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Stray Bullets: Giancarlo Stanton

“Stray Bullets” is a recurring series of blogs I’ll be doing, choosing to list off a few bullet points on a breaking topic instead of writing an organized feature. Today’s subject is the reigning NL MVP and now New York Yankee, Giancarlo Stanton.

  • This all hasn’t really set in for me yet. It’s pretty impossible to process. The Yankees’ plan for years was to mostly ignore free agency and avoid big contracts, get under the luxury tax threshold, then go all in on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado after the 2018 season. It was an extremely public blueprint that just about every Yankee fan bought into. But when the best slugger in baseball chooses you as one of his only desired destinations and then his asking price hits rock bottom, sometimes you have to make a move. And that’s exactly what Brian Cashman did.
  • Make no mistake about it: this was highway robbery by the Yankees. A power-hitting rightfielder was probably the last thing the Yankees needed to acquire, but Cashman knows better than to pass up an offer as opportunistic as this one.
  • The prospects that the Yankees are giving up for Giancarlo are…um…far from their best. Jorge Guzman has a big arm and immediately becomes one of Miami’s top prospects. But he was also the second best prospect the Yankees received in their Brian McCann trade, and Guzman is only the fourth best…right-handed pitcher in the Yankees system. As for the other kid, Jose Devers, I’ve never heard of him and I spend more time actively following the Yankees than most people my age spend actually working at their jobs. Even with the Marlins’ barren farm and their total lack of leverage in this situation, I’m stunned that this is all they pulled in prospects.
  • Losing Starlin Castro isn’t ideal, considering he’s somehow only 27 with a pretty solid contract. But he’s also a free swinger who I’m pretty sure doesn’t know that you can reach base after taking four balls. His profile doesn’t fit in at all with a lineup that’s filled with righties and bound to strike out a ton, especially considering mega-prospect Gleyber Torres was bound to take his job at some point during this season anyway. I’m sure most fans would’ve rather seen Gleyber supplant Chase Headley instead of Starlin, but I’m not so sure I subscribe to that. Headley’s potential is severely limited and he’s not exactly a Gold Glover, but Starlin would occasionally blow games with his play at second and he’s a remarkably inconsistent hitter. For someone who’s bound to bat 8th or 9th in this lineup, I’ll take the switch-hitting third baseman.
  • Now let’s discuss the main reason why people tune into baseball…the financials! Real talk, I’m not gonna go all Darren Rovell here, but it’s important to consider the money since the Yankees have such a specific financial plan that Stanton’s league-leading contract surely complicates. As expected, the Yankees are taking on the bulk of Giancarlo’s massive deal: $265mil of the $295mil that he’s owed through 2028. That $30mil that the Marlins are chipping in might seem like chump change compared to what the Yankees are paying, but it’s actually crucial. The Yankees are on the hook for $25mil towards Giancarlo for 2018, but he actually only costs $22mil towards the luxury tax threshold since it accounts for average annual value and that $30mil is spaced out over ten seasons. (The Yankees don’t get that money from the Marlins if Giancarlo opts out after 2020, but that’s unlikely and for the sake of this exercise we’re gonna assume that he won’t.) Even though A-Rod and other big contracts finally came off the Yankees’ books, they still have a big payroll and their pursuit to get under that threshold is gonna be extremely down-to-the-wire. An extra $3mil goes a looooong way. (First-grade explanation of the luxury tax to those confused: while baseball doesn’t have a salary cap, a team is penalized if their payroll exceeds a certain amount. The penalty exponentially increases for repeat offenders, so for a year-after-year big spender like the Dodgers, they end up paying more in the luxury tax than they pay to Clayton Kershaw. But getting under the threshold for just one season completely resets the scale for a team, which is why the Yankees badly want to achieve that before the impending free agency bonanza of next offseason.)
