The Giancarlo Stanton trade made waves over the weekend as much for what appears to be an insanely low price for the Yankees as for the major player involved. While New York parted with Starlin Castro, along with low-minors prospects Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers, it was the money that really had people scratching their heads.
New York will be absorbing all of the guaranteed money over next decade of the deal, which seems like a lot. But the Marlins will kick in $30 million if and when Stanton opts back into the deal after 2020. Assuming he wants to stay in the Bronx, the Yankees would be on the hook for $265 million (which could go to $280M if they exercise the $25M team option in 2028). And while that appears on the surface to be $26.5 million AAV, the calculation of the collective bargaining tax (CBT) puts it much lower.
For the sake of luxury tax penalties, the impact of multi-year contracts is based on AAV of the lifetime of the deal, so it’s not the actual money paid in a given season or what a team pays on average following a trade. So the Yankees benefit greatly from the first three years of Stanton’s extension, which paid him a total of $30 million (in this case, the Yankees).
The overall AAV of $25 million (13 years, $325M) will be further offset once Stanton opts in, since the $30 the Marlins kick in will be applied as a $3 million credit over the 10 guaranteed years of the deal. That’s a flippin’ steal and has many wondering what happens if the statuesque slugger opts out, largely because they’re focused on the low AAV involved.
What you have to consider, though, is that the Stanton just turned 28 and is now entering the most lucrative years of the deal. He’ll be 31 heading into the 2021 season, at which point he’s set to earn $218 million over seven seasons ($31.1M AAV). Would he really be able to score that same kind of cheese on the open market? I suppose it’s possible, but it’s still a safe bet that he stays in Yankee pinstripes for many years to come.
I bring this all up because the deal looks so much better in retrospect and raises some questions as to why the Cubs weren’t involved. We found out recently that they were among the four teams to which Stanton would approve a trade, but that news came out after the Marlins had received offers from both the Giants and Cardinals, neither of whom were on said list.
As we learned Monday, however, the Marlins had actually engaged the Cubs, Dodgers, Astros, and Yankees before working out deals with San Francisco and St. Louis. That information came from Marlins president of baseball operations Mike Hill via Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Once Stanton had officially rejected both the Cards and Giants, Hill re-engaged the big four and struck a deal with the Yankees.
Mike Hill said initially went to 4 clubs Stanton expressed would waive no trade for: #Yankees #Dodgers #Cubs #Astros. No traction. So engaged others/worked out deals with #SFGiants #Stlcards. Stanton refused, so re-engaged with others and that is when #Yankees deal was forged
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 11, 2017
Hill and Derek Jeter both expressed happiness with the return they got for Stanton, though this was always about clearing his salary from the books more than getting a huge prospect haul. The Marlins have admitted as much throughout the process, and their desire to eat as little of the deal as possible clearly factored heavily in what they were able to get back. Speaking of which, I would not be at all surprised to see them flip Castro and his $22 million guaranteed salary.
All things considered, that sure seems like something the Cubs could have matched or at least gotten close to. The “no traction” thing is a bit of a surprise, though I guess that depends on what the Marlins wanted or needed in return. Castro didn’t represent a significant hit toward the Yankees’ payroll or CBT number, but it was enough to offset a nice chunk of Stanton’s deal over the next two years.
When you look at who the Cubs could have traded to clear a little salary, it comes down to either Ben Zobrist or Jason Heyward. And those two both have full no-trade clauses, so that’s out of the question. Even if they didn’t, neither offers much value to Miami in either salary relief or flippability. The Cubs have tons of young talent, but nearly all of those players are in pre-arb years and wouldn’t offset any salary and/or they’re way to valuable to part with.
Some folks are pointing to the unwillingness to go after Stanton as a sign that Epstein and Co. are planning to be all-in on Bryce Harper next winter, which is a distinct possibility. Another possibility stems from what we looked at earlier, and that is the fact that they could be stuck paying $218 million to a guy with a diminishing skillset both at the plate and in the field. The Yankees can mitigate much of that erosion with the DH.
Listen, I don’t know whether the Cubs gave Hill and the Marlins a hard pass or whether they simply lowballed Miami or refused to accept as much of the salary as New York did. Whatever the case, it’s hard for me to find fault with this front office given all the excellent moves they’ve made. But at the same time, I can’t help thinking that adding Stanton for the prime years of this current competitive window in Chicago would have been a game-changer.
I guess the moral of the story is that the Cubs traded Castro two years too early.