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The Cardinals Want Giancarlo Stanton, but When Do They Turn to Plan B?

File this under the heading of “Telling the Cardinals Something They Already Know.”

In their pursuit of a trade that would transport Giancarlo Stanton from Miami and to a spot in the heart of the Cardinals lineup — and in the hearts of the team’s fans — we have to wonder: how long will the Cardinals wait for the Marlins to make a decision?

The Marlins, led by new baseball CEO Derek Jeter, seem to be in no hurry. The Fish front office presumably is hearing from interested teams that want to determine the trade price for acquiring Stanton. The Marlins will have to sort through offers. They’ll have to go to Stanton to see how he feels about potential landing spots — and gauge his willingness to waive his no-trade clause if necessary.

The Marlins have an opportunity to reset and possibly redefine their franchise by moving the game’s biggest slugger, and his $295 million contract, in exchange for a bounty of attractive prospects.

And the Marlins are said to be seeking to add a “sales tax” on any Stanton trade. What does that mean? If a team wants Stanton, they’ll have to take on another burdensome contract to close the deal. Let’s call it the Dee Gordon tax. The Marlins’ second baseman is owed a guaranteed $38 million through 2020, with a buyout of $1 million for 2014. To put Stanton into your lineup, you have to adopt Gordon as well.

I don’t know if the Marlins are serious in their demands. But a couple of baseball people that I’ve talked to believe the Marlins are hoping to dump two contracts — Stanton and an expensive teammate — on prospective trade partners.

Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask. And the Marlins don’t appear to be in a rush. It makes sense for Jeter to see how far teams will go to make a deal for Stanton.

If the Cardinals have taken a Stanton-or-bust approach, they’ll remain patient. But what if the Cardinals wait and wait and wait … only to get burned at the end of the process when the Marlins trade Stanton to, say, San Francisco or Boston?

What if they come out of the offseason market without the so-called BIG BAT and have to scramble to find something else … or even settle for a hitter that they aren’t wild about?

By putting other trade opportunities on hold to maintain a vigil on Stanton, the Cardinals risk losing out on appealing alternative choices. I’m just using this as a hypothetical, but suppose the Cardinals have decided that Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu is “Plan B” to Stanton.

By hesitating to pivot away from the Marlins and Stanton to prioritize Abreu, the Cardinals risk striking out on both deals … and maybe whiffing on other trade possibilities or free-agent signings as well.

(I don’t want to get too entangled in possibilities and theories, but I’m assuming the Cardinals would be willing to hold tight if they covet Marlins outfielders  Marcel Ozuna or Christian Yelich and are confident of acquiring one of the players if Stanton is moved elsewhere.)

Only the Cardinals know how long they’re willing to stay in the game for Stanton. And baseball president John Mozeliak isn’t sharing his strategy with the media or fans.

It’s still widely believed that the Cardinals, Giants and Red Sox have been the most aggressive about engaging the Marlins in Stanton talks.

But according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic other teams could jump in soon. That would extend the process and lengthen the delay for the Cardinals.

“Fans, executives, agents and even reporters want the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes resolved as quickly as possible, the better to unclog the slow-developing trade and free-agent markets,” Rosenthal wrote. “In theory, a Stanton deal might happen at any moment. In reality, due to his complete no-trade clause and the surprising number of teams interested in him, it might take some time.”

The Cardinals have time on their side … but how much?

How long can Mozeliak, GM Michael Girsch and chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. afford to stay parked in neutral to wait for the Marlins and Stanton to make decisions?

This is only one aspect of a tricky offseason for Cardinals’ management.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: Karraker – Cardinals Winter Meetings Mission: Two Big Bats and a Reliever

  • Christopher Toth

    Simply put it is poor strategy to put yourself in a Stanton or bust position enticing as his stats are and would be to the Cards line-up.

    Everyone asks the question does he want to play in St. Louis, but I’d like to know whether he wants to play for Mike Matheny especially knowing there could be a managerial change if the Cards go south in 2018 and miss the playoffs again.

    As an aside, not to knock Matheny, but has any superstar caliber free agent ever said he’d kill to play for Matheny?

    Between location and managerial uncertainty, IMO it would be foolish for the Cards to wait this out. Stanton is one guy and he can mess up his ankle as easily as Harper did last August.

    Never mind that the Cards need more than just one bat lest Stanton is constantly pitched around as well as an established ace.

    • Stanton is not coming here, PERIOD. Per Mozeliak’s usual failed strategies of the last 2 yrs, he’s once again investing all of his time drilling on a dry well. And the big worry is, what will Mozeliak’s 2nd options be? That’s where he’s made the bulk of his mistakes in recent seasons.

      There is some irony to all of this however. For once DeWitt after hoarding so many millions over the last couple of yrs, apparently is ready to finally break loose. And therein lies the irony. The one time DeWitt chooses to pay for a player of Stanton’s caliber, Stanton says no thank you. But make no mistake, DeWitt inside will not suffer from a broken heart, just because he gets to hold on to that extra 30 million per.

      • Christopher Toth

        Milo, I have more faith in Mr. DeWitt than you, but that said, be assured I totally respect your analysis and given the facts as we know them from the outside looking in, you very well could be right and me wrong.

        In the past, I have cited as well the failure of not bolstering the 2015 team as a major mistake that helped cost them a WS appearance. Given that it was DeWitt first failure to do so, I was – and am – willing to give him a pass on it given his overall track record as an owner.

        In terms of 2016 and 2017, I got it why no major deal was made at the trading deadline given the uncertainty over how many draft picks they’d lose due to the hacking fiasco in 2016 and their significant losing record against winning teams in 2017 which didn’t bode well for going deep into the playoffs had they made it.

        This off season though is different.

        They have both the pieces and payroll flexibility to markedly improve the team via a combo of trades and free agent signings.

        If they don’t, then the questions we all need to be asking are the following:

        1. Was DeWitt unwilling to spend?

        2. Why can’t Mo win bidding wars against the Epsteins and Dombrowskis?

        3. Is Matheny a magnet or deterrent to free agents signing here (I don’t know one way or the other but given his extreme overuse of pitchers I could see agents recommending pitchers they represent to sign elsewhere)?

        If question #1 turns out to be no, then not much any of us can do save refusing to spend $ on the team.

        If it is #2 or #3 or combo thereof, then both need to go.

        Truth be told, I am not optimistic much will happen for the good either like you. Never say never but if I am honest, that’s what my gut is telling me. I hope I am wrong.

        One interesting newsflash as I write this. It seems the Marlins are publicly trying to pressure Stanton into accepting a trade. It makes you wonder who it is that he is balking about at least for now. Given SF is west coast, suspect it is the Cards but obviously I can’t know and that’s just me speculating.

        Best.

        • Why is that the Cardinals are always so worried about the loss of their draft picks, at the trade deadline? That, while the other clubs we’re regularly competing with for those playoff positions, ALWAYS do more than DeWitt to improve? Unfortunately there will always be those like you, who read their propaganda and list of excuses, and consider it to be gospel.

          All the Giants did in 2016 was acquire Eduardo Nunez & Mike Moore, both of whom were difference makers. And we subsequently lost out on that playoff berth opportunity by one lone game, as a result of the Cardinals not doing more. In fact, had the Giants bullpen not blown a 3 run 9th inning lead in the 4th game of the NLDS with the Cubs, Moore would’ve gotten them to a deciding game 5 in that series. Moore had punched their ticket, while the Giants had a hot Johnny Cueto slated to pitch that game 5 vs the Cubs.

          You make excuses for them, writing off an entire season, which is what they’ve done for the last 2 seasons at the deadline. You’re saying that team wouldn’t have had a chance, had they got in the playoffs. And I would tell you that is 100% non-sense.

          Don’t ever assume a team is out of any season. I will never believe it. Not after I witnessed an 83 Win Cardinal team in 2006 who barely made the postseason. They got in and got hot just at the right time, to go on to win their World Championship. And one of the biggest reasons why that team won, was a pitcher named Jeff Weaver. He was a literal trade deadline scrap heap garbage dump pickup, THAT LITERALLY NOBODY WANTED TO ACQUIRE AT THE TIME. But the point and the difference at that time, was how Tony LaRussa was the mgr. One of TLR’S favorite sayings was, “EVERY YEAR IS IMPORTANT.” Every yr a maximum effort to win should be made. He insisted in the championship yrs of both 2006 & 2011, that trade deadline activity be necessary for the club to prepare for the postseason. Neither of those 2 championship teams, had any chance without the help picked up at the deadline.

          • Christopher Toth

            People can argue whether the Cards made the right decision to focus on home grown, but having made that decision the problem going into 2016 was the uncertainty of how many draft picks they’d lose.

            Once you’ve started that strategy, if you veer away from it too soon, you can undermine the entirety of its approach.

            As it turned out, thankfully the Cards got off with a relatively light slap on the hands by MLB. Imagine what would have happened had the commissioner come down on DeWitt as he did the Braves a few weeks back. He could have argued – as some did – that by hacking into one teams draft data, the Cards had an unfair advantage that not only damaged the Astros, but every other MLB team too.

            In terms of holding on to draft picks or prospects at the trading deadline, the problem using the 2006 team as your business model is it was the extreme exception and not the rule.

            The chances of repeating that miracle season – and no doubt it was fun to watch – are really slim.

            Given those odds, the question in 2017 really came down to do you try and make deals at the trading deadline wherein teams can exact premiums because of the limited nature of players available or do you hold off until the offseason when many more players be it through free agency or trades are available.

            Halfway through Mo owned up to the team’s failure and his own to meet expectations. Even as they started to string wins together, Mo kept reiterating there would be a lot of offseason changes.

            He got it – finally – that as constructed (and IMO something he doesn’t get in terms of how they were managed) they couldn’t catch the Cubs.

            For me at least in 2017, I thought the better strategic approach was to wait and maximize the value of your organization in the offseason rather than play a 100 to 1 chance eating up some of your key prospects in doing so that would have bought you more value had you waited.

            The problem with the 2017 team is it had an aging core that wasn’t going to get fixed with one or two trades. They need two big bats, a lights out closer, and multiple new bullpen pitchers. Without all of that, there was no way the Cards were going to beat LA or the Nats let alone the Cubs with any degree of certainty.

            Don’t get me wrong.

            I do believe changes have to happen and they need to be substantial. This offseason is Mo’s last chance with me. He doesn’t have to bag Stanton, but he does have to put his money where his mouth was at the All-Star break and massively rebuild the team so that it can realistically compete for another WS title.

            To be clear, I am not saying you are wrong. By all means, it was possible for the Cards to get into the playoffs and one key trade may have accomplished it. All I am saying is the odds of that happening was unlikely and that I personally would play the percentages offered in the offseason.

            Appreciate your points. You express the well. Best.

          • Mark Lee Arbogast

            I had a different take on 2006. The playoffs and series was great but otherwise that was the most dull boring team ever.

          • Christopher Toth

            I wasn’t sufficiently clear. By fun to watch, I was solely referring to the playoffs.

      • Mark Lee Arbogast

        The second option is a scary thought. I just hope Brandon Moss ain’t available

      • Rich Rauch

        Good analysis there. But, while we always see those who use “would of” when they meant “would’ve”, this might be the first time I’ve ever seen “sort’ve” when it should have been “sort of”! LOL

        • Sorry about the grammar. Thank goodness you’re here to keep me on the straight and narrow path.

  • Adam Veile

    I don’t understand packaging Stanton and Gordon. If the trading team is willing to take more salary, why not ask them to pay more of Stanton’s salary? Gordon could possibly be traded on his own or packaged with a more team-friendly contract to offload more total salary. His contract isn’t that bad.

    • JohnS

      That is a very good point. Gordon has more value on his own, and there are likely teams out there that would find him an attractive trade target, but certainly not if they are being asked to go for Stanton also…this just sounds like hot-stove media BS to me….

    • Tim

      Stanton’s relief is in the later years while Marlin’s have to pay Gordon in the next two years. Besides usual inflation. Marlins’ want the relief right now.

  • rightthinker4

    Why would the Cardinals have only an offer on the table for Stanton? Make an offer for Abreu as well. If the Cardinals and White Sox agree on a trade, go for Abreu and forget Stanton. Then see if you can get Ozuna, Yelich or Donaldson. The Cardinals need two bats anyway, and would be money ahead if they didn’t get Stanton.

    • JohnS

      The Cards aren’t going to pay for both Abreu and one of Ozuna, Yelich and Donaldson. Too cheap and likely don’t have the trade-able assets to acquire two more bats….Cards’ prospects are not as appealing to other teams as we Cards’ fans seem to find them. Remember last year? Cards asked about several players to trade for and were told basically that if they didn’t trade Reyes that they had no one of interest. And even he is coming off an arm injury this year.

      • Realist50

        “Remember last year? Cards asked about several players to trade for and were told basically that if they didn’t trade Reyes that they had no one of interest.”

        What’s your source for that claim, and who were the several players in question? I ask because that sounds somewhere between wrong and vastly overstated. If you’re talking about, say, trading for Chris Sale – a great player on a very team-friendly contract – then I’ll believe that Reyes + others was pretty much the only way to get the deal done. Sale got the White Sox the consensus top prospect across baseball (Moncada) plus other value.

        None of the players named are nearly as valuable of trade assets as Sale was one year ago, due to some combination of clearly not being as good (Yelich, Abreu), having far less team-friendly contracts (Stanton most prominently, though Donaldson and Abreu also have fairly high salaries), or not offering as many years of team control (Donaldson, Abreu).

        To say, however, that players such as Weaver and Kelly didn’t have any trade value last year – when they were both on top 100 prospect lists – just doesn’t make sense.

  • geoff

    Not one of us knows what has been said or offered or even the parameters of what a trade with the Marlins would look like. Everyone keeps talking about Yelich who is basically a left handed hitting Piscotty, pre Piscotty with the stupid uppercut swing. Ozuna is coming off a career year and if these Marlons were so great why did they finish so far out of the money? I would love to have Stanton but at what cost? I am intrigued by that Japenese guy but I don’t think I would go be interviewed by him. All of his success is at AAAA level baseball, he hasn’t seen major league anything yet. Abreu is interesting but I heard he is not very good in the field and whether anyone wants to admit it, first base is a very important spot on the field. I wonder if any teams are approaching the Cardinals about any of their players. Had Piscotty not been horsefeathers last season the Cards would have been a playoff team…had the bullpen not been so terrible coming out of Jupiter the Cards may well have won the division because the Cubs had even worse pitching overall. I get the feeling that being a GM of a baseball team is a lot harder than it seems from this chair. Had the Cardinals abandoned that ridiculous idea that they need to add lift and swing from their heels and instead put a team on the field that could hit, they would have been hard to handle. Maybe this year they will figure it out, like they figured it out in Houston, where they played better Cardinal baseball than the Cardinals did. Geoff the GM still thinks a team like the Giants might be a fitting trade partner, they have needs everywhere and the Cards would sure look better with Crawford at short.

    • LawrenceKScardsfan

      That’s true – the Astros did play “better Cardinal baseball than the Cardinals did.”

      • JeremyR

        That’s because the Astros have much better players.

        The problem with the Cardinals is that they are just an average team. They were built to be. And they are.

  • M W

    It’s beyond time to move on. It’s a pipe dream that Stanton would come here to begin with. Let the big markets fight over that guy.
    They need to be going hard after Ozuna.

  • Terry Ryno

    I think you hold until the winter meeting. Then you make sure Marlins/Stanton see you talking to the White Sox, let the rumor start that you are very interested. That the Stanton deal is taking to long and you need to move on to other deals. See how quick Jeter folds

    • Stephen Leath

      I agree. Let’s examine a couple of things not discussed here: does the guy have either a burning desire to play here, or a burning desire for a ring? Let’s look at 2011: Lance Berkman wanted a ring, and I will never forget that bounce off the Gulf sign in right field. Rafael Furcal at mid-season completely transformed that team as a human vacuum cleaner, all because he wanted a ring after so many failures. Go get a real shortstop. I do not know if DeJong can play a legit major league 3B fielding, so I’ll listen to your expertise.

      Those two acquisitions gave the Cards a ring. Let’s maybe look in that direction, and I’m confident the Cardinals are doing so.

      Finally, quit doing stuff like trying to make Carpenter a #3 hitter: it ruined his season. He has a very special gift like Joey Votto, the only guy in the NL who walked more than he: seeing the strike zone better than the umpire. If you bat him leadoff, he’ll challenge the lead for OBP and walks, and incidentally hit 15 HR on mistake pitches, and be well up there in doubles. On a good team, he leads the league in runs. What more can you ask from a man? Quit this making him a HR guy and ruining his swing. Love the guy, maybe trade him.