  • What this means for the rest of this offseason: money is gonna be pretty tight in the Bronx. Unless he takes a huge hometown discount, Todd Frazier is as good as gone now. While it’ll suck to see the Toddfather go, starting pitching has always been the biggest need for this offseason, and that’s still the case. I don’t think our rotation is in dire need of an upgrade like a ton of fans are suggesting, since a healthy Severino/Gray/Tanaka/Montgomery is a really solid Top 4. Still, we could definitely use some more depth and a veteran arm to eat up the innings that our young arms won’t be allowed to pitch. CC Sabathia is pretty much exactly what the Yankees need, but following his resurgent season he’ll probably field a few short-term offers from contenders. Although I think it’s foolish to assume that CC will pitch like he did in the playoffs over the course of an entire season, here’s to hoping the fat man comes back for one more chance at his second ring. I also wouldn’t rule out Cashman flashing his creative genius some more, especially since some increased financial flexibility would be huge towards bringing back CC and maybe another piece. Jacoby Ellsbury is the obvious name who needs to get the fuck off the roster, especially since he is now a $21mil pinch runner and the SIXTH outfielder with Stanton in town. No team in their right mind wants any part of Ellsbury and his contract, but if the Yankees promised to eat most of the deal and throw in a top prospect like Clint Frazier, I think a rebuilding team with pitchers to offer could pounce on that. (I hate the notion that Frazier is an expendable player now. Yeah he’s an imperfect prospect and probably wouldn’t crack the Opening Day roster, but he could make things happen way sooner than most people expect. Injuries also happen, and regression from Aaron Hicks or a complete breakdown at the plate for Brett Gardner are both entirely possible.)
  • What this means for next offseason and beyond: the Bryce Harper in pinstripes dream is pretty much dead. With Stanton around, I just don’t see any way that Hal Steinbrenner would approve bringing in another rightfielder for something in the ballpark of $35mil per year. The Yankees’ master plan was to spend big on an absolute superstar to turn a great roster into the best roster in baseball. I’m not saying they’ve already achieved that, but let’s be clear…Stanton is that absolute superstar. Any perception of him as a one-dimensional player who just hits bombs is total crap. Yes, his ability to hit 50+ homers year after year is what’s most impressive about him, but last year he also raised his walk rate while his strikeout rate dropped dramatically. (Compared to the other great power hitters in baseball, he really doesn’t strikeout that) To put it simply, he’s one of the ten best players in baseball, and he immediately becomes the best player on his new team. Does this mean the Yankees will just sit out on next year’s free agency party? Of course not, but I think it means the Yankees are no longer the clear favorite to land Manny Machado. While Harper was always the goal for 2018, I think Machado became the more realistic target for the Yankees this year with Aaron Judge’s emergence. He is a vacuum at third base, and that just so happens to project as the Yankees’ biggest need going into next offseason (unless they shift Gleyber or actually give fellow Top 100 prospect Miguel Andujar his fair chance). And even though Machado should still sign for something absurd like 10yr/$300mil, the crazy thing is that would make him a significantly cheaper option than Harper. But with Stanton and his contract in the fold for the next decade, I wouldn’t be shocked if a big-market team looking to make a splash makes Machado an offer the Yankees choose not to match. Josh Donaldson is in that free agent class too, and he’d make a pretty ok consolation prize.
  • I’m not too concerned about Giancarlo’s health moving forward. His injury history isn’t pretty, with this past season being the first in his career with over 150 games played. He’s had a few short DL stints because of hamstring problems, but it’s not like he has chronic knee or back issues. I mean, his most serious injury came when he got drilled in the face with a fastball.
  • I am mildly concerned that this is how he eats Kit-Kats though.
  • Among players who hit at least 18 homers last season, within the Top 10 in average longball distance are…Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez. There will be innings this season where pitchers have to face all three of them. I can’t stop laughing at this.
