Giancarlo Stanton wasted no time introducing himself to Yankees fans. He hammered two home runs in his first game for New York. It’s now worth looking back on what put Stanton in pinstripes. Bryan Hoch has the scoop in ‘The Baby Bombers: The Inside Story of the Next Yankees Dynasty’, which I reviewed earlier this month.
‘The Baby Bombers’ (Diversion Books) is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold. The following excerpt takes us back to last December, when the trade went down.
On the afternoon that new Yankees manager Aaron Boone was formally introduced to the media at Yankee Stadium, the baseball world seemed to agree that Giancarlo Stanton would not be wearing a Marlins uniform in 2018, though his next destination remained uncertain. The Cardinals and Giants had worked out separate trade agreements to acquire the reigning NL MVP, who led the majors with 59 home runs but expressed reluctance to be part of what Derek Jeter had warned him would be a cost-cutting effort in Miami.
“I thought our lineup was legit and we needed help with our pitchers, and we needed to add rather than subtract,” Stanton said. “The way they wanted to go was to subtract, so I let that be known that I didn’t want to be part of another rebuild, another losing season.”
The problem for Jeter and the Marlins was that, because the previous ownership group issued a no-trade clause as part of Stanton’s record-setting thirteen-year, $325 million contract, the leverage had shifted to the player’s side. Stanton provided the Marlins with four contenders to whom he might approve a deal, listing the Astros, Cubs, Dodgers, and Yankees. He wanted to put someone over the top. In eight seasons, Stanton’s Marlins had never managed better than an 80-82 record.
“He feels like he has no more time to waste in his career, because life is fleeting for him,” said Stanton’s agent, Joel Wolfe. “You can get hit in the face and have your career almost come to an end at any point. That almost happened to him [in September 2014]. I’m not equating it with a near-death experience or anything, but it was a near career-ending experience. That gave him a lot of humility. Because he feels that way, he wanted to win, right now.”
During a meeting with Jeter and Miami GM Michael Hill, Stanton said that he was told that if he did not approve a trade to St. Louis or San Francisco, he would have to play the rest of his career in Miami. It was an empty threat, as Stanton’s contract includes an opt-out clause after the 2020 season, and the twenty-eight-year-old slugger saw it as such. Stanton reiterated that he had provided Miami with four teams to whom he would consider a deal, and urged Jeter and Hill to call those clubs again.
“You can’t say that and expect me to jump at what’s there, if that’s not the right situation for me,” Stanton said. “You’re not going to force me to do anything.”
Yankees GM Brian Cashman had spoken with the Marlins briefly in November, but his focus at that time had been split between the managerial search and preparing for the expected availability of twenty-three-year-old Japanese standout Shohei Ohtani. When Ohtani came off the board, eliminating every club east of the Mississippi River before selecting the Angels, Cashman pivoted and re-engaged with the Marlins. Steinbrenner was intrigued when presented with a scenario in which the Yankees could add Stanton’s contract while still keeping payroll under $197 million in 2018.
The Marlins, a money-losing franchise for years, were now desperate to clear Stanton’s salary off their books. Hill contacted Cashman on December 7, and the GMs stayed up well past midnight trying to find an acceptable deal. The Yankees agreed to send in elder Starlin Castro, right-handed pitching prospect Jorge Guzman, and infield prospect Jose Devers to Miami, while promising to take on all but $30 million of Stanton’s future salary.
After years of renting, Stanton had finally decided to buy a mansion in the Miami area following the 2017 season. He was in the process of designing his home gym and picking out furniture when Wolfe sent him their special alert code, which told Stanton to drop everything and call right away. As Wolfe brought Stanton up to speed on what was happening, Stanton said that he cut his agent off before he could complete the word, “Yankees.” Yes, he’d approve the deal.
Stanton was urged to sleep on his decision, but it hadn’t been necessary. He flew to Tampa, Florida, on a Saturday morning to undergo an extensive physical exam with the Yankees’ medical staff, avoiding the main gate at Miami International Airport so as not to be spotted. Meanwhile, Cashman called Judge, explaining why the Yankees were about to trade for another power-hitting right fielder and how they could both be part of the team’s success in 2018.
On the morning of December 11, the trade was officially completed. Stanton tried on the pinstripes for the first time during a 2:00 p.m. news conference at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotel in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, buttoning his jersey over a white dress shirt in front of the national media during the opening day of the Winter Meetings.
Stanton delivered a few swipes at the Marlins on his way out the door, remarking that there had been a “circus” atmosphere with “no structure” during much of his time in Miami. He advised Marlins fans to “watch from afar, if you’re going to watch,” then said that he was elated for the challenges and packed houses that awaited in New York.
“That’s what I’ve always dreamed of,” Stanton said. “You always want to be in competitive games that mean something, and your performance means something to the team and the city.”
With the 2018 Yankees featuring Giancarlo Stanton (59 homers in 2017) and Aaron Judge (52 homers in 2017), they join the 1962 Yankees as the only team ever to have two players with 50 or more homers the prior season. That year, Roger Maris (61 homers in 1961) and Mickey Mantle (54 homers in 1961) anchored the Yanks’ lineup.
In particular, Stanton was looking forward to joining Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez in the heart of the batting order, as that trio promised to comprise a modern-day right-handed installment of the Yanks’ fabled Murderers’ Row lineup. Judge and Stanton spoke shortly after the trade, and said they looked forward to making each other better.
“They strike from everywhere, they’re well balanced, and they’re hungry,” Stanton said. “The city’s been waiting for another World Series and a playoff run, and they got close enough this year. But hopefully with my addition, we’re going to advance and be a better team.”