In sports, most transactions are judged immediately after they’re completed. The moment a deal is finalized, the debate commences regarding whether the move will benefit all the parties involved. The popular census at the time of the deal often doesn’t matter; the true judge is time. In particular, trades can be complex moves with several factors involved, ranging from established big leaguers, minor leaguers, contracts, and more, all of which serve to make swaps difficult to judge right off the bat.
Obviously, one of the most important moves Brian Cashman and the Yankees have swung recently is the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton. After concluding his second season with the Yankees, his pair of years with the organization couldn’t be more disparate. He played a total of 158 games for the Bombers in 2018, then 18 games this season. He was penciled into the Yankees lineup often during his debut year because of injuries to players like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, then had to watch others like Clint Frazier and Mike Tauchman produce while he was on the injured list in 2019. We’ve seen highs and lows. Now seems as good a time as ever to re-evaluate the trade that brought Stanton to the Bronx, two years in and with potentially eight more years to go.
Looking back, the Stanton trade might seem simple. New Marlins management wanted to dump salaries, and the fire sale commenced. Stanton was easily Miami’s most expensive player during a rebuild that’s still taking place, and could stretch for many more years. The Yankees sent Starlin Castro to Miami along with prospects Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers. Even after two years, those prospects still have a ways to go, making it still difficult to fully evaluate the trade, but I believe things have worked out in the Yankees’ favor, no matter how onerous some might portray Stanton’s contract.
We’ll begin with the departure of Castro, whose exit cleared the way for Gleyber Torres. This isn’t to say Castro was bad with the Yankees, as he put together a 106 OPS+ in his final year in pinstripes, but it was clear that his starting spot was better used elsewhere. Castro continued to play at a reasonable level in Miami, putting up four rWAR across two years, but the Yankees didn’t exactly miss his production, not with Torres, DJ LeMahieu, and Gio Urshela on the infield dirt. After two seasons with the Marlins, Castro is now a free agent.
Guzman and Devers were not highly-rated prospects when the Yankees dealt them, though they profile well now. Both are currently ranked in the top 30 of the Marlins’ farm system by MLB Pipeline. Devers now appears ahead of Guzman, as they land in 10th and 16th place respectively. Most scouts had the order reversed two years ago.
During 2019, Devers played across three levels, seeing most of his time with the Marlins’ High-A affiliate, where he finished with a .325/.384/.365 slash line in his age-19 season. MLB Pipeline praises his great eye at the plate, crediting his plate discipline, as well as his plus speed and defensive skills at short. Overall, he has a few tools, but the Marlins are waiting for some power to appear. If it does, they’ll have a talented player on their hands, but he has a long way to go in that department, given his career .348 slugging in the minors.
Like Devers, Guzman, 23, has the tools to reach the majors but is missing one key skill, in this case, command of his fastball. Guzman has a power fastball that can stay around the high 90’s throughout a game, but walks have become a major issue. He’s walked 135 batters over 234.2 innings of work in the Miami system. He can miss bats, striking out 228 in the same span thanks to his fastball and his slider and changeup secondaries, but like many young power arms, finding control can be the difference between joining a rotation or bullpen.
And of course, on the other side, the Yankees have Stanton. Much has been said about Stanton’s contract, which stands to pay him $235 million over the next eight seasons, presuming he doesn’t opt out after 2020. The Marlins will pay $30 million of the total should Stanton stick with his contract. That’s a long deal, to be sure, but given the Yankees’ status as bonafide championship contenders, taking risks on expensive, elite players makes all the sense in the world.
A healthy Stanton improves the Yankees’ World Series chances, and if they bring home a title in part thanks to Stanton, the whole conversation regarding his hefty contract will be forgotten. He’s coming off a lost year, but still has all the power in the world; per Statcast he somehow played just 18 games and still hit the hardest hit ball of 2019. He’s only just turned 30, and has shown when on the field he’s still an elite hitter even as he’s moved through his late prime.
The Yankees’ championship potential is much greater with Stanton in the fold, and even though he will decline throughout his time in New York, he’s declining from such a high place that he can fall off and still be a plus for the Bombers. If the juiced ball remains in play, the Yankees should expect Stanton to return and crush 40+ bombs next year. That seems well worth a couple of far-off prospects and Starlin Castro.