The Red Sox haven’t played the role of buyer in a big blockbuster trade since the 2010-2011 offseason when they sent Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, and Rey Fuentes to the Padres to acquire Adrian Gonzalez. Since that time, they’ve undergone three more drafts, played the role of seller in a big blockbuster, and have held onto their best prospects. With eight of the club’s top ten prospects (according to both MLB.com and Soxprospects.com) either in Double A, Triple A, or MLB, the club is at the cusp of having cost-effective talent emerging for the next couple of seasons.
With a crowded 40 Man Roster, the club will have only so many vacancies to fill with prospects eligible for the Rule 5 draft. So there’s a real chance of the Red Sox making a share of offseason deals, or maybe one or two blockbuster deals, to get value in return as opposed to risking losing them for nothing.
The name Giancarlo Stanton has emerged with a potential trade target this coming season. Some have embraced the “Think Big” philosophy and support acquiring Stanton no matter what the cost. Others have taken a somewhat in between stance saying “Yes. But as long as they don’t include Xander Bogaerts in the deal”.
My personal take: He’s not worth it.
Don’t get me wrong. I admit Stanton would be a nice addition for this ballclub. He’s only 23 and is already in his fourth big league season with 106 career home runs on his resume. I do believe the Sox have coveted him for a long time. However, there are three things I consider that have me opposed to acquiring Stanton for a hefty price.
1. Lack of a legitimate need. Even with the pending free agency and possible departure of Jacoby Ellsbury on the horizon, this club really doesn’t have a hole to fill in the outfield. Shane Victorino has two more years left on his deal and can play all three outfield spots. Jonny Gomes has one more year left on his deal. Mike Carp and Daniel Nava have proven enough to be considered more than just reserves. The club thinks very highly of Jackie Bradley Jr., who is likely the heir apparent to Ellsbury as the center fielder/leadoff hitter. Bryce Brentz could very well be on the club’s opening day roster next season. Though he’s not as complete player as Stanton is (as well as almost a year older), there’s still a lot to like (right-handed power, a strong throwing arm, has yet to start the club control clock). Though it seems he’s on his last limb with the organization, there’s still a chance Ryan Kalish can shake the injuries and finally show everyone why the organization liked him more than Josh Reddick.
Bottom line: Since there’s really no significant void in the outfield, why pay a high price for someone who’s not a big necessity?
2. The potential pieces could become stars themselves. Every single superstar player was a prospect once upon a time. Back in 2008, Theo Epstein was trying to deal disgruntled Manny Ramirez to the Marlins for a Single A outfielder named Mike Stanton (now Giancarlo). The deal never came to fruition and the prospect emerged two seasons later and is now one of the game’s better young power hitters.
Eight of the organization’s top ten prospects are currently at the upper levels of the minors or with the big club. All of these prospects have been pretty successful at the upper levels so far. That’s a good sign that a very deep, homegrown core is about to emerge.
If this season has taught us anything it’s that depth is a good thing to have. No point in trading away depth just because you have it. Also leads to addressing another question: What’s more valuable, one expensive superstar or several very good and cost-effective players?
3. Stanton himself. I’ve used the word “superstar” to describe Stanton despite the fact that the guy is currently having a miserable season (.237/.351/.439/.790, 13 homers, 35 RBI, 38 runs scored). You don’t pay a hefty price for a guy coming off of a bad season.
Durability is another concern. At the time the Red Sox acquired Gonzalez for three prospects and a hefty extension and Carl Crawford for a first round draft pick and a hefty salary, both guys were at least durable. From 2003-2010, Crawford averaged 146.5 games per season. If not for his injury-riddled 2008 season, that number would be even higher. In his years with the Padres, Gonzalez averaged 159.8 games played per season.
Stanton played 150 games in 2011. Last season, he played in only 120. If he plays each of Miami’s remaining 44 games, he’ll finish with 119. That’s a three season decline. The fact that he’s just 23 and struggling with injuries is a big red flag to consider.
But not unlike Gonzalez and Crawford, Stanton is putting up his numbers in a low-pressure environment. Neither of the former two were ever comfortable in the Boston market. What if Stanton’s similar? Is a huge haul of prospects really worth the risk of finding out the hard way?
I must clarify that I am not 100% opposed to acquiring Stanton. But given his durability, rising salary, and ticking club control clock, I’d think twice about giving up ANY of our top ten prospects to acquire him.
Instead, they should take a patient approach and hope the Marlins become desperate to dump his salary. Kind of like how the Yankees acquired Nick Swisher after 2008. Swisher had just endured the worst season of his career (.219/.332/.410/.742 but with a respectable 24 home runs, 69 RBI, and 86 runs scored in 153 games played). All the Yankees gave up were two minor league pitchers who flopped (one was later re-acquired by NY) and Wilson Betemit. Swisher was a very good contributor to the NY lineup from 2009-2012, helping the club win a World Series in his first season in pinstripes. If the Yankees gave up a minimal price to acquire Swisher after 2008, a season in which he was better than the 2013 Stanton, the Sox shouldn’t have to pay much more to acquire Stanton.
However, if the Marlins remain stubborn in their asking price, they can keep him. The Red Sox will be just fine letting the new kids play while keeping payroll flexibility intact.
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