The Dodgers Control the Giancarlo Stanton Sweepstakes

I think we all understand the present circumstances. The Marlins are trying to trade Giancarlo Stanton in order to clear payroll, and they’ve reached general agreements with both the Cardinals and the Giants. From the Cardinals, the Marlins would get talent and salary relief. From the Giants, the Marlins would get talent and salary relief. There are differences, obviously, but right now you’d think there are only these two finalists. Stanton has full no-trade protection, but he doesn’t want to stick around where he is, and so we’re getting to a decision point. Stanton will soon need to pick St. Louis or San Francisco.

Or neither. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but Stanton grew up and played high-school ball around Los Angeles. We’re not familiar with Stanton’s actual thoughts, but the consensus opinion is that Stanton’s ideal outcome would be a trade to the Dodgers. To this point, we haven’t heard much about the Dodgers’ trade interest. Stanton wouldn’t be the type of add they typically make. And yet, here we are. The Dodgers continue to loom over this whole thing.

Giancarlo Stanton? Stanton has plenty of leverage. But so do the Dodgers. The Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes are unusual, but so is this situation, with Stanton effectively able to hold out until he gets what he wants.

I’m far from the first person to get here. Buster Olney wrote about Stanton’s leverage on November 21. Grant Brisbee wrote about the Dodgers’ position on November 28. The Dodgers have been right there from the beginning, even though rumors of their strong interest haven’t leaked. The Dodgers certainly don’t look eager, in the press. But they also haven’t ruled anything out. The Dodgers have painted themselves as a possibility, and it stands to reason that’s why Stanton is technically still professional property of the Marlins.

Given where the Marlins are, I don’t think Stanton wants to go back. He would presumably prefer either the Cardinals or the Giants. But if his strong preference were to join the Dodgers, then there’s no reason for him to accept anything yet. If the Dodgers might get involved, well, why should Stanton be in any rush? And, for their own part, why should the Dodgers be in any rush? They don’t need very much. They’re already a finalist for Ohtani. The Dodgers benefit from effectively holding up everything else. Other teams want to get more business done, but the Dodgers can keep the market in limbo.

The Dodgers have decisions to make. I’m going to guess they’ve already made most of them. How much do they want Stanton? How much of an improvement would he be? Would his destination have any bearing at all on Ohtani’s frame of mind? Might the Dodgers actually want Stanton to end up with the Giants, at or around the rumored cost? Might the Dodgers prefer the Giants be so burdened? There’s a chance there, although the Dodgers also would understand that Stanton would make them better right away. Not by a full five or six wins, but by a few wins, at least. Get Stanton now and the Dodgers could sit out the whole Bryce Harper circus in a year. It’s hard to turn down a Stanton, when one is available. The Dodgers could make it work.

The key bit of information here is that Stanton can basically dictate where he goes. The key speculation is that Stanton would prefer the Dodgers over anyone else. The other key speculation is that the Marlins are sufficiently motivated to move Stanton now, instead of having to clear payroll by other means. That would be more challenging for them to do, and Stanton would also spend the whole next year as an unhappy reigning MVP. It’s a situation any team would like to avoid. The Marlins are toxic, ever more so when trying to reduce the payroll by tens of millions of dollars.

Rumors of the Cardinals’ offer have floated. So have rumors of the Giants’ offer. I don’t know how accurate they are, but they seem sensible and logical enough. If the Dodgers decide they don’t want Stanton, they can just back away and let him make his decision. But if, alternatively, the Dodgers decide they’d like a more powerful outfield, they can express their interest. And, critically, they wouldn’t have to match the Cardinals or Giants’ offers. Not if Stanton actually wants to play in Los Angeles more than anything else. Then it would be almost all up to Stanton and the Dodgers, because Stanton could simply tell the Marlins he’ll accept nothing else. He can force the Marlins to choose between an underwhelming Dodgers offer and bringing an unhappy Stanton back. That wouldn’t guarantee a Dodgers trade happens, but it would be the most likely scenario.

