Even while the Miami Marlins conducted their fire-sale this offseason, one player remained off-limits: outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton, who turned 23 a little over a month ago, missed a little over a month after undergoing knee surgery but still had a huge season, hitting to a .290/.361/.608 line (158 OPS+) with 37 home runs and 86 RBI in 123 games and 501 plate appearances. On a team that has traded away many of their core players, Stanton is one of the few Marlins players fans will recognize next season and certainly the only true star remaining. However, that may end soon. Jim Bowden of ESPN and Sirius XM tweeted that although the Marlins are not shopping Stanton and would rather not trade him, they are listening to offers from other teams. It could be only a matter of time before the right package of players is put on the table and the Marlins pull the trigger on yet another franchise-defining trade. Could the Rays be one of the teams dangling a staggering amount of young talent in an attempt to make one of the best young sluggers in baseball all their own?
Giancarlo Stanton is quite a player- and the cost to get him will be quite steep. Look at the short list of players who hit more than 35 homers in a season at 22 years old or younger.
Everyone other than Gonzalez, Powell, and Stanton is a Hall of Famer or a future one (Rodriguez and Pujols). It’s hard to find a better list of 12 players than this (Matthews and Rodriguez make the list twice). When you’re talking about a player with as much power as Stanton at such a young age, we’re talking about a player who could be a superstar for years and years to come. And to get him, it’s going to take quite a return. We’re talking about the Rays trading a starting outfielder, Desmond Jennings or Matt Joyce, three young pitchers at the big leagues or close to it, say Chris Archer, Alex Colome, and Enny Romero, and then another top prospect, say Hak-Ju Lee. That sounds crazy, but could also still be understating what it could take. By the way, the Marlins will also probably make the acquiring team take on the last year of Ricky Nolasco‘s contract at 11.5 million dollars. What we’re talking about here is a team sacrificing young major league players and several top prospects at the upper levels of the minor leagues. The reward, though, could be unbelievable. Imagine the Rays with their pitching and one of the best lineups in baseball. A Stanton trade could make that possible. That being said, would it be worth it for the Rays to pursue that type of deal?
Giancarlo Stanton hit 37 home runs in 2012. The Rays acquired an outfielder this offseason who also hit 37 home runs in 2012: Wil Myers. Myers, believe it or not, has the ability to be even better than Stanton. He has less raw power- it took him 90 more plate appearances than Stanton to hit the same number of home runs and we’re talking Triple-A versus the big leagues- but he also shows better pitch recognition, the ability to hit for a higher average, and better defense. Can Myers get there? There’s certainly no guarantee he will and there’s a very good chance that he won’t. No matter what happens, though, the Rays acquired him at exactly right time, with his ability standing out as much as ever but his lack of major league experience keeping his value at a fraction of what it could be in a year. The Rays were able to acquire Myers without risking everything to win now, in fact doing the opposite as they acquired Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard for James Shields and Wade Davis. That trade may represent a slight downgrade for the Rays in the immediate future, but it also gives them a good chance of significantly improving their ballclub within two or three years as Myers and the other prospects develop into productive big league players- and the Rays think that all of them, especially Myers, can be much more.
Acquiring Giancarlo Stanton, no matter what it would take, would make the Rays a much better team right now. The Rays understand, though, that in all probability it is not the right move for them to make. Their goal is not to acquire a player like Stanton at peak value, risking the future to go all in right now, but instead to find the next Stanton, a player like Myers who can help them become one of the best teams in baseball for the foreseeable future. There’s an extremely small chance that the Rays will be acquiring Giancarlo Stanton over the next few weeks and months. However, in acquiring Wil Myers, they may have just done something better.