Why a Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich trade makes sense for both Phillies and Marlins

Why a Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich trade makes sense for both Phillies and Marlins

Ken Rosenthal, who now no longer writes for Fox Sports, posted a long, juicy report Wednesday night on Facebook that involves the Phillies, Marlins, Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich.

From Rosenthal:

"When I first heard the trade concept — heard it from three different sources — I thought, 'Whoa. Interesting.' It’s interesting, all right. Damn interesting. And though the idea is extremely unlikely to advance — at least in its entirety — it is worthy of further discussion, simply because of the insight it provides into the two clubs involved.

"The concept was this: Marlins outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich to the Phillies, with the Phillies absorbing the remainder of the two contracts — Stanton’s monster deal through 2027 (he can opt out after '20) and Yelich’s below-market deal through 2021.

"A potential $339.5 million, for those keeping score — a massive sum that surely would have limited the Marlins’ prospect return if the conversations ever got started, which, according to sources, they did not. The Phils kicked around the concept internally, sources said."

Well, hot diggity. Let's take a look at this one.

Why it makes sense for the Marlins
The perpetually reloading Marlins are 41-46 with little shot at making the playoffs. They received impressive first halves from Marcell Ozuna, Justin Bour, Stanton and J.T. Realmuto and solid production from Yelich and Dee Gordon. And yet they're nine games out of the second wild-card spot.

If the Miami front office is being realistic, then it knows changes need to be made. Stanton stayed healthy in the first half, five other starting position players hit well, and they're still not a contender. If the realistic ceiling of a team with a lineup this deep is to hover around .500, then what's the point? Especially when you're not selling tickets, and especially with an ownership change coming in the near future.

If the Marlins trade Stanton, it wouldn't be because they doubt his abilities moving forward. It would be because of that gargantuan contract and the fact that Stanton has played more than 123 games just twice in his eight seasons.

Miami may also be dubious that Stanton will stay healthier as he ages. Few athletes do. Plus, he's such a big guy with so much swing-and-miss in his game that by, say 2024, this might be an Albert Pujols-like situation.

The contracts
Stanton signed a 13-year, $325 million contract prior to the 2015 season. The first three years of the deal are by far the cheapest. Here's how it plays out:

2015: $6.5M
2016: $9M
2017: $14.5M
2018: $25M
2019: $26M
2020: $26M
2021: $29M
2022: $29M
2023: $32M
2024: $32M
2025: $32M
2026: $29M
2027: $25M
2028: $25M club option ($10M buyout)

If that doesn't make your head spin ...

Stanton has a full no-trade clause, and he can opt out of this contract after the 2020 season. Though there's probably no chance he does opt out because he'll be 31 years old with eight guaranteed years and $244 million left on his deal. As sought-after as Stanton is, there's a near-zero-percent chance any other team gives him that deal at 31.

Trading Stanton would be such a typical Marlins move. Give a guy a huge, backloaded contract, pay him during the inexpensive years, trade him as soon as the annual salary skyrockets.

Yelich is on a much team-friendlier deal. He signed a seven-year deal prior to 2015 worth just under $50 million. From 2018-21, he's owed a total of $44.5 million. There's also a 2022 club option worth $15 million.

Yelich is the more appealing player even though Stanton is the bigger offensive difference-maker. Yelich is younger, has a better contract, has been healthier, and though he doesn't come close to matching Stanton's power, he's a more consistent offensive player.

Phillies' valuation of Stanton and Yelich
The Phillies' previous front office loved Stanton and probably would have overpaid for him in a trade.

The Phillies' current front office values raw power less and the hit tool more. It's why they've drafted Mickey Moniak and Adam Haseley — who both drew Yelich comparisons — in the first round the last two years. It's why you hear Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail speak so often about "controlling the strike zone."

Yelich controls the strike zone. He's a .291 career hitter with a .376 OBP, and he's walked 70-plus times in two of his last three full seasons. He runs deep counts, is comfortable hitting with two strikes and though he'll whiff some, he doesn't run egregiously high strikeout totals. 

Stanton does not control the strike zone as well. He hits the ball so incredibly hard when he makes contact that his balls in play fall for hits more often than they do for others, but he strikes out a lot and when he's cold, he's an easy out. Pitchers routinely attack Stanton with breaking balls on the outside corner. He's so big and his bat is so long that he often thinks he can reach that pitch, but he rarely does. 

Any team would love to have Stanton, but you have to surround him with the right kind of team. If you have several undisciplined hitters in the lineup ahead of him or behind him, you're going to have many quick innings, many low-scoring nights and a lot of strikeouts. Of course, you're also going to have a lot of fun nights filled with home runs.

