The Miami Marlins, publicly rebuked four years ago for not spending enough money on player salaries, are set to make outfielder Giancarlo Stanton the highest-paid athlete in North American sports history.
The Marlins and Stanton have agreed on a 13-year contract worth $325 million, owner Jeffrey Loria told media outlets Monday. Stanton passed a physical examination Monday, and a news conference to announce the deal is scheduled Wednesday.
"We have a face of the franchise for the next 13 years," Loria told the Miami Herald. "We are going to be surrounding him ... with All-Star-caliber players."
Stanton, 25, led the National League with 37 home runs. He finished second to the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw in NL most-valuable-player voting. Stanton was hit in the face by a pitch Sept. 11, suffering facial fractures, dental damage and facial lacerations, and did not play the rest of the season.
If Stanton suffers a major injury, or if his performance declines, the Marlins still must pay the $325 million, although teams can insure against serious injury.
The Marlins have neither posted a winning record nor finished within 17 games of first place in the NL East since 2009, the year before Stanton made his debut.
However, the new contract protects Stanton in two ways: a no-trade clause, enabling him to control a potential deal by vetoing any destination, and an opt-out clause, allowing him to declare himself a free agent after the 2020 season.
That could set up an all-time bonanza in free agency. Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the American League MVP, also can become a free agent in 2020.
Loria, however, said he expected Stanton to remain with the Marlins for the life of the contract.
"He obviously saw last year that the franchise was serious about winning and serious about doing great things in the new stadium," Loria said.
In an extraordinarily rare public announcement, Loria's Marlins were censured in 2010 by Major League Baseball and the players' union over concerns that the team did not spend enough of its revenue-sharing income on player salaries.
Their ballpark opened in 2012 and Loria committed $191 million to contracts for three free agents -- shortstop Jose Reyes and pitchers Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. By the time the 2012 season had ended, with the Marlins in last place, they had dumped shortstop Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers and pitcher Anibal Sanchez to the Detroit Tigers.
After the season, the Marlins sent Bell to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Reyes, Buehrle, catcher John Buck and pitcher Josh Johnson to the Toronto Blue Jays, saving $164 million and inspiring this tweet from Stanton: "Alright, I'm pissed off!!! Plain & Simple."
But the Marlins got what turned out to be a nice return in the Blue Jays trade, including shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and pitcher Henderson Alvarez, who threw a no-hitter in 2013. The Marlins' young talent also includes right-hander Jose Fernandez, the 2013 NL rookie of the year, and outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.
Stanton grew up in the San Fernando Valley and attended Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks. He told The Times in July that his childhood friends often asked when he would come play for his hometown team.
"All the time," Stanton said then. "They're like, 'You need to come play for us.' "
At the time, Stanton said he wanted to see progress from the Marlins. They won 77 games this year, a 15-game improvement from last year.
"I want to win," he said in July. "If we're prepared to win, I want to stay."