Boston Red Sox had the chance to trade Xander Bogaerts for Giancarlo Stanton


It wasn’t long ago that the rumor mill was churning out speculation that the Miami Marlins would consider dealing superstar slugger Giancarlo Stanton. That concept was squashed once the team agreed to a record 13-year, $325 million deal that would keep Stanton in South Beach for the foreseeable future, but prior to that extension it seems the Boston Red Sox had the chance to swoop in to get him.

ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes reports that sources with direct knowledge of the discussions revealed that Miami was seriously considering trading Stanton to the Red Sox a couple years ago. While Boston was no doubt salivating over the idea of Stanton launching mammoth home runs over the left field wall at Fenway Park, there was a catch. The price the Marlins were demanding was Xander Bogaerts.

According to Edes’ sources, these discussions never gained traction because the Red Sox considered Bogaerts virtually untouchable. As much as they coveted Stanton, they were not willing to part with Bogaerts to get the deal done.

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Teams often have a tendency to overrate their own top prospects. Trading for a young player that is already a star is typically safer than counting on a prospect that might turn into one someday. Stanton was the runner-up for the MVP award in 2014, so there is no doubting his star power. The 25-year old is entering his prime, so it’s not as if Boston would be acquiring a player headed for his decline years.

Through his first six major league seasons Stanton has hit .270/.362/.547 with a 145 OPS+. He already has 181 home runs, giving him an average of over 30 per season, despite playing his home games in pitcher-friendly stadiums. Imagine the damage he could do playing half his games in the cozy confines of Fenway.

The Red Sox did spend some time imagining it, but ultimately decided the price tag was too steep. You may be asking yourself how any prospect could be worth more than a player that is already one of the game’s best hitters, but you know what? Boston was right to pass on this opportunity.

The breakout season that Bogaerts is currently enjoying serves as a reminder of why the Red Sox were wise to be patient with their young shortstop. Bogaerts, who just turned 23 on October 1, is currently tied for the league lead with 194 hits. In the last 40 years there have only been 7 other players with that many hits at age 22 or younger. Cal Ripken and George Brett are already in the Hall of Fame, while Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera will almost certainly join them.

Stanton won’t ever pile up that many hits in a season, but he makes up for it with his tremendous power. These are two completely different types of hitters, so while Stanton won’t be challenging for batting titles, Bogaerts probably won’t flirt with a 40-homer season. That’s fine though, because Bogaerts doesn’t have to do that to match Stanton’s value.

Part of what increases Bogaerts’ value is the position he plays. Shortstop is a much more difficult position to fill than corner outfielder. Houston’s Carlos Correa leads all major league shortstops with 21 home runs, while only 15 shortstops have reached double-digits this season. Bogaerts has a career-high of only 12, but his power is still developing. He’s projected to eventually reach that 20+ home run level, which would potentially make him the best in the game at his position. Given the difference between the average shortstop’s power and what Bogaerts is projected to become, that could help make up for the gap between Stanton and the right fielder the Red Sox will use instead.

Bogaerts may not be anything close to the power hitter Stanton is, but he has still been a run-producer, hitting .338 with runners in scoring position this season. He has also been coming through in the clutch with a .386 average with RISP and 2 outs. In late & close game situations he’s hitting .363 and he’s at .370 when the score is tied.

Stanton has hit only .271 in his career with RISP, which increases slightly to .274 in that situation with 2 outs. He has hit .281 when the score is tied, but has struggled in late & close situations, hitting only .206.

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We also have to consider the contract differential. Granted these discussions occurred before Stanton was rewarded with his historic deal, but he was going to get paid regardless. The only reason Miami was entertaining offers was as a contingency plan in case they couldn’t convince their star player to sign an extension and there’s no chance Boston would have made this deal unless they were assured that they could reach a similar agreement.

Stanton will be paid an average of $25 million per year over the course of his 13-year extension. Meanwhile, Bogaerts isn’t even arbitration eligible until 2017 and made a cool $543,000 this season. Bogaerts can become a free agent following the 2020 season, but even when he inevitably gets his own mega-contract it won’t be in that stratosphere. No shortstop has ever had an average annual value higher than Derek Jeter‘s $18.9 million, unless you count A-Rod’s free agent contract with the Rangers in 2001, but Rodriguez didn’t stay at the position for the bulk of that deal.

While Stanton’s salary won’t climb to $25 million until 2018, he’ll still be significantly more expensive than Bogaerts. Instead of splurging on a guy with the richest contract in North American sports, Boston can use those savings to beef up their starting rotation. Yes, the Red Sox have more money to spend than the Marlins, but the rest of their roster is also significantly more expensive. Boston can afford Stanton, but their funds aren’t limitless. Add his salary to their payroll and they will be limited on resources they can afford to allocate elsewhere.

Think of it this way, which would you rather have: David Price, Jackie Bradley and Bogaerts or Stanton, Deven Marrero and Joe Kelly?

Even if we concede that Stanton is the better hitter, it doesn’t necessarily mean he will be a better all-around player. Bogaerts has a 4.6 WAR this season, which doesn’t trail the 5.5 WAR Stanton produced in his age-22 season by much. Stanton has averaged about 4.1 WAR in his career, with a career-high of 6.5 that he accomplished last year. If Bogaerts continues to hit for a high average, while adding a modest power increase and continuing to make strides defensively, it’s reasonable to expect him to reach Stanton’s range within the next few years.

The bottom line is that Stanton and Bogaerts are both great players. In a vacuum you could easily conclude that their long-term values make them a fair match for a trade. However, given the additional positional value and his significantly cheaper contract, I would still take Bogaerts.

Clearly the Red Sox would too.