Ruben Amaro’s desire to add Giancarlo Stanton to play right field for the Phils has been well documented. Reports surfaced after the season that Amaro inquired at least 10 times regarding Stanton’s availability this season alone. Most baseball people think Stanton will be traded this winter as he’s finally arbitration eligible, meaning the Marlins can no longer pay him whatever they like. Stanton will be paid according to his accomplishments and service time, either through negotiation or as determined by an arbiter – if an agreement can’t be reached. Considered one of the best young power hitters in the game Stanton has averaged below $478,000 per season the last three years. He’s in line for a big raise.
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who promoted Michael Hill to President of Baseball Operations and Dan Jennings to General Manager on September 29th is still the de facto President/GM. His decisions last winter and this season were all geared to dumping payroll, as the Marlins highest paid players at the end of 2013 were Adeiny Hechavarria and Placido Poloanco, both of whom made $2,750,000. Hechavarria, a shortstop, was picked up in the deal with Toronto which saw high priced players Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and others dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays in a clear salary dump. Polanco was a free agent acquisition picked up last winter.
There will be many teams who’d like to have Stanton’s big right hand stick in the middle of their lineup and Loria knows it. It’s not a foregone conclusion that Stanton will be traded, but his value will never be higher. He has three more seasons of team control before hitting free agency, and if surrounded by a strong lineup will become an even more dangerous hitter. Loria knows now is the time to trade Stanton and there will probably be a large bidding war for him once Loria makes it clear he’s there to be taken.
Expect Amaro to be at or near the front of the line to acquire Stanton. There’s no one in free agency that can fill the Phils need for a power hitting right fielder better than Stanton. Amaro already declared Darin Ruf is not an every day Right Fielder. After watching him play there for almost half a season I’d have to agree.
Amaro is also beginning to feel the heat of two seasons out of the playoffs, coming off a 5-year playoff run that included two trips to the World Series and one world championship. The fans became accustomed to winning and came out in record numbers to show support for the Phils. Four straight seasons (2009-2012) the Phils lead the league in attendance and the money flowed like never before. That changed in 2013 when the Phils had a disaster of a season and dropped over 550,000 fans at Citizens Bank Park. The Phils still finished 4th in attendance, but many believe without a big winter that gives Amaro something to “sell”, season ticket sales will drop further. The Phils have to fill numerous holes to compete in 2014, but none quite as glaring as the one in right field.
At age 23 Stanton is already a star and has the cache name that would sell tickets. He’d also look pretty good sandwiched between two of the many tough left handed bats the team has under contract. In 2013 the Phils scored their lowest runs per game since 1988. Adding Stanton into the mix along with getting back some of last years injured players would surely change that.
Many people question whether Loria would trade Stanton within the division. I don’t think that will be an issue. I think Loria is going to do what’s best for the Marlins despite who comes knocking. If the Phils present him with the best package of young, major league ready ballplayers and a couple of stud prospects I think the deal can get done. The magic number appears to be five. The Marlins are going to want five players to part with Stanton. The Phils have some promising young players who are blocked at the major league level they can include in a deal for Stanton. They also have the stud prospects, one of whom is perhaps a year away. So without further buildup here’s the deal we think can get it done.
The Phils will offer Cody Asche, Cesar Hernandez, Darin Ruf, Jesse Biddle and Roman Quinn. Why would this be attractive to the Marlins? First, they’d be getting three major league ready players in Asche, Hernandez and Ruf, effectively rebuilding 3/4 of their entire infield with three players who are years away from arbitration. They’d all be upgrades over the current players on the Marlins roster and would add speed, power and defense. The current players at those positions starting at 3B and working clockwise are Placido Polanco, Donovan Solano and Logan Morrison. None of these players have any pedigree with the exception of Polanco and he’s finished. The Marlins also don’t have quality players waiting in the wings to replace these three players. Immediate young help that’s likely to improve are the cornerstone of the proposal.
On the come would be Jesse Biddle, a a 2010 fist round pick that’s expected to be ready by late 2014/early 2015 and projects to be a # 2-3 starting pitcher for the next ten years. Biddle has a big frame and a classic, consistent delivery. Also included is 2011 2nd round pick Roman Quinn, a speedy shortstop whose offensive 2013 was somewhat derailed by the Phils insistence he learn to switch hit. Quinn has since become expendable with the Phils drafting of J. P. Crawford to be their shortstop of the future.
Will this deal be enough to pry Stanton loose from Miami? Let me answer that question with a question…is anybody else going to offer three major league ready players (one of whom has 30 HR potential in Ruf), a stud pitching prospect and another top 100 prospect? This deal isn’t carved in stone either. If the Marlins feel they need a catching prospect and want to include Joseph or Rupp instead of Quinn that won’t be a problem.
Amaro wants this one bad. He needs to generate some excitement this winter and landing Stanton would be a good start. To his credit Amaro has been able to acquire the players he’s been hot for in the past (Lee, Halladay, Oswalt and Pence come to mind). He hasn’t always handled them properly after the acquisition – i.e Lee and Pence were traded for very little, but he got them when he needed them.
There would still be more work to do to get the 2014 Phillies ready to contend, but Stanton would be a great start and the buzz would be back. The toughest loss for the Phils to take in this deal would be Biddle. Not because the core three aren’t going to be good major league players, but Ruf is blocked at 1st by Howard, Hernandez at 2B by Utley and Franco is coming up fast behind Asche and has the higher ceiling. These players can’t ride the bench until their position opens up and we saw how playing guys out of position isn’t the answer either. In this deal the Phils would lose most of their major league depth and would be very susceptible to injury, but let’s face it, if the Phils don’t stay mostly healthy (among other things) they aren’t going to contend anyway.
Franco may not be ready right out of spring training but will hopefully be in South Philly by July. When he arrives a lineup of the following looks pretty good.
Revere, Rollins, Utley, Howard, Stanton, Brown, Franco, Ruiz – doesn’t look so overly left-handed any more, does it?
If Howard doesn’t come back as expected there’s flexibility now with the cleanup spot. The Phils could use the following lineup in the event Howard isn’t the long ball threat he used to be.
Revere, Rollins, Utley, Stanton, Brown, Franco, Howard, Ruiz – I know some will flinch at Howard batting 7th, but if he can’t generate 30+ HR’s anymore he doesn’t do anything else well enough to be a cleanup hitter and would clog the bases hitting in front of Brown.
These are just two lineups of the many combinations Sandberg would have at his disposal. He showed last year he didn’t mind mixing it up and I expect more of the same next year until he gets a lineup that’s consistently scoring runs.
There’s still much that could go wrong in a deal of this nature. Stanton’s missed 85 games due to injury the past two years. Is he injury prone? Ruf could break out and be a 30+ HR hitter in a full season of At Bats. Asche may turn out to be better than Franco. Biddle may be the next Hamels…this is why it’s called gambling.
None of us know how this will turn out if it gets done. The Phils also have other needs to fill if they’re going to contend next year. Amaro may need to belly up to the proverbial crap table and throw the bones more than once this offseason. If Amaro feels the need to gamble it’s of his own doing. He’s the guy that made some bad trades, bad signings, let good players get away etc.
If the Phils built their team like the Cardinals there wouldn’t be a need to gamble today. Unfortunately they haven’t. Amaro wants to stay on as the Phils GM and I do believe he has the boldness and the blood of gambler. Let’s hope he makes some good bets this winter or 2014 may look much like 2013.