You really thought the Giancarlo Stanton talk was going to stop now that he signed a 13-year, $325 million extension with the Marlins? Surely, you’re not that naive. As it stands now, the slugger is going to be in Miami for a long time, but given the franchise’s past, there is a lot of understandable skepticism surrounding that. This skepticism was only made stronger when it was revealed that the contract is to be heavily backloaded. So, with this is in mind, it’s entirely possible that trade rumors surrounding the 25-year-old will pick up in two or three years. If that’s the case, you can sure as hell expect the Red Sox to be involved in those rumors once again. Should they be, though?
Obviously, the first concern anyone would have with taking on the new and improved Stanton would be all of the money they’d be taking on. Assuming the Red Sox remain up near the luxury tax and only care about AAV, they’d be adding $25 million to their payroll. Looking at the structure of his deal, the earliest one could conceivably see Miami dealing him is prior to the 2017 season, when his salary jumps up to $14.5 million. At that point, he’d have four years and $91.5 million remaining on his contract before he could opt out, with another seven years and $218 million guaranteed if he does not opt out.
That’s a lot of money for a team to take on, but is it too much for the Red Sox? Well, a quick look at Cot’s Contracts shows that they have around $37 million committed in payroll for 2017, $29 million in 2018, and $27 million for 2019 and 2020. However, it’s much more complicated than that. For one thing, Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts will get quite expensive through arbitration if they play like we hope they can. On top of that, there is a good possibility that at least two long-term contracts adding up to around $40 million AAV are brought in this offseason for starting pitching and third base help. With that being said, this is not a small market team, and they should be right around the luxury tax every season.
This brings me to the next point: the current CBA expires after the 2016 season, and the $189 million luxury tax is almost surely going to rise starting in 2017. A safe guess would be for it to sit somewhere around $200 million. Though it would probably be a tight squeeze, they would likely be able to fit a $25 million contract into their payroll in 2017.
Now, if we accept that the Red Sox will be able to afford Stanton, the next question is whether or not it would be a sound investment. This is an entirely different animal than it was pre-extension, of course. Still, the fact remains that corner outfield is a weakness in the near-future. Assuming Rusney Castillo and Mookie Betts can form 2/3 of the outfield for the foreseeable future, there’s still a big hole in the other spot. It’s possible that Garin Cecchini shifts to left field after the Red Sox sign Pablo Sandoval or get some other long-term third base solution, but it’s hard to be confident in that being a permanent solution at this point. There’s also a chance that the front office is able to reach an agreement with Yoenis Cespedes, but the chances of that appear slim right now. Maybe Jackie Bradley Jr. can bounce back from his dismal 2014 and prove to be a viable starting candidate. Again, though, that cannot be counted on at the moment. So, Stanton becomes the solution again, right?!
Well, not necessarily. Over the next couple of seasons, there are a few interesting corner outfielders who have a good chance of seeing the open market. The first one is Jason Heyward. Though he was just dealt to St. Louis, all signs seem to point towards him wanting to test the free agent market next winter. Given his elite defense in right field, offensive potential and relative youth, the Red Sox would certainly be in on him. Justin Upton, his former teammate, is also set to hit free agency next winter. His bat would be a welcome addition to the middle of the lineup, and he would slot in perfectly at left field at Fenway. The only concern here is that he may also be traded this offseason, and possibly locked up to an extension. There is also one of my personal favorites, Alex Gordon, who will be a free agent after the 2016 season. The Royal could hit free agency one year earlier, but he has said he’ll exercise his player option. He’d be a little older than Stanton, Heyward or Upton, but signing him would negate any possibility of trading for Stanton. He is also beloved in Kansas City, and seems to like it there, so an extension is entirely possible. Finally, there is Jay Bruce, who is set to hit free agency after the 2016 season. Though he’s coming off a down 2014, he’s shown huge power in the past, and the small market Reds would be a long shot at retaining his services.
Given all of this information, I would say the Red Sox should not go after Stanton if he becomes available again in the next few years. Though they’ll likely need another outfielder, there should be some good ones for the taking in free agency that won’t cost prospects. It will be a situation like the current Cole Hamels one. While Stanton and Hamels are both great players, they are also both expensive in terms of money and prospects, and there are attractive options that are available for just money.
Obviously, at this point everything written above is littered with speculation. We don’t know that Miami is going to turn around and try to deal Stanton in a few years. We don’t know that one of Boston’s young players won’t step up and take hold of the other corner outfield spot. I will tell you the one thing we do know, though. The Giancarlo Stanton-Red Sox rumors have not died. They’re just taking an extended nap.