The Marlins have said they don’t want to take a bad contract or two back. They might not have a choice, because the Dodgers are also reportedly motivated to drop below the competitive-balance-tax threshold. The Dodgers could achieve that by sending the Marlins short-term dead weight. And while I don’t think the Dodgers could get away with not offering the Marlins anything appealing at all, they wouldn’t need to match the other prospect packages. They’d need to offer just enough to convince the Marlins to suck it up. They’d need to offer just enough for the Marlins to prefer the offer over the fallout from Stanton sticking around. Moving Stanton is by far the easiest way for the Marlins to help their financial situation. They might not want to think about the alternatives. They don’t have many alternatives.

Stanton controls this, which we can take to mean the Dodgers also control this. Because of how the leverage here is distributed, it makes sense that Stanton would be available to the Dodgers for a lower cost than the one that would be charged to the Cardinals and Giants. It’s not often you see trade negotiations that are so lopsided in one team’s favor, but this is something teams just have to accept when they give out no-trade clauses. Players earn those clauses, and they’re free to use them however they like. Usually, circumstances aren’t so complicated. But it seems like Stanton wants Los Angeles. Which essentially would leave this up to Los Angeles. If they want him, they ought to be able to get him, for a rather underwhelming return. The Marlins wouldn’t be happy, but even though they’re the ones with their finger on the trigger, it’s hardly their decision to make. Their power here is woefully limited.

Ideally, the Marlins wouldn’t operate this way. Ideally, the Marlins would be a legitimate operation, just like anyone else. It would be great if Stanton were happy where he is, because that would be better for baseball. But the Marlins continue to be a tire fire, and it’s seldom better for a team to trade an MVP. If the Dodgers allow, Stanton will shortly elect to join the Cardinals or the Giants. And if the Dodgers allow, Stanton will shortly become a part of their own impressive core.

We hoped you liked reading The Dodgers Control the Giancarlo Stanton Sweepstakes by Jeff Sullivan!

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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obsessivegiantscompulsive
Member

This is a good article overall, but underplays the leverage the Marlins have in this whole matter.

They want to drop $250M or so from their commitment, and got two teams already willing to do that. Unless the Dodgers can engineer other deals to drop their own payroll, while trading for Stanton, the Marlins have already reportedly told Stanton that if he don’t agree to a trade, the Marlins will be force to cut elsewhere, which means Yellich and Ozuno, and then the fallout, as far as they care, was due to Stanton’s decision. He chose this.

So the Dodgers just can’t underbid, they have to substantially meet what the other two teams have offered (and apparently the Cards are taking on more money as well as give up more prospects, but they can live with the Giants offer) and figure out on their own how to reduce their payroll otherwise.

It may lead to a toxic situation in Miami with Stanton around, but the ownership clearly would place that on Stanton’s head for forcing them to sell off other players and have already mentally accepted that this might happen, and, while not happy with it, obviously appears to have accepted that as a possibility.

And the offers won’t be available forever, the Giants especially are notorious for moving on if the deal don’t move by the Winter Meetings, Sabean waits for nobody. They will move on and probably soon.

And maybe that is what the Dodgers want, to stall enough so that the Giants cut bait, and force Stanton to the Cards.

rhdx
Member
rhdx

The thing is, the Marlins are not ‘forced’ to cut payroll, it is their choice, and I think that will be hard to blame on Stanton. That said, the Marlins can choose to keep him and pay him even though they don’t want to, so they do have at least a bit of leverage.

thestatbook
Member
thestatbook

It’s very easy to blame it on Stanton.

All they have to say is, “he wouldn’t accept a trade to a team who put forth an acceptable package, so we kept him and moved everyone else around him.”

If they don’t get an offer they like from LA, they can simply call Stanton “uncooperative” and claim, “we did everything we could to get him on a better team.”

“If he’s so adamant about playing in LA, he needs to wait till his opt-out, or he shouldn’t have signed a 13-year deal to play in Miami.”

