Giancarlo Stanton is at Nationals Park this week, his last appearance here this season. So consider this a minute, and bear with me. Yes, the Nats entered Tuesday with a 13-game lead in the National League East. They have, when healthy, what appears to be their best team. We don’t need distractions. There’s enough of interest right here in front of us.
But it’s raining. And Stanton has spent his time since Aug. 4 homering in 15 games while failing to homer in nine. So the odds are, if you buy a ticket, you’ll see something dramatic. Plus, the Miami Marlins — who seemingly have been in flux since they came into existence — are again in flux, about to be sold. Plus, Stanton has this massive contract, the largest in the history of American sports, and wouldn’t a new ownership group want to start clean — with the basket of building-blocks Stanton would bring in a trade?
Wait. Come to think of it, shouldn’t the Nationals see what it would take to bring Stanton here?
(A cautionary note: If you’re interested in only what will happen, and not a fantasy pulled from thin air, you might want to stop reading now.)
These 2017 Nats are about to have their roster intact, what with Trea Turner due back Tuesday night against the Marlins and Bryce Harper almost certainly back in time to get some at-bats before the playoffs. There’s so much to accomplish this season that looking for solutions for the future could seem unnecessary and even disrespectful.
And yet, stand in front of the 6-foot-6, 245-pound remarkable mass of humanity that makes up Stanton, consider that the Marlins might want or need to send him elsewhere, and it’s impossible not to look at the team in front of you and say, “Where would he fit?” Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported earlier this week that the Marlins already have fielded inquiries about Stanton’s availability from a slew of potential suitors — namely, the San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals.
Why not the Nats?
That’s not realistic. Come on. Stop writing. Stanton’s contract is for 13 years and $325 million. Is the Lerner family really going to pony up for the remaining 10 years and $295 million of it, paying through 2027? And that’s if Stanton doesn’t exercise an option for 2028 at $25 million. Why are we even talking about 2028, anyway?
The easy take, as it pertains to Washington, would be to say, “Well, Harper’s going to leave after 2018 anyway, and having Stanton as a replacement is just about perfect.” Harper’s deal, when he becomes a free agent after next season, likely will blow the doors off Stanton’s. A trade gets you one season of this tantalizing prospect: Stanton and Harper in the same lineup.
Wait. What would that lineup look like then? Turner would hit first, followed by lefty center fielder Adam Eaton, followed by the right-handed Goliath Stanton, followed by lefty Harper, followed by right-handed Anthony Rendon, followed by lefty Daniel Murphy, with Ryan Zimmerman — gulp — all the way to seventh? Lordy.
Fine, this is all far-fetched. But go further. Let’s not assume that Harper’s gone in 2019. Just . . . don’t. That tale hasn’t been written yet. A trade for Stanton would work with Harper here or with Harper elsewhere.
Internally, the Nationals have viewed outfielder Victor Robles, their top prospect, as Harper’s eventual replacement. But with Stanton on board, there is no need for Robles, so he could easily serve as the centerpiece of a trade package. In 2018, with Jayson Werth more likely gone than not, Harper could stay in right field; Stanton, an excellent outfielder in his own right, could move to left; and Eaton would return from injury to play center. That alignment would allow outfielders such as Michael A. Taylor, Brian Goodwin and/or Andrew Stevenson to be included in a deal for Stanton along with Robles. Plus right-hander Erick Fedde. Plus Gio Gonzalez. The native Miamian is having a tremendous 2017 and would add local flair to a deal. Plus . . . more. Lots more.
You’re going to decimate the Nationals in the future for Stanton? Doesn’t he have an opt-out in his contract, so you’d risk having him for only a few seasons — and have no high-end prospects remaining?
Stanton, indeed, can opt out of his deal and become a free agent after the 2020 season. For the next three years, he is due $77 million — which, for a prodigious slugger who will be 28, 29 and 30 during those years, isn’t that much, not by today’s standards, not for a guy who hit his 50th homer of the season Aug. 27. People scoff at the notion that he would use his right to opt out, given that the remaining seven years on the deal (plus a buyout of an eighth season) are worth $218 million.
But for all the rhetoric about baseball dying, it is booming financially. It’s a $10 billion business with lucrative local television deals that just sold a $1 billion stake in its advanced media arm to Disney. It isn’t going anywhere. So it’s not crazy to think that a 30-year-old Stanton could be worth more than $30 million annually from 2021 to 2027. If he thinks he could better that on the open market, he’ll try.
The point: If he leaves, fine: All that money’s off the books, and you’re financially flexible enough to pursue other high-priced players. If he stays, fine: You have Giancarlo Stanton for the remainder of his career.
You’re saying the Nationals could have both Stanton and Harper under contract for the next 10 years? That’s insane. There are years when Stanton is due $32 million. Harper’s annual salary could be $40 million — or more. You want $72 million tied up in just two players? The Nats’ Opening Day payroll this year was roughly $168 million — so you’d have $90-something million for the remaining 23 roster spots? Plus, the Nationals’ deals for Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are so heavily deferred that they’ll be paying those two pitchers until 2030-something. Where would they find the money?
Granted, finances and the Nationals always make for an interesting conversation. We don’t yet know how those deferrals — Scherzer, for instance, has a $35 million salary in 2019, 2020 and 2021, though all of it is deferred — will impact their payrolls years from now.
But we do know a couple of things: Harper loves stars, and he is strong enough to have — and maybe even want — another leading man in the room. Plus, we know that the threshold teams must reach before they pay a “luxury tax” will be $206 million in 2019 — $11 million more than it is this year. It’s not going to come down. In the next collective bargaining negotiations, it’ll almost certainly go up. Plus, at some point — maybe some point soon — the Nationals are going to get something close to their full share of revenue from their deal with the Baltimore Orioles-controlled Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.
There’s enough money to go around. What a lineup they would have. What a team they would be. Think about that, a Nationals’ trade for Giancarlo Stanton. Who says no?
Is the rain letting up? Maybe we should spend some time thinking about what’s realistic for the team right here.