To be quite honest, from the time it was announced that he was headed to the Yankees, this one felt like a gut punch, and it begins with Tampa resident Derek Jeter.
The simple fact that a player who spent his entire career with one organization can retire, purchase a team with a group of investors, and then send its best player back to his original organization for pennies on the dollar stinks of collusion. But there it is.
People can excuse the Stanton trade because MLB still allows for no-trade clauses, and because there is no Cap system in place, certain players can continue the sad trend of the mighty wanting to join the mightiest - and wealthiest - instead of investing in building pride in all MLB organizations.
That is not to say what’s wrong with MLB’s system is Giancarlo Stanton’s fault. He has the tools to decide what he wanted and used them accordingly, directing his trade to one of the biggest names in baseball. Good for him.
No, this is MLB’s fault, and all of its owners, for having a system in place that still allows for gross overages of spending by massive budgeted teams that spent up to 4 times what small market teams can deploy as they “compete” against others.
This trade will have deep and painful impacts on all American League teams. I’ll touch on a half dozen here, and some of which cut deeper than others, but with a few rays of light - pun intended - when we look at the back end of Stanton’s deal.
The Empire Strikes Back
When Shohei Ohtani signed with the Los Angeles Angels, it seemed like many took aim at the Yankees and enjoyed poking fun at them for losing out. Little did they know that the Yankees would target and attain the more polished and powerful (offensively) piece available this offseason.
You can picture Brian Cashman looking at Yankee fan Tweets that day and uttering Vader’s famous line “I find your lack of faith disturbing”. In the end, despite polar opposite costs, the Yankees got the best piece for 2018.
Power in Ridiculous Numbers
Sure, the Yankees will have to pay dearly for Stanton through the years, but the core of their lineup may exceed HR totals that some entire teams put up, and they are all in their primes.
Stanton (28) just came off a 59 HR season and projects to do even more damage in a HR friendly AL East environment. Sanchez (25) just reached a new career high with 33 HRs in a season and it’s easy to envision him reaching the 40 HR mark. And Judge (25) just hit 52 HRs as a rookie, making his ceiling in HRs hard to imagine at this point.
If we assume the 3 combined can hit 160 HRs in a season, It would be more than what the entire Pittsburgh Pirates (151) and San Francisco Giants (128) put up in 2017. And if we look at 2016 totals, there were a whopping 6 teams that did not reach that mark.
Add in the HR totals for the rest of the team, including Greg Byrd, Chase Headley, and Clint Frazier just to name a few, and the Yankees could exceed 300 HRs in a season, a mark that could be historical in nature depending on how well the supporting cast does.
The Core of Judge / Stanton / Sanchez will be controlled through 2022
Arbitration for both Sanchez and Judge runs through 2022, meaning that all three presumed core members of the Yankees will be together for a minimum of 5 seasons.
What this indicates is that if teams like the Rays do plan on competing effective with this team, they’ll need to get by this core for the foreseeable future of all their currently contracted players.
American League Powerhouses Get Stronger
First, Ohtani went to the Angels, putting two of the best players on the planet together and making it harder for the reigning WS champ Houston Astros to repeat as AL West champions. Sure, both of these teams have outstanding chances to make the playoffs in 2018, but more than that both are still under budget and can add to their already powerful teams this off season.
Then we move to the AL Central, where the Cleveland Indians make their mark and the rising Minnesota Twins seemingly have money available to add to their current core. Both these teams will also be watching as the rebuilt White Sox make gains in experience and overall depth and strength.
And finally, the AL East, where the Boston Red Sox and Yankees now seem like the favourites to battle it out for playoff positions, with the Yankees now more likely to lead the way.
This paints the picture of what Rays front office are looking at AS THEY TRY TO CUT COSTS AND ADD KEY PLAYERS IN KEY POSITIONS.
The Injury and Long Term Aspects of this Deal
To me, the saving grace in all of this is that the Yankees don’t seem able to add upcoming free agent stars like Manny Machado or Bryce Harper to this group in 2019, but the other saving grace for the Rays are that the Yankees are banking on a player that’s had a multitude of health issues over the years and will eventually have his skills diminish through his mid-to-late thirties.
I know it was a long time ago, in 2014, but the hit to the face has to leave a deep mark, and it’s not the only way in which Stanton is vulnerable injury wise, something that you can see through videos below as they range from hamstring to hand injuries and kept him to only 2 seasons since 2012 where he’s played in more than 120 games.
Those are just a few of the injuries he’s suffered over the years, bringing into question how well he’ll hold up as he finished his 20s and heads into his 30s very soon.
Stanton’s Additon Could Rekindle Talks of a Salary Cap
To me, this may be the impact that many are overlooking. Surely, the Rays’ and other front offices have to be feeling the same way we are about the addition of Stanton to the Yankees. There may be a few hearty people in there who just relish the ability to beat the revamped empire, but they know that it’s the system in place that allows Stanton’s addition to the Yankees to take place.
With a hard salary cap in place, and the prospects of not being able to sign Judge and Sanchez down the road, this deal likely never takes place.
Take the Marlins fans, and star-potential players like Christian Yelich, who saw their medium market team hand Stanton a $325M cheque. Here was a player they thought was theirs, to bank on year-after-year. Yet, when he reached epic performance levels, he’s dealt to the franchise with the highest number of championships in baseball.
Instead of focusing players and talents into teams with the best reputation, MLB needs to build up the history of its not-as-reputable franchises. It’s the same reason why teams like the Rays need to keep players like Evan Longoria around and build up the franchise through pride and commitment to the city.
This can’t happen if the system in place doesn’t have both a floor and a ceiling.
Yes, the Rays should be forced to spend a minimum amount in order to keep a competitive team on the field, and in my opinion, that amount should be at least half of what the Cap in place would be. But that’s not real life.
Instead, we’re dealing with a system that allows for teams like the Dodgers and Yankees to spend 3-4 times what the Rays say they can afford.
Stanton to Yankees a Gut Punch to Rays
No matter how you cut it, Stanton going to the Yankees is a gut punch to a Rays organization that’s done absolutely everything it can to build up talent and strength in assets despite a tiny budget. It’s enough to make you think the Rays don’t stand a chance and that they should tear it all down and rebuild.
If the Rays decide to battle it out, I tip my cap to them and know they’ll do better than most believe. The Rays have plenty of near MLB-ready talent to make some noise.
But no matter what the Rays decide to do, MLB’s system needs to change for the better, because if one of the biggest payrolls in baseball can add Giancarlo Stanton for two prospects and a $22 million contract, the Luxury Tax isn’t working like it’s supposed to.