Shunned by Shohei Ohtani, the Yankees have wasted no time in giving themselves an even bigger, more expensive Christmas present in Giancarlo Stanton. Enjoy this one for the now, Yankee fans. Deck your halls with boughs of holly over your new twin giants of power because not too far down the road this deal is destined to give the Yankees more regret than the second Alex Rodriguez contract.
It was rather stunning how Stanton fell to the Yankees, especially since they were probably the last team in baseball Derek Jeter wanted to do business with in his first major trade as the new Marlins co-owner. But Jeter — who’s made one public relations blunder after another in the few short months since he and his gazilionaire partner Bruce Sherman bought the team from Jeffrey Loria — made the mistake of announcing to the world his intentions of trading Stanton, his marquee player and 59-homer NL MVP, without first talking to Stanton, who had a no-trade clause in the record $325 million contract he signed in 2014.
To put a no-trade clause in what was already a no-trade contract was ludicrous. But what did Loria care? He knew he wasn’t going to be around to pay the piper on this contract. This was just a further extension of the fleecing he did on Jeter and Sherman.
Jeter’s arrogance in not at least gauging his star player’s feelings about being traded and what teams he might agree to being traded to, resulted in a whole lot of wasted talks between the Marlins and the Giants and Cardinals, both of which offered decent packages for Stanton that were for naught when he turned both trades down. There were only a very limited number of teams to begin with that could take on the remaining 10 years/$295 million left on Stanton’s contract.
At least Stanton said he’d be willing to go to either of the two richest teams, the Dodgers and Yankees, but when even the Dodgers, with the highest payroll ($244 million) in baseball last year and five straight years of paying luxury tax, said a trade would be too rich for them, Jeter was left with only his old pal Brian Cashman to deal with.
He had zero leverage, which is why someone is going to have to explain to me why the Yankees agreed to this deal without insisting the Marlins take back Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract in it?
First of all, it was a deal they didn’t have to make, other than the irresistible thrill of teaming up Stanton and Aaron Judge, the two most prodigious sluggers in the game, in the middle of their lineup seemingly for the next 10 years. From Ruth and Gehrig to Mantle and Maris to Judge and Stanton. Like I said, irresistible.
But the Yankee offense was already more than just fine last year, second in the majors in runs, first in homers with 241. What they lacked — and still lack — is another frontline starting pitcher.
And even with throwing in Starlin Castro and the $21 million owed him the next two seasons, and getting $30 million in cash back from the Marlins, the Yankees, for payroll purposes, will still be paying Stanton roughly $29 million per year for the next 10 years though age 37. That’s all fine — since when did the Yankees ever care about money? — as long as Stanton stays healthy and produces just reasonably consistent to how he did last season.
Unfortunately history — both his own and these monster contracts in general — suggests he won’t. It’s a fact of baseball life that players after the age of 32, start breaking down and Stanton, before last year, already had a number of concerning injury issues.
He missed the final 17 games of the season after being hit in the face with a pitch in 2014. He missed 88 games in 2015 with a broken hamate bone from swinging too hard on a pitch, 44 games in 2013 with a hamstring strain and shoulder soreness, 36 games in 2012 loose knee bodies and abdominal strain, and another 11 games in 2011 with a quad strain.
All these while he was in his early-to-mid 20s. What’s going to be the case when he hits his 30s?
At least, even keeping Ellsbury’s onerous $21 million salary, the Yankees could make this Stanton trade and stay under the $197 million luxury tax threshold — which is all Hal Steinbrenner cared about in approving the deal. There is still enough wiggle room money to re-sign CC Sabathia and add a bullpen piece, but as far as the Yankees’ No. 1 target, Alex Cobb, that’s very problematic now.
With Jeter over the barrel, this was their one best chance of finally ridding themselves of Ellsbury’s contract — or if nothing else make the Marlins take Chase Headley’s $13 million for ’18 as well — to have plenty of remaining money to go after Cobb. Instead, they let the Stanton stars get in their eyes.
No doubt there were high fives aplenty in the Yankee front office Saturday, with visions of Stanton-Judge sugar plums dancing in their heads. I’m sure no one was thinking about four years from now when Judge and Gary Sanchez are coming up on free agency and Stanton will be closing in on 32, with six more years at $29 million per to go. At least, by then, Ellsbury will be off the books.
Nor could Yankee fans care less about four years from now. For them, it’s already a Merry Christmas with giddy visions for a Happy New Year. No longer are the Yankees those lovable over-achieving kids. Overnight they’ve been transformed back to Beasts of the East. For everyone in Yankeeland’s sake, especially Aaron Boone, they better win next year. Because the euphoria over this trade is almost guaranteed to have a short shelf life.