily Prospect Notes posts in which they’ve appeared this season. For detailed info on players drafted or signed this year, check out our sortable boards.

Atlanta Braves (Preseason List)

1. Ronald Acuna, CF
2. Ozzie Albies. 2B
3. Kyle Wright, RHP
4. Luiz Gohara, LHP
5. Kolby Allard, LHP
6. Kevin Maitan, SS
7. Ian Anderson, RHP
8. Mike Soroka, RHP
9. Joey Wentz, LHP
10. Cristian Pache, CF

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Giancarlo Stanton Is Closing Off and Trending Up

Giancarlo Stanton had become overshadowed, both literally and figuratively.

Until just recently, Stanton had been a Statcast God, often lapping the field in categories involving 100 mph-plus batted balls and average exit velocities.

But then Aaron Judge broke out, and Stanton, who was once the strongest and most physically imposing player in the game, was dropped down to the second chair. There is no larger perception drop than from first to second.

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Ranking the Prospects Traded During Deadline Season

Among the prospects traded in July, Eloy Jimenez stands out. (Photo: Arturo Pardavila III)

Below is a ranking of the prospects traded this month, tiered by our Future Value scale. A reminder that there’s lots of room for argument as to how these players line up, especially within the same FV tier. If you need further explanation about FV, bang it here and here. Full writeups of the prospects are linked next to their names. If the player didn’t receive an entire post, I’ve got a brief scouting report included below. Enjoy.
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Projecting the Prospects Traded on Friday Night

Three minor-ish trades went down on Friday night. The Mets acquired A.J. Ramos from the Marlins for Merandy Gonzalez and Ricardo Cespedes; the Nationals acquired Howie Kendrick from the Phillies for McKenzie Mills; the Orioles acquired Jeremy Hellickson from the Phillies for Garrett Cleavinger and Hyun Soo Kim.  Below are the projections for the prospects who changed hands. WAR figures account for the player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings.

None of the players dealt last night are top prospects, and as a result, their likelihood of outcomes graphs are heavily skewed towards “no MLB”. Kyle Glaser recently found that fewer than one in five prospects traded at the deadline contribute more than one positive WAR season. All three of these pitchers seem like good bets to fall into that bottom four-fifths.

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What History Can Tell Us About the Approaching Trade Deadline

Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline is a mere five days away. As it nears, we’ll be treated to all the rumors and hypothetical proposals the internet is capable of providing. Many of them will be nonsensical. Some won’t. In every case, though, we’re likely to evaluate the likelihood of a prospective deal based on the same sort of variables considered by Dave Cameron in his annual Trade Value series — variables like projected WAR, salary, team control, etc.

But those aren’t the only factors at play when real people from real front offices attempt to work out a trade. There are other questions to ask. Which teams link up often and which teams avoid each other? What’s the role of familiarity in trade deals? Does it matter if the teams belong to the same division?

With the help of crack data and visualizations man Sean Dolinar, I went to work trying to answer some of these questions. Below are five statements supported by the historical data.

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Mariners Get David Phelps, Who Is Good

The Marlins? They’re out of it. At some point it seemed like they might have a chance, but now they’re out of it, ever so out of it, so they’ve gone into sell mode. The Marlins are used to being in sell mode. The Mariners? They’re not out of it. They’re out of it within their own division, but they’re close to a wild-card spot, like a lot of the American League. They’re close despite dealing with a thin and injured pitching staff. The Mariners are simultaneously too good to sell, and too bad to buy hard. Not to mention the farm isn’t good enough to buy hard anyway. The Mariners haven’t appeared to have that many options.

Put it all together, and that’s how you get a trade like this:

Mariners get

Marlins get

The Mariners could really use a starter. But also, they could really use a reliever, and Phelps remains under team control for 2018. So, he’s not just some kind of stretch-run rental. And although he’s no Kenley Jansen, he’s pretty good and awfully interesting. The price is four guys from the low minors. We shouldn’t pretend like any of us have any idea what they’re going to become. It’s another Jerry Dipoto exchange of low-level depth for high-level, shorter-term security.

