Way back in late October, we OTM'ers wrote up our off-season prescriptions for the Red Sox. I don't mention this because I won the vote, although I did, I bring it up because my plan hinged on a somewhat outlandish idea: trading for Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. At the time I wrote:
...to get the next great Red Sox left fielder, a player who hits for tremendous power in a time of decreasing power, a guy who could be a legitimate MVP candidate over each of the next six or so seasons, it's worth it. This is a trade not just for a great player, but for a great young player, a great young and extremely talented player.
I proposed Jacoby Ellsbury (thinking the Marlins would flip him somewhere for prospects), Matt Barnes, Garin Cecchini, and Brandon Workman. Barnes is Boston's number three prospect and number one pitching prospect on the top 10 prospect lists of both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. Cecchini is sixth (BA) and seventh (BP). Workman isn't ranked (Sox Prospects has him 12th). Those are good young players, but in retrospect I don't think that's enough to get a deal done. Maybe if Ellsbury's value was higher it might be more workable, but coming off a injury-riddled nothing of a season it's probably not enough.
Realizing that, I altered my 'offer' for one of Baseball Prospectus's Lineup Card features. Under the heading, [Your Farm System Here] for Giancarlo Stanton, I wrote this:
What, to pick a team at random, would the Red Sox give up for Stanton? How about their top six prospects, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Blake Swihart, and Garin Cecchini? Throw in Wally the Green Monster while you’re at it. Is that too much? Maybe that’s too much. Take out Wally the Green Monster.
The Red Sox would destroy their system in the process, but they’d get an amazing hitter who is still younger than some of the prospects they traded. The Marlins would diversify their assets and reduce their risk, with the goal of parlaying Stanton’s desirability into more total talent than Stanton alone.
Maybe that isn’t enough. Maybe it is too much. Who says no? Who says yes? Who says what? Who knows? I don’t.
That's the top six prospects in Boston's system according to Baseball Prospectus. It's one through four, and six and seven on BA's list. Sox Prospects has them at one through four and seven and eight. That's a considerably larger haul than I originally proposed. It's a huge haul, actually. Maybe it's enough. Maybe it's way too much. Which offer is closer to what would be required is hard to say.
To try and ballpark it, it might be instructive to look at two deals. I hope it's instructive anyway, because that's what I'm going to do.
When he was dealt, Gonzalez was a soon-to-be 26-year-old entering his first year of arbitration eligibility. According to BP at the time, Cole, Peacock, and Norris were three, four, and six in a reasonably strong A's system (not too dissimilar to Boston's current system assuming the ratings are of equal value). Milone wasn't mentioned in the article, but in the comments author Kevin Goldstein said, "his ceiling is fringy reliever." Goldstein might have missed on Milone who had a 3.74 ERA in 190 innings last season, but the important thing isn't what Milone did, but what it was thought he could do. It's that second thing that better approximates his trade value and gives us whatever insight on Gonzalez's and thus Stanton's trade value.
Gonzalez himself wasn't yet the Cy Young candidate in Oakland that he turned out to be in DC, but he was young, cheap, and good (got lots of strikeouts), and those things plus the potential he realized last season made him valuable.
Stanton is a more valuable player now than Gonzalez was at the time he was dealt, but their WAR numbers aren't far off. Gonzalez's career had been worth 5.8 rWAR before last season when he was dealt to Washington, however that obscures his value a bit because his first two seasons had resulted in negative WAR. His last two seasons in Oakland were worth 7.5 rWAR. Stanton in his career has been worth 9.0 rWAR and over the last two seasons, 7.7. The difference between the two players (other than position) is age. Stanton will be 23 next year. Gonzalez was entering his age 26 season and that's a huge difference.
A package of similarly ranked prospects from the Red Sox would be Barnes (3 via BP), Allen Webster (4 BP), Cecchini (6 BP), and Alex Wilson (15 via Sox Prospects). That's a lot, but if that was all Miami wanted, Stanton's introductory press conference in Boston would have been held already.
This one is a bit tougher because of Dontrelle Willis' inclusion. Willis was entering his third and last season of arbitration after making $6.45 million. He also was coming off a bad year after two excellent ones. The Tigers (foolishly) gave Wilis a three year, $29 million deal, but they didn't trade for that. Willis was a salary dump by Florida, but also a buy-low chance for Detroit. He had some trade value, so some smaller percentage of the six players that went to the Marlins were due to his inclusion, but the vast majority came because of Cabrera.
At the time of the deal, Cabrera was coming off his age 24 season and had a career total of 21 rWAR. During his age 21 and 22 seasons Cabrera actually out-rWAR'd Stanton at the same age, 8.1 to 7.7. Cabrera may be the most similar we're going to find to Stanton in terms a very young, preternaturally gifted hitter, who was just starting to get expensive (Cabrera was a year ahead of where Stanton is now in the arbitration process) getting traded.
To get him, the Tigers traded Trahern, Badenhop, De La Cruz, Maybin, Miller, and Rabelo. For those of you counting at home, that's their 11th, seventh, and first ranked prospects in Trahern, De La Cruz, and Maybin, respectively. Badenhop and Rabelo weren't ranked (and have since justified that non-ranking). That's still a lot. The Red Sox first, seventh, and eleventh prospects now are Xander Bogaerts, Henry Owens, and maybe Devin Marrero, Boston's most recent first round pick, or Manuel Margot, a highly touted 18-year-old Dominican center-fielder.
But that's not all. Andrew Miller was, along with Maybin, at the center of the deal. Boston doesn't have a comparable player on their major league roster, but despite two rough years in the majors, Miller was still highly thought of. The year prior Miller had ranked second on the Tigers Top 11 Prospects and though he was no longer a prospect, Goldstein ranked him third among the Tigers best players 25 years and younger behind Maybin and the newly drafted Rick Porcello. The player ranked third on the Red Sox list of the same name is Jackie Bradley.
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It has been reported the Marlins may be willing to deal Stanton. Since they certainly don't have to trade him (he'll make next to nothing this season), trading for Stanton now will cost a kings ransom. How much? My guess is somewhere between what the Tigers paid for Cabrera and what the Nationals paid for Gonzalez. In either case the destruction it would visit upon Boston's farm system would be impressive. I'd guess we'd be looking at something like Bogaerts, Barnes, Cecchini, Workman, and someone like Marrero or Margo.
That would be a crazy amount to give up, but I think I just might do it. It's worth noting that at least in the Cabrera deal, the players and prospects that came back to Miami, numerous and highly touted though they were, didn't amount to much. That's not to say if the Red Sox gave up similarly ranked prospects for Stanton they'd turn to nothing, just that with prospects you never know. With baseball players you never know, but with 23-year-old outfielders with Stanton's credentials, you know a bit better.