There are multiple spins that can point the finger at Stanton. If he blocks trades, and the Marlins don’t want to accept a shitty deal for him, take the nuclear option and throw him under the bus.

What’s going to happen, Jeter’s PR is going to get worse?

Psychic... Powerless...
Member
Member
Psychic... Powerless...

They can say that, but who will buy it? The Marlins have zero credibility.

Johnny Dickshot
Member
Johnny Dickshot

Who will buy it? No one will care.

Do you think the Marlins care more about money or more about credibility and whether they have an unhappy Stanton on their hands?

The more you think they care about money, the less “discount” the Dodgers can get in trading for Stanton. Contrary to the theme of Jeff’s article, I happen to think the Marlins’ new ownership cares a lot more about money.

mikejunt
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Member
mikejunt

It depends on something we can’t know, which are the Marlins motivations for shedding payroll. If they just need to shed payroll in any term, they can trade other players.

If they specifically need to reduce or eliminate their long-term outlays, this is the only significant one. There may be specific reasons that this contract needs to be discharged from the team in order to detangle Jeffrey Loria. The contract is guaranteed: is it possible that some piece of collateral that is backing that insurance is owned by Loria and needs to be bought out?

We don’t know the internal motivations for this. If the Marlins are dead set on shedding THIS contract, Giancarlo and the Dodgers have the ability to drag them over the coals and screw them, and both have incentive to do so: Giancarlo gets to force himself onto not only a better team in his home city, but one that surrendered less future success to secure him.

If the Marlins are just generically trying to save money, they can move Yelich and Ozuna and others. But the possibility remains that it is Stanton specific, and if so, the Marlins are going to get wrecked, which is the only trade for Stanton the Dodgers would likely participate in

outinleftfield
Member
outinleftfield

It has been widely reported that the Marlins motivation is to lower payroll for 2018 and 2019. In 2021 they will have $80+ million in additional revenue from their new TV deal and naming rights. At that point, a payroll of $130 or $150 million will be no problem.

They have also said publicly and to Stanton himself that while they would prefer to trade Stanton, that if he is unwilling to accept a trade to a team that has made an offer acceptable to the Marlins, that they will still meet their payroll by trading other players. Players like Ozuna, Yelich, Gordon, Prado, and others.

Dave T
Member
Member
Dave T

What’s your reference for $80 million plus in additional revenue in 2021? That seems very high.

I know that the Marlins do have one the lowest local TV deals in MLB, which is up after 2020. It’s logical to see paths to getting at least somewhat more after 2020. I don’t see any huge jump as guaranteed or even likely, though, especially if the team is bad on the field for the next three years, which seems likely. There’s a low level of local interest in the team. The macro background of cord-cutting isn’t great for a team with a low-level of local interest getting a big local cable deal that’s premised on hammering cable and satellite providers into accepting big carriage fees.

I know that that Marlins’ very low revenues – Forbes put them almost tied with the Rays in 2016 for lowest-revenue franchise – are out of line with the large size of the South Florida market. The question is how to get from the current situation to rectifying that, however. Loria burned the fanbase so often that there’s an understandable lack of local interest. Revenue doesn’t support the current level of payroll without owners covering operating losses, and the minor league system is rated one of the worst in MLB. They’ve got some bad money contract commitments for the next few years (Chen, Prado) with negative trade value.

It really looks like the Marlins need a full reset and rebuild where they rebuild the minors to try to put a winning, largely homegrown team on the field in a few years. Basically, initially follow a Rays/A’s model to try to find a level of success with a pretty low payroll and then hope that the fan interest and revenue follows to become at least a mid-revenue team and therefore support a larger payroll.

websoulsurfer
Member
websoulsurfer

I always hate answering for someone else, but since he hasn’t answered, here goes.

The Marlins play in the 16th largest TV market. lyonspr.com/latest-nielsen-dma-rankings/

TV contracts and TV advertising are based on the DMA ranking.

