Giancarlo Stanton’s Pseudo-Mega-Deal

I had this idea several days ago regarding Giancarlo Stanton’s 13-year, $325 million contract, but it wasn’t clever enough to put into words. So all I really did was regurgitate the numbers as they made sense to me:

Yeah I was saying something, but I wasn’t really saying anything. Then I watched this Keith Olberman piece, and it all become clear:

While seemingly everybody else in sports went all Tim Allen and pointed at the giant shiny headline reading $325 MILLION CONTRACT and went oooooo-oooo-oooo ahhh-ahhh-ahhh-ahhhh, I’m hoping that you noticed it’s not a $325 million, 13-year contract, it’s a $107 million, six-year contract. Which is only a year and only an average of about a million a year more than the Blue Jays just gave Russell Martin. The deadbeat Marlins signed the game’s greatest young power hitter through his arbitration years and early free agency at a discount. 

Finally it made sense. If it wasn’t the Marlins giving this deal to Giancarlo, I would naturally opt for the course of saying “Team X_ signs great player for well-below market deal,” while attempting to keep it below 1,000 words. I would be applauding the team. But since it’s Miami I’m jaded; I felt something fishy from the start, I just couldn’t piece it together until after the contract figures became known.

Of course, the narrative surrounding the signing from your average national writer reads like this: “Giancarlo Stanton wants Marlins to win, so he took less money in the first six years to help the organization afford more talent to play alongside him,” or at least something in the same ballpark. It highlights the player — which is what Miami wants — rather than the focus being directed at the franchise itself, which has made sharp practice of building it all up before tearing it down. After each transient bit of the club’s success over the last 20 years they’ve sold off all their meaningful parts, the dictionary definition of a fire sale, in the name of shaving payroll; they did it after their World Series in 1997; they did it after their World Series in 2003; in 2011 they signed Jose Reyes and Mark Beuhrle and Carlos Zambrano and Heath Bell, and within eight months they sold them all off as if that was the plan all along.

Even the Stanton deal, which, as Olberman says, looks awesome from a distance, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. He’s set to make $15.5 million between 2015-’16 — less than 4.8% of the apparent 13-year sum — and only $30 million in total in the first three years. Given the premium Giancarlo would have made in his arb-2 and arb-3 seasons, which Ken Rosenthal opined on MLB Network would have been roughly $13 million in ’15 and $19 million in ’16, as well as his first year of free agency in 2017, it’s conceivable that Stanton — in agreeing with this deal — will be making about half of what he would have received in his last two arbitration seasons and first year of free agency. He left a lot of money on the table in the short-term.

The big money in this contract will not be paid until 2018 when Stanton will be owed $25 million; knowing how Miami operates, or at least how they’ve operated in the past beneath the same owner, there’s no reason to assume Giancarlo will be with the Marlins by that time.

Joe Sheehan explained this phenomena best in his most recent newsletter:

The narrative this week is about how this heralds a new day in Miami. Don’t believe it. One look at the structure of the Stanton deal makes it clear that this is the 2012 signing spree all over again. Loria gets the press he wants and he gets the player for as long as the player is working for below-market wages. Once that changes, the player will be elsewhere. This isn’t a 13-year contract and, as far as the Marlins are concerned, it’s not a six-year one, either. It’s business as usual.

And let’s face it, by 2018 $25 million contracts are not going to be worth nearly as much as they appear to be right now. There is so much money in baseball that it’s stupid and, by 2023 when Stanton will be due to earn north of $30 million for the first time, there are likely to be several players — between 5-10, but maybe more — who will make at least that much.

I’m not going to go as far as Olberman in saying It’s a scam, even if it’s probably the truth, but at the minimum Giancarlo Stanton got hoodwinked here. At least in the short-term. The contract is set in stone, someone is going to have to pay him all that money, but like Sheehan I agree that it’s pretty much a guarantee it won’t be the Marlins. They have a perennial MVP candidate under contract for the next three seasons at $10 million AAV; last year the Astros signed Scott Feldman for the same price. In the ten years that follow, Stanton will be owed $305 million, roughly $30 million AAV, but by that time he’ll be with the Yankees or Red Sox or Dodgers; I can’t really think of another team that can afford that.

There’s no shame for Stanton in getting paid. Any one of us would love to be in his position. The shame comes from the belief that he bought into, because I truly get the impression like he wants the Marlins to win, and that he actually thought by sacrificing so much money over the next three seasons that Miami would go out and get some more talent around him to make a couple runs at the National League East. Don’t count on it.

The far more likely scenario is that over the next three years the media will portray Stanton as being disgruntled with the organization, that “rumors” and “whispers” will begin to circulate about his unrest, and that he will eventually be moved. Miami will then arrive back at square one, which is the place they inevitably find themselves comfortable in, anyway. It’s the Miami Marlins, after all. I just hope next time they do this that people won’t be so naive, though I will have to believe that when I see it.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

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