There’s denying that Giancarlo (AKA Mike) Stanton is one of the best power hitters the game of baseball has ever seen. Yes, Aaron Judge has stolen the headlines this season with a few monster homers that may have, in fact, entered orbit. But Stanton has spent the better part of a decade accumulating more than 250 career home runs, many of which have traveled just as far as many of home runs Judge has hit this season.
Stanton’s problem is that he’s never had the opportunity to showcase his ability on the biggest stage. In seven-plus seasons with the Miami (formerly Florida) Marlins, Stanton has never made it to the postseason. In fact, he’s never come close. The last time the Marlins finished above .500 was 2009, the year before Stanton’s rookie season.
“I can deal with losing as long as one is trying to win. If you’re losing, and you’re not trying to win, that is not fair.”
It would be unfair to blame Stanton for Miami’s lack of team success in recent years. However, the correlation between Stanton’s presence on the Marlins and a lack of winning can’t be ignored. More importantly, there’s reason to believe that trend will continue. As long as Stanton stays on the Marlins, the club won’t be able to win enough games to reach the postseason. The only solution for both sides is for the Marlins to trade away Stanton.
Obviously, what Stanton brings to the table more than anything else is power. Stanton possesses more power than almost any other player in baseball. The problem is that power is no longer a commodity in baseball that’s difficult to find. Nearly every lineup in baseball has several players capable of hitting the ball over the fence. They may not hit the ball as far over the fence as Stanton, but as long as the ball gets over, they all count the same.
It’s no longer difficult to find power hitters in baseball. So while we may sit in awe of how far players like Stanton can hit the ball, they are not necessarily impacting games with that power as much as we think. Even 30 or 40 home runs over the course of 162 games don’t impact games as much as players with multiple tools who can impact games in a variety of ways, and it certainly doesn’t impact games as much as pitching in both the rotation and bullpen that can neutralize power.
As a result, teams are starting to value power differently. As we saw last offseason, players like Mark Trumbo and Mike Napoli who can hit home runs but do little else had difficulty finding a job and came nowhere close to signing the kind of contract they were expecting. Players like Trumbo and Napoli struggling to find jobs on the free agent market exemplify how power is no longer tough to find.
This leads us to the crux of Stanton’s problem: his contract. The Marlins wanted to make Stanton a franchise cornerstone when they signed him to a 13-year, $325 million contract in November 2014. But a power hitter, even one who is such a fan favorite in Miami, is not worth that much in today’s game. Moreover, the Marlins don’t have the kind of payroll that can support such a contract.
“Why would you give me so much money and not try to win? What on earth is the point of that? They have to be serious about winning going forward. There’s no other logical explanation.”
Starting next year, Stanton will make between $25 million and $32 million per season for the next 10 years. There’s only a handful of teams that would not struggle to field a competitive team while dedicating that much money to one player, and the Marlins are certainly not one of them. The Marlins have to find a way to free themselves of Stanton’s contract, by any means necessary.
There has already been talk of Stanton hitting the trade block, especially with the Marlins undergoing a change of ownership. The Marlins have reportedly touched base with a few teams, opening the door for a trade this winter. Even if the Marlins end up having to pay a large chunk of the money left on Stanton’s deal, they must trade him. Paying Stanton $10 million per season to play somewhere else is a worthwhile sacrifice if it frees up $15 to $20 million on the payroll.
Stanton’s towering home runs are amazing to look at, but they are never going to carry the Marlins to the postseason. Miami needs payroll flexibility to build a balanced roster, and that will never happen with Stanton’s entire contract on their books. The Marlins have never reached the playoffs as long as Stanton has been in Miami, and that’s never going to change.