The reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton is heading to the Yankees in a blockbuster trade. In return, the Marlins will receive All-Star second baseman Starlin Castro and a pair of low-level prospects in Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers. Miami is also paying the Yankees $30 million.
In 2017, Stanton led the NL with 59 homers and 132 RBIs. He slashed .281/.376/.631 and had a 1.007 OPS. At 28 years old, Stanton is already an eight-year major league veteran. He carries a .914 OPS in 4,120 career plate appearances. He has slugged 267 home runs since his debut in 2010. Only three players in all of baseball have hit more during that same time frame.
A trade of such seismic proportions has lasting reverberations across the roster. The deal doesn’t impact Stanton alone, but the entire team. That begs a number of questions. It’s worth thinking through a few of these now that the dust has started to settle.
Castro is out, Torres is on the way
General Manager Brian Cashman had previously announced that Gleyber Torres will compete for the starting third base job in spring training. Including Castro in the package, however, creates a path for Torres to possibly become the Yankees starting second baseman entering the 2018 season.
Torres had a strong, although injury-shortened, season in 2017. He hit .287/.383/.480 with seven home runs across two levels. He split his 235 plate appearances between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Unfortunately he required Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. He’s expected to be ready for springing training, though.
It’s there that the Yankees could have Torres compete with Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes. Or they could just hand the keystone to Torres. Either way, there is consensus that the decision to deal Castro was designed to pave the way for Torres. He very well could be the Yankees second baseman in 2018.
An embarrassment of outfield riches
Defensively, Stanton is the team's fourth best outfielder. Although a right fielder by trade, he is unlikely to supplant Gold Glove finalist Judge at that position. I also don't see the two splitting time evenly, as some have suggested. Since both Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner have superior range, it appears that Stanton may be slotted in a rotating outfield.
Aaron Boone could start Stanton in the field a few games a week, giving each of the other outfielders a chance to DH. The new Yankees manager has an embarrassment of riches with which to work, enabling him to provide each player with ample rest throughout the long season.
The odd men out here are Clint Frazier and Jacoby Ellsbury. Frazier will likely get the start when one of the prime four need a full day off, but he doesn't have a path to significant playing time unless one gets injured. Red Thunder played 39 games for the Yankees last season. The front office has so far rebuffed efforts to pry him away, but they might revisit that position now.
Ellsbury, meanwhile, appears to have no role whatsoever. The Yankees have been trying to trade him for some time, but his enormous contract, reduced productivity, and no-trade clause have made it a difficult task. Stanton's acquisition gives the club extra impetus to find a new home for Ellsbury as soon as possible.
A formidable new lineup
The addition of Stanton gives the Yankees an even more formidable lineup which is arguably the best in baseball. Although slightly heavy with right-handed hitters, there are enough lefties to give Boone some interesting options. Here is one of many possible lineups that the Yankees could deploy on Opening Day:
Brett Gardner LF
Aaron Judge RF
Giancarlo Stanton DH
Didi Gregorius SS
Gary Sanchez C
Greg Bird 1B
Aaron Hicks CF
Chase Headley 3B
Gleyber Torres 2B
Judge and Stanton each hit over 50 home runs last season. The only time in major league history that a pair of teammates hit more than 50 homers was in 1961, when Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris did it. The arrival of Stanton sets up a home run watch that will begin on Opening Day and should be a lot of fun to follow as the season unfolds.
Stanton is owed $285 million over the next ten years. His contract also includes a team option for the eleventh year, with a $10 million buyout. The annual value escalates to a peak of $32 million per year over a three-year period beginning in 2023. It then decreases in stages to $25 million in the final year. Stanton can opt out following the 2020 season.
The Marlins also agreed to send the Yankees $30 million as part of the deal. However, Joel Sherman has reported that the Yankees will only receive that money if Stanton does not opt out in 2020. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Stanton only adds roughly $13.4 million to the team’s payroll in 2018 for luxury tax purposes.
The luxury tax threshold is $197 million for the 2018 season. After counting the salaries of the players already under contract, estimating the awards to the eight arbitration-eligible players and raises for second and third year players, adding in the $5.5 million paid to the Astros towards McCann’s salary, and estimating the 1/30 of the player benefits the team will have to contribute to MLB, the Yankees’ projected payroll for 2018 currently stands somewhere around $180 million.
The luxury tax isn't calculated until after the season has been completed, so they absolutely have to leave room for roster changes during the year. The Yankees need to give themselves sufficient breathing room for the inevitable in-season moves. As things stand, re-signing CC Sabathia or landing another free agent starter might be out of the question if the Yankees intend to stay under the cap.
"Ninja Cash" strikes again
Although I opined weeks ago that the Yankees should make every attempt to land Stanton, there was no evidence that they were actually doing it. Earlier this week, the Marlins reached tentative deals with both the Giants and Cardinals to trade Stanton. There was no mention at the time that the Yankees were even considered contenders.
Everything changed in an instant. First, Stanton invoked his no-trade clause to block the two proposed deals. Next, word spread that there was only four locations to where he would accept a trade. The Yankees were on the list.
While some might have assumed that Stanton's four desired landing spots would submit proposals and a courtship process would ensue, it never materialized. Word came out late Friday that the Yankees had made the play and landed the big fish.
This blockbuster will go down as one of the biggest trades in Yankees history. It ranks right up there with the Roger Clemens deal in 1999 and the Alex Rodriguez trade in 2004. And as with most of his best deals, "Ninja Cash" worked his magic without anyone seeing it coming.
What do you think about Giancarlo Stanton in pinstripes? How do you feel about losing Starlin Castro? What lineup would you run out there on Opening Day if you were Aaron Boone? Let us know in the comments section below.