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Do Sidearmers Get Hip Problems?

When Marlins reliever Brad Ziegler made the switch to throwing out of a submarine motion, his new mechanics made him sore. In the hips, as he remembers it. Ask fellow submariner Darren O’Day if his delivery was related to his hip labrum surgery, and his answer is succinct: “Absolutely.” Now fellow side-slotter Andrew Triggs is headed for that same surgery and it’s fair to ask: is the sidearm or submarine delivery hard on the hips?

It’s never easy to answer these sorts of questions because of the problem of sample. There might be two true submariners in baseball today (O’Day and Ziegler), and then a few who others who live low — a group that includes Steve Cishek, Pat Neshek, Joe Smith, and the like. Head any higher on the release-point list, and you’re already at Chris Sale, nobody’s idea of a sidearmer.

If you just take the list of pitchers who have recorded hip problems in the last 10 years, you get 33 different names. Hardly an epidemic. Take those 33 pitchers, and look at their average arm slot, and you might think you’ve found something.

Hip Problem Pitchers and Release Point
Player Height (in.) Vert. Release (in) Difference
League Average 75 71.2 3.8
Average Hip Problem 76 68.7 7.3
SOURCE: Jeff Zimmerman

Pitchers with hip problems release their pitches, on average, three-and-a-half inches lower than the general population.

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Justin Bour, Same As He Ever Was

Justin Bour is going to participate in the Home Run Derby tonight. He’s tied with a bunch of other guys at 16th in baseball with 20 homers. He’ll surpass his previous career high early in the second half.

This is the point at which we normally address a crazy mechanical change a player’s made, allowing him to reach a new level of performance. That crazy change might not exist in Bour’s case, though.

The player himself doesn’t think there’s a big adjustment in his rear-view mirror. “From being in pro ball to now, I’ve only made minor changes to my swing, but for the most part, I’ve always just been myself and tried to get a little better every day,” Bour said before this past weekend’s series against the Giants.

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Assessing the Trade Value of Giancarlo Stanton

The Marlins are sellers this year. Adeiny Hechavarria is already gone. Kyle Barraclough, David Phelps, and A.J. Ramos are among the bullpen pieces that might be appealing. Marcell Ozuna is having a great year and has two more years of control after this one, so he would be a desirable piece. If the team opted to, they could get a haul for Christian Yelich, too. And if the team is truly selling for the future and wants to reduce future salaries either for a future owner or because that’s just what the Marlins do, then trading Giancarlo Stanton has to be an option, as well.

It’s not entirely clear how much value Stanton has in trade. He’s obviously been a very good player to this point in his career and has recorded a 130 wRC+ so far this year. The projections see him doing roughly that the rest of the way, as well, coming close to a four-win season. He’s also only making $14.5 million in 2017, which makes him quite valuable in the near term. Detracting from that value in the longer term is the $295 million owed to Stanton over the next 10 years, part of a deal that will pay him through his age-37 season. He also has a no-trade clause. Adding to the complexity is an opt-out clause Stanton possesses in his contract after the 2020 campaign. He’ll be finishing his age-30 season at that point and will be owed $219 million over the next seven seasons.

Given the size of his deal, the return for Stanton might not be great. For that reason and because he’s a good player now and because he’s likely to remain a good player for the next few years, it’s fair to question why the Marlins would bother moving him. It’s probably too easy just to say “Because that’s what the Marlins do.” But, well, that is what the Marlins do. That opt-out might end up being difficult to turn down, and the current owner, Jeffrey Loria, likely has no interest in paying a 30-plus-year-old slugger $30 million a year. There are also rumors that the Marlins will be sold at some point soon. Before teams are sold, we often see large contracts moved in order to make the team more attractive in terms of future commitments.

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