First things first: Brian Cashman, I am sorry for doubting you. Earlier this week I wrote about how there was no apparent pursuit for Giancarlo Stanton, and I was completely wrong. Early Saturday morning, Cashman pulled the trigger on an earthshaking deal, bringing Stanton to the Bronx in exchange for Starlin Castro and minor leaguers Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers.
It’s been a dramatic week for the reigning MVP, who vetoed a pair of trades to the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants. With a final list of four teams, Stanton exercised a tremendous amount of leverage in negotiations, giving the Yankees the edge they needed to scoop the slugger.
Castro is the major starter leaving the Yankees, as the second baseman’s $21 million guaranteed outstanding contract helps offset some of the cost of the Stanton deal. He’s been a fine player, even making an All-Star team, but with a surplus of talented infielders in the system, his exactly league average performance became expendable.
One of the focal points of this deal seems to be the confidence Gleyber Torres enjoys within the organization. The game’s top prospect was expected to compete for a starting job out of Spring Training, but with the removal of Castro it would appear the Yankees have a much greater interest in seeing what he can do in 2018. It’s possible we see Ronald Torreyes or Tyler Wade immediately assume the keystone role, but it appears Torres will be here sooner rather than later.
The immediate outlook for the Yankees? The Opening Day lineup will be the best offense in baseball, and may be the most powerful squad we’ve seen in decades. Any batting order includes four everyday players with 40 home run power. Add in the fact that the Yankees held onto Brett Gardner, with his consistent on-base abilities, and a 900 run season is far from unimaginable. Remember, the Yankees were already the second best offense in baseball in 2017. Adding an MVP to that mix is sure to terrify every pitcher in the American League.
Defensively, new manager Aaron Boone will have some decisions to make. Both Gardner and Aaron Hicks could see time in center field, with Stanton and Aaron Judge filling in at the corners. Alternatively, the designated hitter spot will probably be leveraged to keep both Stanton and Judge fresh and have Hicks’ plus arm in the outfield. Jacoby Ellsbury also figures to see some time in the outfield, and since his bat is the least valuable of the five outfielders, may see more time as the team spells Judge or Stanton with the DH spot.
Finally, this deal opens up questions about the rest of the offseason. For the Yankees already-clogged pipeline of outfield prospects, it just became that much harder to make the 25-man roster. It’s possible some of the higher-level outfielders are moved this offseason, as their value to other teams is now likely greater than their value to the Yankees.
There will be some handwringing and consternation over the outstanding value of Stanton’s contract, which is some $295 million over the next ten seasons. However, the Yankees big man - errrr, the Yankees OT HER big man - has an opt out after the 2020 season. With the highly touted 2019 free agency class not far off, baseball is going to see a huge rise in salary across the board anyway. If you want to add consistent six win-plus players to your team, there’s a cost attached to it.
Of course, the $30 million the Yankees wrangled out of Marlins ownership will help reduce the impact of Stanton, as tying that contribution to the Castro savings effectively gives the team two years of the NL MVP for free. I’ll have a full breakdown of the financial impact of this deal on Monday.
The bottom line is this: Stanton makes this team better now, and in the immediate future. I couldn’t care less about a heavily discounted final year of the contract if adding 50 home runs a season wins the Yankees a World Series or two in the meantime. Adding Stanton, especially at the cost Cashman worked out, is a slam dunk decision for any rational actor.