If you look at the 10 contracts signed since 2010, that would put the new Marlins TV between $66 and $100 million.

Team’s Neilsen DMA Ranking in ( )
Yankees(1) – $385 million per season
Dodgers(2) – $334 million per season
Phillies(4) – $200 million per season
Rangers(5) – $155 million per season
Angels(2?) – $147 million per season
Astros(8) – $120 million per season
Diamondbacks(12) – $100 million per season
Mariners(14) – $100 million per season
Cardinals(21) – $66 million per season
Padres(28) – $60 million per season

Several teams including the Cubs(3), Tigers (13), Rockies(17), and Brewers(35) will be renegotiated prior to the Marlins new deal in 2021, so the amount the Marlins get may be even larger.

Toronto, Baltimore, and Boston are not included in this list because they own 80-100% of the TV network they are broadcast on, so revenues from TV are not disclosed. The Giants are not listed because they do not get a set amount, they get 33% of revenue earned by Comcast SportsNet. Estimates are between $140 and $170 million. The Nationals have been embroiled the Orioles in litigation over MASN, so they are not included.

Hope that answers your question.

outinleftfield
Member
outinleftfield

One thing you missed was the naming rights to Marlins Park. That should be $8-10 million on its own. The rest is spot on.

websoulsurfer
Member
websoulsurfer

Fair enough.

Dave T
Member
Member
Dave T

@websoulsurfer – Thank you, but I’m aware of the background of local TV contracts, such as from this Fangraphs article a couple years ago – https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/estimated-tv-revenues-for-all-30-mlb-teams/

One issue with your numbers: you are using the AAV of TV contracts signed in the past several years, and these contracts often run for 15 years or more. These deals aren’t flat annual revenue but rather have annual escalators built into them. So a deal like the Diamondbacks, for example, totals 20 years / $1.5 billion running until 2035. It had estimated revenue of $50 million in 2016, well below the $75 million AAV (per the article that I linked above). So any immediate jump in the Marlins’ TV revenue post-2020 won’t match the AAV of a long-term TV rights contract.

Second, market size matters, but so does fan interest. The logic for market size driving revenue is that some meaningful fraction of cable TV subscribers care if a team’s games are available, which provides RSN’s with leverage to get and keep carriage on the standard cable tier . In the case of the Marlins, most viewers in the area might just say, “who cares?” This is a team with a sustained history of being last in the NL in attendance nearly every year ( https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/FLA/attend.shtml ). This is a team that had the second lowest raw number of households (22,000) watching its games in its home DMA in 2017, ahead of only the A’s, and is 26th out of the 29 U.S. teams in local ratings ( https://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2017/10/10/here-are-the-2017-mlb-prime-time-television-ratings-for-each-team/2/#4b4732d363cc ). And that viewership was with a somewhat competitive 77 win team and Stanton hitting 59 home runs, not what’s likely to be a worse team over the next three seasons.

Third, the macro environment is shifting in ways that aren’t favorable to these big money cable deals. ESPN keeps bleeding a couple million subscribers each year ( https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-22/espn-subscribers-drop-to-14-year-low-putting-pressure-on-disney ). The Dodgers’ SportsNet LA still only has carriage covering 40% of pay TV households in the L.A. area 4 years after it launched ( https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-dodgers-are-on-a-roll-but-fans-remain-in-the-dark-amid-cable-tv-dispute-1501419968 ). The only major cable provider in the L.A. area to carry it is Spectrum, who owns the channel. The best estimates are that Spectrum is currently losing tens of millions of dollars each year on this deal, which was effectively a bet that it could obtain a fairly high per subscriber carriage fee. That hasn’t proven to be in the case even with a team that has a well-established fanbase and has been a playoff team each of those 4 years. And I suspect one lesson being learned by the cable and satellite providers who don’t have SportsNet L.A. is that they can do just fine keeping subscribers by not having the channel but also not having that cost to pass through to subscribers.