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.

Best of MLB: D-backs clinch top wild card spot with walk-off win over Marlins

usa-dbacks-clinch.jpg
USA Today Images

Best of MLB: D-backs clinch top wild card spot with walk-off win over Marlins

PHOENIX -- J.D. Martinez lined a two-out RBI single to deep left field with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, and the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Miami Marlins 3-2 on Sunday to clinch the top wild card in the National League.

The Diamondbacks, who won only 69 games a year ago but are 90-66 this season, were assured a playoff berth in the fourth inning after St. Louis and Milwaukee lost. The comeback victory ensured Arizona will host the NL wild-card game Oct. 4.

Fernando Rodney (5-4) pitched a perfect inning for the win.

A throwing error by Justin Nicolino (2-3) on Kristopher Negron's sacrifice bunt helped load the bases with no outs in the ninth (see full recap).

Cubs close in on NL Central title behind Quintana's 3-hit shoutout
MILWAUKEE -- Jose Quintana pitched a three-hitter for his second big league shutout, and the Chicago Cubs beat Milwaukee 5-0 Sunday to close in on a second straight NL Central title and damage the Brewers' playoff hopes.

Coming off its first World Series title since 1908, Chicago (87-68) won three of four in the weekend series and opened a 5-game lead over the second-place Brewers (82-73) with seven games remaining. Milwaukee began the day one game behind Colorado for the NL's second wild card.

Quintana (7-3 with Cubs, 11-11 overall) struck out 10 and walked one in his second complete game in 182 starts. He threw 116 pitches, his most since Sept. 7 last year.

He did not allow any extra-base hits and retired his final 11 batters after walking Domingo Santana in the sixth (see full recap).

Rockies beat Padres to open 2-game lead for last wild card
SAN DIEGO -- Gerardo Parra hit a tiebreaking single in a two-run third inning, Pat Valaika and Charlie Blackmon hit consecutive home runs in the ninth and the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres 8-4 Sunday to open a two-game lead over Milwaukee for the second NL wild card heading into the final week of the regular season.

St. Louis trails the Rockies by 2 games. Seeking its first postseason appearance since 2009, Colorado opens a six-game homestand Monday, playing Miami and then the Los Angeles Dodgers. At 41-40, the Rockies tied their record for road wins, set in 2009.

German Marquez (11-7) allowed two runs, five hits and three walks in five innings. He had been 0-2 in six starts since beating Milwaukee on Aug. 18. Colorado starters have a 2.52 ERA in their last nine games (see full recap).

Twins top Tigers for 4-game sweep, close on wild card
DETROIT -- Jorge Polanco and Eduardo Escobar homered, and Minnesota beat the Detroit Tigers 10-4 on Sunday to complete a four-game sweep that moved the Twins closer to securing a wild-card berth in the playoffs.

Polanco hit a solo homer in the first off Buck Farmer (4-5), and Escobar welcomed Victor Alcantara with a three-run drive in the sixth.

Minnesota (82-74) began the day 4 games ahead of Kansas City, Texas and the Los Angeles Angels for the second AL wild card. The Twins outscored the Tigers 39-12 in the sweep.

Detroit has lost seven straight and 14 of 16. At 62-94, the Tigers will finish with their worst record since going 43-119 in 2003 (see full recap).

Nick Pivetta continues build toward strong finish in Phillies' win over Braves

Nick Pivetta continues build toward strong finish in Phillies' win over Braves

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies and Atlanta Braves are both rebuilding teams that have looked to acquire as much pitching as possible over the last few seasons.

The Phillies added Nick Pivetta in the trade that sent Jonathan Papelbon to Washington two years ago. The Braves picked up Luiz Gohara from Seattle back in January.

If both pitchers continue to develop, there's a chance they could face each other in a National League division race someday. 

On Sunday, they squared off in a battle of teams playing out the string, but the intensity of the matchup was good. That can happen in the penultimate weekend of the season. After all, impressions can be made right up until the final pitch of the season. Players are always auditioning, especially rookies hoping to win spots next season.

Pivetta, 24, made a very nice showing. He out-pitched Gohara in helping the Phillies salvage one game of the three-game series against the Braves with a 2-0 win (see observations).

Maikel Franco and Aaron Altherr keyed a just-enough Phillies' offense with a solo homer and an RBI double and the bullpen triumvirate of Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris combined for three scoreless innings to seal the shutout.

Pivetta pitched six shutout innings, walked one and struck out four. He gave up five hits. It's been an up-and-down season for the rookie right-hander. There's been a lot of on-the-job training and a few bruisings. He is 7-10 with a 6.26 ERA in 25 starts. He has allowed just two runs in 12 innings over his last two starts, so he's finishing the season on a high note.

"The key to his outing today was that he was throwing all his pitches for strikes," manager Pete Mackanin said. "His breaking ball and his changeup, he really did a good job with them, throwing them ahead in the count and behind in the count, so that was key.

"This is the place to learn. You can have a lot of success in the minor leagues but when you get up here it's a different animal. The best place to learn is at the big-league level and take your lumps and learn from them. Now, if you have too many guys like that you don’t win a lot of games, so you can afford to have one or maybe two guys in the rotation that are feeling their way through it, but not more than that."

Forced to the majors by injuries in the rotation early in the season, Pivetta has often talked about the learning experience his first year in the majors has been.

He was happy to talk about getting a victory Sunday.

"It's been nice," he said. "I've settled down a little the last two starts. Today, I just tried to do the right things — get ahead of hitters. And the guys played great defense behind me.

"Even when I had runners on base, I was able to attack the hitters the way I wanted and I didn't put too much pressure on myself."

That's not always easy for a rookie pitcher in a close game. Pivetta's ability to stay cool and pitch around baserunners in the fifth and sixth innings was a sign of his improvement. He will have one more start before the season ends and is looking to build on two good ones and go into the offseason with a healthy dose of confidence. He will be a candidate for a spot in the rotation next spring.

Sunday's victory left the Phillies at 62-94. They need to win one of their final six games to avoid 100 losses. That once seemed to be a certainty, but they have played well since the All-Star break, recording a 33-36 record since then. They were 29-58 before the break.

Young players such as Nick Williams and Rhys Hoskins have come up from the minors and given the Phils a lift in recent weeks. The bullpen has also improved with Ramos, Morgan, Neris and Luis Garcia (before Saturday night) pitching well. Morgan pitched a scoreless eighth inning Sunday. He has allowed just two runs over his last 24 innings. That covers 18 appearances since Aug. 2. Neris is 18 for 18 in save opportunities since June 28.

The only run that the Phils scored against Gohara came in the fifth when Franco smacked a first-pitch changeup into the left-field seats for his 21st homer. The pitch was on the middle-half of the plate, Franco's happy zone.

Franco is hitting .308 with three homers and seven RBIs since J.P. Crawford came up and applied a little competitive heat.

Franco said that's coincidence, that he's focused only on what he needs to do to get better.

"I think when those young guys come up it always creates an energy spurt in everybody," Mackanin said. "For whatever reason, if Maikel is having a good September, I hope it carries through for five or six months next year. One month does not a good year make. Hopefully, he'll have a better approach and he's going to be more successful."