Why it makes sense for the Phillies
The Phillies' future payroll sheet is as blank as it gets. They owe Odubel Herrera $3.5 million in 2018, they're responsible for $2.5 million of Cole Hamels' deal and that is literally it. 

Even when you account for arbitration raises (Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp), and the minimum-type salaries paid to Hector Neris, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola, Tommy Joseph, Aaron Altherr and Andrew Knapp, they're looking at a payroll of approximately $25-30 million. 

Thus, they could absorb and pay Stanton's bloated contract. They might not want that sort of commitment, but they're in the position to take it on.

We've heard a lot about the 2018 free-agent class, which includes two young stars in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. If nothing materializes with this Marlins trade idea, the Phils could take their chances and hope to land Harper or Machado 17 months from now. But there's obviously no guarantee they land either player.

What might Phillies have to give up?
In Rosenthal's post, he writes that the Marlins would be wise to trade Stanton and Yelich in separate packages. It would allow them to recoup prospects for Yelich, which would be more difficult to do if they're attaching Stanton's contract to him.

If the Phillies did decide to make an offer for both players, they'd have to pay the salaries and also give up several young players. 

Would something like Franco, Velasquez, another pitcher and two outfielders from the Herrera-Nick Williams-Dylan Cozens-Roman Quinn group get it done?

The Marlins would have to think long and hard about that sort of offer. They'd get younger and cheaper while adding major-league-ready pieces. They probably want pitching more than anything else.

This is all a worthwhile exercise because the Marlins have what many regard as the worst farm system in baseball and a way to go about fixing it. The Phillies have quantity of prospects but a barren major-league roster.

Rosenthal wouldn't have reported this if there wasn't a chance, however small, of something potentially happening. Remember, he was lambasted once upon a time for proposing the idea that the Phillies could trade Cliff Lee in their efforts to acquire Roy Halladay. How'd that one turn out?

Also remember, of course, that 28 other teams could make a push for Stanton and/or Yelich. Everyone knows the Marlins will listen to offers and there will be no shortage of GMs checking in on what it would take to pry them away.

Phillies-Astros 5 things: Bats need to stay hot vs. Charlie Morton, MLB's best offense

Phillies-Astros 5 things: Bats need to stay hot vs. Charlie Morton, MLB's best offense

Phillies (34-63) vs. Astros (66-33)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

After a 13-4 shellacking by the AL-best Astros last night, the Phillies look to rebound in Game 2 tonight.

Here are five things to watch:

1. Well that was ugly...
Monday night’s loss was ugly. Words don’t do it justice. So take a look at this tweet instead.

That local hero may need to grow a third hand for tonight’s game, because it doesn’t get any easier for the Phillies tonight. 

It’s Nick Pivetta’s turn to try and cool the Astros’ unstoppable offense. The Phillies may catch a break with All-Star outfielder George Springer — hitting .311 with 27 homers on the year — left Monday’s game in the third inning with a sore quad muscle and may sit out tonight. Superstar shortstop Carlos Correa remains on the DL. But Jose Altuve is hitting .507 — yes that’s a five — in July, so Pivetta has his work cut out for him.

Pivetta flashed his big-league potential with two dominant starts at the beginning of July, but he has come back down to earth in his last two outings, highlighted by a five-inning start in Milwaukee where he gave up nine runs. The rookie’s success came with his high number of fly ball outs. Pivetta was able to get hitters to pop up on weak fly balls and keep them off balance. In his first two July starts, Pivetta had a 25 to 8 fly ball to ground ball ratio, while giving up just four runs in that span. Over his last two starts, he has given up 12 runs while inducing just 17 fly balls and 17 groundouts. Fortunately for Pivetta, the Astros have the sixth-most fly outs in MLB this year.

2. But, there is hope 
There is hope for the Phillies, though. Before last night’s debacle, the team was on a bit of a hot streak. The Phillies are 4-2 in their last six games, while averaging 5.7 runs since the All-Star break. That’s tied for the seventh-most runs scored in all of MLB during that span. That’s quite an improvement from 29th before the All-Star break. Last night’s loss ended a seven-game streak of at least five runs scored for the Phillies. Something they haven’t done in a single season since 2005.

The Phillies will need to keep up the hot bats to keep up with the Astros tonight.

3. Morton returns
And to do that, the Phillies will have to hit against former Phillies’ great Charlie Morton. Don’t remember the salt man? That’s probably because he only pitched in four games for the Phils in 2016 before tearing his left hamstring in April and missed the remainder of the season. 

Now he’s with the Astros, and has excelled in the back end of the rotation. In 13 starts, the 33-year-old is 7-4 with a 4.18 ERA. However, he is averaging three walks allowed per start, something the Phillies’ should look to capitalize on if Morton struggled with his command early.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: 
Odubel Herrera has really turned his season around as of late. Herrera is back to his All-Star 2016 form, hitting .524 over the last week with four doubles and seven runs scored. Perhaps most noticeable is Herrera's newfound plate discipline. No longer flailing wildly at pitches in the dirt, Herrera has worked five walks in his last 21 at-bats. 

Astros: It's impossible not to mention Altuve here. His insane month of July (.507/.554/1.314) has made him the AL MVP favorite. Standing at just 5-foot-6, Altuve can do it all, including hit for power (15 home runs in 2017). 

5. This and that
• Charlie Morton's 4.18 ERA would be second-best among Phils' starters. Aaron Nola leads the rotation with a 3.38 ERA.

• Maikel Franco's recent hot streak has helped revive the Phillies' offense. Franco is hitting .300 since the All-Star break with as many walks (5) as strikeouts.

• The Astros have a 17-game cushion in the AL West. The Phillies are 25 games back of the Nationals in the NL East.

Phillies prove no match for AL-best Astros in series opener

Phillies prove no match for AL-best Astros in series opener

BOX SCORE

A lot has changed since the Houston Astros last came to Philadelphia in 2014. Back then the Astros were a rebuilding team on their way to a 92-loss season after reaching triple-digit losses the previous three seasons.

Now, the Astros' rebuild is complete and they have the best record (66-33) in the American League and the second best in the majors after the Los Angeles Dodgers (68-31).

The Astros have a powerhouse offense that ranks first in the majors in runs (594), hits (1,105), doubles (222), homers (165), batting average (.293) and OPS (.863).

Those numbers burned the eyes of Phillies manager Pete Mackanin when he got a look at them before Monday's game.

"When I look at their stat sheet and look at all their numbers, I really don't want to look at it," he said. "But once again, good pitching will stop good hitting, so if we can get good outings from some of our pitchers, we have a chance."

The Phillies did not get a good outing from their starting pitcher, nor did they get good work from the bullpen, as they lost Monday's series opener, 13-4 (see Instant Replay).

The Astros pounded out 18 hits and eight of them were for extra bases.

And they did all that damage without star shortstop Carlos Correa (.320/20/67). He is on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his thumb. Also, All-Star George Springer (.311/27/66) left the game in the third inning with a sore quad muscle.

So it could have been worse if the Astros had played with a full deck.

"We’ve been playing pretty well recently and these kinds of games happen," said Mackanin, whose club is 5-5 after the All-Star break. "Unfortunately, this was one of those games.

"Houston is as good a team as we've seen. They have nine guys with double-digit home runs. They are a real aggressive team, one of the best, if not the best, that we’ve seen. They have aggressive hitters. You can't make mistakes against them. Early in the count, they hack at those mistakes. They don’t strike out a lot.

"It was noticeable that they go up there ready to hit every pitch. They're not taking to get a look at the pitcher. If you make a mistake over the plate, they look to hurt you, to do damage."

The Phillies trailed 12-1 in the seventh inning before rookie Nick Williams tripled home three runs. Williams has three triples and 18 RBIs in 72 at-bats with the big club.

Cesar Hernandez had three hits and Odubel Herrera added a pair to raise his July batting average to .364 (24 for 66).

"Other than that, there weren't a lot of bright spots," Mackanin said.

Phillies starting pitcher Vince Velasquez, pitching against his former team, worked into the fourth inning, but had his outing cut short by a one-hour, 52-minute rain delay. Velasquez might not have pitched deep into the game even in good weather conditions. He struggled with location and did not use his secondary pitches effectively. He gave up a pair of home runs (to Brian McCann and Alex Bregman) in the second inning, both on fastballs.

Mackanin was rather blunt when asked how he thought Velasquez pitched.

"He gave up six hits, two home runs, in three innings," Mackanin said. "His velocity was OK, but if you don't locate against a team like this, you're going to get hurt."

Velasquez walked three. One of those walks turned into a run.

"They were hunting fastballs," Velasquez said. "Maybe if I utilized my secondary pitches more I would have slowed their bats down and protected my fastball better. They hammer mistakes.

"I probably could have done a better job if I executed. Correa was out of the lineup. If he was in there he probably would have done some damage, too. This team is hot. They're in first place for a reason. They're very selective. They are in the zone. They're locked in."

Ricardo Pinto picked up Velasquez when the game resumed in the top of the fourth inning. He was tagged for seven hits and six runs in 1 1/3 inning. Three of the runs were unearned.