  • I’ve seen some hypothetical lineups for the Yankees next season, and in just about all of them Stanton is slated at DH with Judge at RF. Um…I’m pretty sure that won’t be the case. Look, Judge had a good year in the field. But I’m pretty sure most fans think he’s way better with his glove than he actually is, especially with plays like his ALCS Game 7 home run robbery fresh in mind. He was never projected to be anything more than a competent fielder, and his play was downright sloppy at times during last season. Giancarlo isn’t perfect in the field himself, but he’s been solid out there for a few seasons and has way less ground to cover now that Yankee Stadium is home. I think it will mostly be a rotation, but I also think it’s safe to call Stanton our rightfielder. And no, this is not a “Jeter didn’t move to third for A-Rod” situation. I love Aaron Judge, but he is not Derek Jeter.
  • Let’s talk some more about Mr. Jeter. No doubt it’s super fishy that one of his first moves as Marlins co-owner is selling the franchise player to his former team for a minimal return. But c’mon, this is not Derek Jeter doing the Yankees a solid out of loyalty. The Marlins are in crippling debt thanks to their scumbag ex-owner Jeffrey Loria, and with Giancarlo in line for a huge pay bump this year, they simply couldn’t afford to keep him around. Jeter had to trade him, and the Yankees were the only one of Stanton’s approved destinations that stepped up to take on the majority of his contract. Still, I am not about to blindly defend Jeter’s approach to this whole situation…he fucked it up. How the first step in this process wasn’t finding out where Giancarlo would approve a trade is beyond me. Jeter came up with frameworks for trades with both the Cardinals and Giants, and considering how badly both teams wanted him, it’s safe to assume they would’ve taken on the entire contract while giving the Marlins a few good prospects and/or young pros. The only thing is…Giancarlo didn’t want to play in St. Louis or San Francisco. All leverage went out the window for the Marlins once those trades broke down and everyone figured out that Stanton only wanted to play for one of four teams. The Cubs and Astros didn’t express real interest, and Giancarlo’s hometown Dodgers apparently weren’t psyched to pay him that much without offloading a few of their bad contracts. That left the Yankees as the only real option. Even with all of that factored in, it’s insane that Jeter couldn’t negotiate a better haul from one of the most loaded farm systems in baseball.
  • All day I’ve seen non-Yankee fans dreading the return of the Evil Empire and saying shit like “RIP likable Yankees.” I get that the Yankees are just a naturally hated franchise, but I don’t really get how this move drastically shifts public opinion on them overnight. Yeah, it’s probably annoying to fans of small-market teams to watch Giancarlo go to New York just because they can afford him, but the Yankees have been openly prepping for a gigantic move for years now. They just improvised and made it happen sooner than everyone expected. Giancarlo is also insanely popular, which is especially impressive considering he’s spent his whole career with what’s probably the least popular franchise. His contract makes him stand out compared to his new teammates, but he’s just like a lot of them in the sense that he’s a Yankee because of a shrewd move by Brian Cashman. Pretty much the entire Yankees’ core is a homegrown talent, an affordable free agent signing, or the product of a trade. The Yankees haven’t handed out a contract north of $100mil to a free agent since they gave deals to Ellsbury and Tanaka in 2014. Hell, even the Mets have paid a player like that since then. And don’t even begin to compare this to the trade for A-Rod in 2004. Yes, they both resulted in the Yankees taking on the biggest contract in the league, but in that first deal the Yankees traded a stud and one of the most beloved players in New York in Alfonso Soriano. Even with Stanton on the roster, this isn’t close to a reincarnated version of the mid-2000s Yankees, let alone their 2009 team. They aren’t trying to buy their way into the World Series just because they have the deepest pockets. This is them putting the cherry on top of their plan to rebuild the team from the base up. If you just despise the existence of the Yankees, then you can go right ahead and hate on this team. They’re gonna be really fucking good for a long time. And douchey Yankee fans are going to be especially douchey. But say what you want…you don’t hate this team because they’re the best team that money can buy. You hate us ‘cause you ain’t us.
  • THE. BRONX. BOMBERS. ARE. BACK.

Follow PJ on Twitter @Real_Peej

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