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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

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