Rule number one, as always, for reading these spitball ideas: Understand that this will not happen.
Rule number two: I do my best to think these through, not only from the Rangers’ standpoint but — more importantly — from the perspective of the other team. It’s real easy to propose Nick Tepesch, Wilmer Font, and Joey Butler for Chris Sale (you should see some of the email ideas I get from time to time), but it’s pointless unless you can give it some thought as if you were on the other side and it passes the giggle test.
Rule number thr—
Nah, forget it.
Just remember: This isn’t happening.
Texas trades outfielders Alex Rios and Michael Choice, second baseman Rougned Odor, righthanders Luke Jackson and Connor Sadzeck, and corner bat Joey Gallo and $8 million to Miami for outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna.
Here’s why it won’t happen:
Because Miami isn’t open to trading Stanton yet, evidently. That club’s hoping that a resurgence headed by ace Jose Fernandez and a handful of other ceiling arms, the arrival of 22-year-old outfielders Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick, and the off-season addition of players who have won like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Rafael Furcal might lead to a better 2014, building off a decent finish in 2013 (49-59 ball after a 14-40 start to the season), and convince Stanton not to push for a trade. Though it will be expensive, he’s under club control through 2016. The Marlins don’t need to trade him now.
Because, as Jon Daniels pointed out at yesterday’s Shin-Soo Choo press conference, Texas is able to step out on players like Choo not only because ownership is willing to go big for the right fit, but also because the farm system is in strong enough shape that, looking ahead three to five years, the club won’t need to rely on free agency to fill every key roster spot. Without players making pre-arbitration money to count on over the next few seasons, you can’t commit to Choo and Prince Fielder. In other words: Moving Choice and Odor and Jackson and Sadzeck and Gallo — even for a player like Stanton — would make it more difficult at some level to keep this roster together, and to imagine (for instance) being able to keep Yu Darvish around past this contract, or Elvis Andrus when he opts out after the 2018 season.
But here are the things that got me thinking about this idea, and why I decided to spend an hour writing about it:
Next winter’s free agent hitter class is shaping up to be terrible. Chase Headley and Brett Gardner will get paid, but there’s no Robinson Cano or Jacoby Ellsbury, no Fielder or Albert Pujols
And lots of teams with money to spend.
Texas has a $14 million club option on Rios for next year, and a $1 million buyout to void it. Even though he’s not a star player, assuming he has a reasonably standard Alex Rios season in 2013, he’s the type of player who would get paid well in free agency, especially given how he’d stand up compared to what else will be available. If you didn’t want to keep him at that price point, you could probably risk making him a qualifying offer next winter, expect that he’d decline it, and recoup a supplemental first-round draft pick as compensation.
Of course, the Rangers, given their current makeup, might exercise the option and keep him one more season.
But the Marlins wouldn’t have to.
They could tender whatever next winter’s qualifying offer will be (it was $13.3 million a year ago, and $14.1 million this winter) and feel reasonably certain that he’d decline it, which would result in that compensatory supplemental first-round pick.
And in the meantime, they’d get a year out of Rios (not the same as a year out of Stanton, of course, but legitimate production) alongside Yelich and Marisnick, and Choice would step in a year later. Assuming Marisnick spends the beginning of the season in the minor leagues, he and Yelich would be a year apart in terms of eventual free agency, and Choice would probably fit in with Marisnick.
If Miami doesn’t think it can win in the next two years, and doesn’t think Stanton will sign an extension at the level it’s able to pay, trading Stanton before his walk year stands to bring back more in return than waiting until then.
The other thing about the CBA compensation rules is that the order of those supplemental first-rounders is based not on the formulaic value of the player who went away (like it used to, when players had Elias rankings), but instead solely on the team’s win percentage from the previous season. The supplemental first-rounder Miami would get will be near the top of that sandwich round, and that’s going to be true whether Rios turns down a qualifying offer after a pedestrian season or turns in Stanton-esque numbers.
You also can’t make a qualifying offer to a free agent you didn’t have for the full preceding season. That’s why Texas couldn’t extend one to Matt Garza — and why Miami wouldn’t be able to flip Rios into a first-round pick next winter if they traded for him in July. The trade, at least for purposes of this Rios draft pick compensation angle, would have to happen before Opening Day.
The $8 million chip-in that I proposed would cover the difference between Stanton’s 2014 salary (expected to land somewhere in the $5 million range via arbitration) and Rios’s $13 million commitment.
Yelich, Marisnick, and Choice would theoretically man Miami’s outfield for years. Odor becomes the Marlins’ everyday second baseman by 2014, Gallo is groomed to play first base down the road (2013 first-rounder Colin Moran will play third base), and Jackson (who is from half an hour outside Miami) and Sadzeck give the club two more big right-handed arms to plug into the pipeline.
Choo, Andrus, Fielder, Stanton, Beltre, Moreland, Soto/Arencibia, Profar, Martin.
(Ozuna fits in for Texas as the right-handed bat who can play all over the outfield and offer a little pop. A poor man’s Michael Choice, perhaps.)
The Rangers didn’t have to part with any prospects to get Fielder or anyone else this winter. They forfeited a late first to sign Choo but will recoup a supplemental first when Nelson Cruz signs somewhere else.
But Texas isn’t the type of franchise who will refuse to trade a prospect, and even though it’s critical to have minor leaguers on the way who can help balance the payroll, even with a trade like this one you still have catcher Jorge Alfaro and shortstop Luis Sardinas and outfielders Nick Williams and Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara and Jairo Beras and shortstop/third baseman Travis Demeritte and first baseman Ronald Guzman and plenty of arms, headed by righthander Chi-Chi Gonzalez.
I would hate losing Odor. But it’s difficult to see where he’s going to fit with Andrus and Jurickson Profar in place for years to come.
And trading for Giancarlo Stanton is why you build the kind of depth that would allow for a silly spitball exercise like this one, an idea that: