On the final day of the general managers meetings, as executives piled into cars pulling them away from the Waldorf Astoria, the man who holds the keys to what could be the biggest move of the baseball offseason stood inside a crowd of reporters three rows deep underneath a canopy next to the hotel.
Derek Jeter, the new chief executive officer of the Miami Marlins, confirmed he was listening to trade offers for four-time all-star Giancarlo Stanton as part of a rebuilding process designed to slash the payroll of his beleaguered franchise. As baseball waits for Shohei Ohtani to arrive from Japan, Stanton stands as the most talented player available this winter, with ripple effects that could alter the power structure of the National League.
Since taking over as part of a new ownership group in late September, Jeter indicated he has not spoken to Stanton. “If there’s a reason to call, I’ll call,” Jeter said.
At some point in the next couple of months, there likely will be a reason. The Dodgers are among the teams who have made contact with the Marlins about Stanton, according to people familiar with the situation. However, there remains a sizable gap between preliminary discussions and the completion of a deal.
Teams such as St. Louis and San Francisco are considered more committed suitors. The Miami Herald reported eight teams have inquired about Stanton, with six deemed “serious.”
Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers president of baseball operations, owns a reputation for aggressive due diligence, checking in on elite talent at every opportunity. The team’s run to the World Series delayed its offseason planning, and Dodgers officials said they spent most of their time in Orlando focusing on internal staffing, after the departures of front-office officials Alex Anthopoulos, Gabe Kapler and Jeremy Zoll.
The Dodgers do not view the outfield as an area of need. Their stockpile includes Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez, Andrew Toles and Alex Verdugo.
Stanton still represents a sizable upgrade. He hit 59 home runs in 2017 and led the National League with a .631 slugging percentage. His history with injuries offers reason for pause. Stanton has averaged only 123 games per season since 2012.
The hulking slugger was drafted by the Marlins out of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High and is believed to be keen on returning home, according to people familiar with the situation. Stanton holds a full no-trade clause, and could attempt to steer the process toward Los Angeles.
His zeal in escaping Miami may exceed his interest in a homecoming. Stanton has never played in the postseason.
“I don’t want to rebuild,” he told FanRag Sports near the end of the season. “I’ve lost for seven years.”
The most significant roadblock toward a deal is the reason the Marlins aim to trade a player who might win the National League MVP award: his contract, which guarantees Stanton at least $295 million through the next 10 seasons. Stanton can opt out after 2020, but to do so he would walk away from $218 million.
After being penalized by the luxury tax for the fifth consecutive season, the Dodgers are one year away from increased financial flexibility as onerous contracts for Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy come off the books. With Clayton Kershaw able to choose free agency after 2018, the Dodgers may be wary of additional long-term commitments.
In theory, the Dodgers could bundle some of their curdled contracts to offset a portion of Stanton’s deal. Yet the Marlins have not tipped their hand about what they intend to accomplish by trading Stanton. Do they want to collect as much talent as possible in return? Or do they prefer dumping as much salary as possible?
Jeter declined to reveal his team’s preference. He declined to even say the Marlins were shopping Stanton.
“I understand the assumptions,” Jeter said. “But we have not come out publicly and said we’re going to trade him.”
Miami’s financial situation is not a secret. In buying the team from Jeffrey Loria for $1.2 billion, the new ownership group led by Bruce Sherman took on $400 million in debt. Marlins Park has ranked last in the National League in attendance in every season since 2013. Jeter indicated there needed to be financial “adjustments.”
“It’s an organization that’s been losing money for quite some time, so you have to turn that around,” Jeter said. “How we do that, it’s not clear. It’s easy to point the finger at him, because he makes the most money, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the move we’re going to make.”