Monday, May 12, 2014

What Would a Giancarlo-Stanton-to-the-Cardinals Trade Look Like?

This isn’t the first time that the Cardinals have been tied in rumor to Giancarlo Stanton, but this is the first time that I’ve been able to write about it now that it’s kind of in the news again. So let’s look at it now. Should the Cardinals make this trade? Should the Marlins? If they both should, what would it take?

Let’s start with the Cardinals’ side: should they trade for Stanton? Yes. The answer is yes. Stanton is currently 24, he has a 167 OPS+ for this season and a 140 mark for his five year career. He has been playing Major League Baseball since he was 20 and he has still hit 40% better than league average. If a player like that is available, you should be fired for not asking about him. As for the logistics, he’s set to become a free agent after 2016, so a team would be acquiring him for at least two and a half seasons, plus any acquiring team would almost certainly be working to extend him, since he’ll be a free agent at the incredibly reasonable age of 27.

Now, the Marlins: would they make this trade? Well, it turns out that they have! Miguel Cabrera was traded two full seasons before becoming a free agent and for his…age 25 season. Well look at that, what a coincidence. Now, the GM has changed since then. However, the influential right hand man to the GM is still in place. Coincidentally, the GM’s right hand man is an actual sock puppet on owner Jeffrey Loria’s right hand.

All of that to say: as long as Jeffrey Loria is owner, there’s a chance that the Marlins will make some crazy cost-cutting maneuver at the expense of fielding a good team. If the team stays in contention this year, they might table talks until the offseason*, but we can’t just rule it out like we could for, oh, 29 other teams.

*And any time you’re depending on a bunch of young pitchers who might wear down, like Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, and Jacob Turner, or a bunch of out-of-nowhere good seasons, like with Casey McGehee, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Tom Koehler, it’s fair to say “Let’s wait another month and see”.

So with that, what would a trade for Stanton look like? Well, let’s use Miguel Cabrera as a basis, since they were 24-year-old outfielders two years from free agency playing on the Marlins with career OPS+s around 140 (Miguel’s was 143, in fact). The full Miggy trade was:

Tigers get: Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis
Marlins get: Dallas Trahern, Burke Badenhop, Frankie De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, and Mike Rabelo

It’s fair to look back at this trade and feel disappointed. Cabrera and Maybin are the only ones to come out of this trade looking good, and even then, Maybin was a disappointment. But we have to consider this in the context of the time.

We know what Cabrera was. It’s worth noting, though, that Willis was not nothing at this point. He was two years removed from finishing runner up at the Cy Young voting, and had a career 111 ERA+ at the age of 25 (and remember, ERA+ tends to be lower than OPS+, so that mark is still impressive). Still, he was looking worn down. We can probably trim the offering a little (although there was almost no chance that one player was bringing in six player in a trade today anyway).

So what did Detroit give up for that? Maybin and Miller were the clear prizes; Miller had struggled in his 2007 debut, but he was ranked in the top 10-20 range of prospects before that season (Baseball America had him 10th, Baseball Prospectus had him 17th). Maybin was still a prospect, and had just been ranked the 6th best prospect in Baseball America and the 7th best by Baseball Prospectus. After the trade, he’d be ranked 6th and 10th on the lists, respectively. He’d be in the minors another year after that as well. Either way, those two were entering their age 23 and 21 seasons, respectively.

The other four parts seems a little fringy. None made the top 100 prospects ever, although De La Cruz and Trahern were apparently in the Tigers’ organizational top 10. Also, that link provides some insight into what else the Marlins were considering instead. The Angels were offering Howie Kendrick (12th in Baseball America 2006), Nick Adenhart (34th in 2007), and Jeff Mathis (60th in 2006, although by the end of 2007, he was a 25 year old with a 57 OPS+) for a deal that was believed to be the top offer for a long time, while the Red Sox were building an offer around Jacoby Ellsbury (33rd in 2007) and Clay Buchholz (51st).*

*Also, see their Baseball-Reference Minor League pages for full context: Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles

Other than that, though, Rabelo was a 28-year old back up catcher with 52 games in the majors, and Badenhop was a 25-year old who had just finished a season in AA, which looks like depth more than a draw of the offer.

Based on all of that, two or three solid pieces looks like the base of any offer. Looking at the site reporting the offer, they seem to advocate Allen Craig and Shelby Miller as the offer. That’s not too outrageous, actually, but it almost certainly needs more. Craig is a career 126 OPS+ hitter signed through 2018 for about $6 million per year. That’s a pretty great contract, although Craig is in his age-29 season, so it could be better. But still, Craig has been a pretty steady 3-Win player for the last few years (actually 2.5ish Wins above replacement, but with DL time), meaning that would be $12 million in surplus value (1 WAR is now roughly $6 million on the free agent market).

But the deal would need upside, though; some prospect to be the centerpiece. That would be what Miller represents; Miller is probably the one the Cardinals are most willing to sell, but you could just as easily put Carlos Martinez or Trevor Rosenthal or Michael Wacha or Oscar Taveras there. You’d need at least one of them. But most of them have five-plus years of team control left, a huge surplus of value given the extreme cost control for the first few years.

The Marlins would probably need at least one other part, possibly more if the Cardinals go wide rather than deep. At least Kolten Wong or Stephen Piscotty (maybe Marco Gonzalez, depending on how likely the Marlins think he is to move up the top 100 rankings next year, although I don’t claim to be a scout), just something in the top 100, or two of their other top-10 players. Or maybe an expendable-yet-solid cost-controlled part in the Majors, like Joe Kelly or Ted Lyons, with one of the top 10 prospects. And granted, the rest would probably scale depending on which player was the centerpiece; for example, I would bet throwing in Taveras would rule out Wong, while Miller would probably almost necessitate it. Alternatively, the younger, pre-arbitration Matt Adams instead of Craig would probably lower the prospect cost.

So in short, the trade would look something like

Cardinals get: Giancarlo Stanton
Marlins get:
-A centerpiece (Oscar Taveras or one of their young potential aces)
-A second thing that dictates the rest of the package (whether that’s Allen Craig, or Matt Adams, or a second potential ace)
-And one of a few other options:
     If 2 top prospects: 1 low-top 10 prospect/just out of top 10 (due to the Cardinals’ depth)
     If 1 top prospect and Allen Craig:
A higher-end prospect and a lower-level still-prospect (or a major league-ready pitcher like Kelly or Lyons, which may lower the quality of the first prospect)
     If top prospect and Matt Adams: Same as the above, but you can slightly lower the prospect quality a little to account for the upgrade from Craig to Adams (although including Adams probably necessitates that the second conditional player be a prospect rather than Lyons or Kelly)

I can’t decide if this is enough or not for Stanton. On one hand, it is Giancarlo Stanton we’re talking about and there’s only one guaranteed top prospect in that offer. On the other hand, it’s only for two and a half seasons of him, compared to six or so of the elite prospect plus a lot of cost-controlled years between the three of Craig/Adams/Kelly/Lyons/more prospects of quality varying between good and solid. On the other hand, would teams accept Allen Craig/Matt Adams/the like as part of the package? On the other hand (the fourth hand, for those of you keeping score at home), what you lose in upside, you gain in a solid, above-average low-cost player. There are enough moving parts here that it’s difficult to weigh all the options.

Of course, you can probably generalize this to your team with this sort of framework, but the general idea is that there should be one elite talent plus a lot of cost control, with trade offs between certainty and ceiling. Also, the package would probably need to start with 3 players.

Of course, there’s also the chance that the Marlins just hold on to Stanton, but where’s the fun in speculating about that?

No comments:

Post a Comment