  • LawrenceKScardsfan

    The Cardinals should be in no hurry to sign Stanton. It’s already going to be expensive enough. So any hint of panic is like blood in the water. The Sharks (I mean Marlins) would quickly feed on any perceived weakness.

    I’m hopeful that Cardinal fans would be tolerant of a failed negotiation. Unlike Heyward or Price, Stanton is an extremely valuable transformative piece. Therefore, patience is a virtue.

    Now – let’s say that Stanton does not materialize. There is absolutely nothing wrong with moving forward on the pitching side of the equation. As I see it, the Cards need two relievers and a transition starter. I don’t see how these three pieces are affected by discussions with the Marlins about Stanton. Rumor has it that the Marlins are looking for pitching. The Cards have prospects in this area. They can use their surplus outfielders to negotiate a trade for the relievers/starter. Of they can go free agent on the starter but still use surplus outfielders to get relievers. So the Cards are not tied to a “Stanton first” strategy.

    Regards a big bat – yes, the Cardinals may lose out on a big bopper and our offense may again rely on either Grichuk or Piscotty fulfilling potential. And there’s always Jay Bruce….

    • James Berry

      Jack Bruce. Lenny Bruce’s grandson?

      • LawrenceKScardsfan

        Jay Bruce. Lenny Bruce’s grandson was Bruce Wayne.

  • Joe Belkin

    Forgive me for being quite confused. In 2011 Cardinal management had the opportunity to re-sign the best player of his generation who they knew very well. Why did he leave? He was able to secure a 10-year contract elsewhere.

    Fast-forward to 2017. Cardinal management has the opportunity to trade for a star player but he has a 10-year contract. Management really doesn’t know this player since he never played here. Why does anyone think the Cardinals will trade for him?

    I’m glad (as much as I miss him) they let AP walk. This Stanton thing just seems like something that isn’t going to happen and I wish people would just move on to another target.

    • GMO Joe

      The difference is Stanton is at the height of his career while Pujols was already on the downside and playing with a debilitating injury. Plus, Stanton could be gone in 3 years if he chooses to leave.
      A Stanton trade might not happen, but I’m betting that if it doesn’t, it will be because Stanton doesn’t want to play here for whatever reason — not for the Cardinals’ lack of effort. They have better prospects and more salary room than the Red Sox or Giants. But if the Dodgers or Yankees get involved, all bets are off.

    • Cranky Observer

      Pujols was close to finished in 2011. Cardinals management observed that (as did many fans) and acted accordingly. He probably could have had a 3-year, $105 million contract with the Cardinals but no one with any baseball sense would have even glanced at a 10-year proposal. Pujols’ agent is one of the best negotiators in human history for getting him that Angels contract.

  • Tom L

    Honestly, I just hope he ends up in the American League…

  • James Joste

    Evan Longoria or Kyle Seager make a lot of sense.

  • JeremyR

    Don’t worry, Logan Morrison and the other low hanging fruit will be there in January or February. No need to panic

  • Mark Lee Arbogast

    I say present your best offer to Miami and give them 48 hours to say yes or no. If it’s no then move on. They already know he dont want to come to St Louis. To heck with that guy. Have some dignity for cryin out loud! It’s a wild goose chase anyway.

  • John W.

    Why is there never a discussion of JD Martinez. JD is only 2 years older and won’t have an op-out clause in a couple of years. He won’t cost as much per year or prospects. Then trade for an elite closer. 45 HRs 104 RBIs i would say that is an impact bat.

  • John Sachse

    Stanton can have the same luxuries in LA as he does in Miami – 3 story penthouse, etc. Crazy that we have all this angst over a player that we do not know what his intentions are.

  • Rich Rauch

    “The Marlins’ second baseman is owed a guaranteed $38 million through 2020, with a buyout of $1 million for 2014”?? Guessing that meant 2021 but, c’mon, man. One nice thing about the Interwebs is you can fix that sort of thing. 😉

  • JDinSTL

    I can already hear it, “We tried”… just like at the trade deadline.

    Hey Dollar Bill… hire another freshly pressed suit for the front office!

  • JDinSTL

    Boys, it’s all crap.

    Insiders tell us the Cards are willing to pay “as much” as they offered Pujols in 2011.

    There is absolutely no way that works – Florida will not be paying nearly 100 million for a guy to play elsewhere.