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You Want Giancarlo Stanton? Now Batting for the Cardinals: Matt Holliday

If Giancarlo Stanton chooses to decline an opportunity to play for the St. Louis Cardinals, fine. That’s his right … his contractual right.

Not that Stanton needs any more power, but more power to him.

It’s his life. His career. His choice.

The Big! Bam! Boom! can veto any trade that his employer, the Miami Marlins, present to him. Stanton has full no-trade protection. He has the leverage, the final word. Should the Cardinals and Marlins agree on the terms of a trade, Stanton can block it, then blow it up. He can see a proposed Cards-Marlins deal and treat it like a fastball — and Stanton makes fastballs disappear.

If it comes to this — Stanton just saying no to St. Louis — don’t take it personally. Because of his contract protection, Stanton gets to choose. He doesn’t have to like St. Louis. He doesn’t have to like any baseball market, unless it’s his first choice, his native Los Angeles.

Unless the Cardinals and Marlins can make a deal, we won’t know how Stanton really feels about playing in St. Louis. Unless he comes out and directly addresses the issue we’re all just speculating or faking or gobbling up the daily candy bags filled with rumors.

Perhaps the Cardinals will have an opportunity to make a recruiting pitch to Stanton. That take was presented by Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com baseball writer Derrick Goold.

If such a recruiting visit occurs — if it hasn’t already — then former Cardinal Matt Holliday is willing to assist the effort. If a delegation heads Stanton’s way, baseball president John Mozeliak can add Holliday to the lineup. That’s what Holliday said earlier this week in an interview with MLB Network Radio. Not that Stanton was listening, but Holliday had a message.

“Look you have all offseason to live in Miami or LA or wherever he wants to live,” Holliday said. “But for six months getting after it in St. Louis? As a baseball player there’s no better place. You get a chance to play for a winning franchise, in a city that loves baseball and would revere him for the next 10 years as the superstar to kind of build their team around.

“I think that maybe it’s a better opportunity than some people are thinking. As baseball players you don’t really have a lot of time during the season to do the nightlife and do all the things that people knock on St. Louis (about) as opposed to LA or Miami. But if you’re a ballplayer who loves to play ball, as I think Giancarlo is, there’s no better place to be.

“I think they’re going to be competitive, they’ve got a good farm system, they’ve got a good nucleus of young players. I think it’s a good situation … I just think man, it’s a really good place to play. And having played there seven years, I know we probably aren’t the exact same people but to be a ballplayer, to play ball in St. Louis … I think it’s a tremendous organization and city and fan base, and I think it’s a good fit. From a player’s standpoint I think they can take on his salary, for the most part. And probably give (the Marlins) more prospects than some of the other teams that are being mentioned.”

Holliday should serve as Mozeliak’s chief diplomat.

“Well, you know I would,” Holliday told MLB Network. “I would call him (Stanton) and tell him ‘Hey, look. If you want to play in a sweet baseball town for six months and then for the other six months live in LA and do all of those things, there’s six months for that. Every (offseason) you get plenty of time.’  ”

There’s a part of me that thinks this is ludicrous.

If Stanton can’t force the Marlins to trade him to his No. 1 destination — the big fella grew up in Sherman Oaks, which is 16 miles from Dodger Stadium — then why wouldn’t he want to play for the Cardinals?

OK, it ain’t SoCal, or sunny Florida. But what is Stanton’s priority? Stay with Miami and have at least three more seasons of enduring yet another Marlins’ rebuild? Playing in front of small home crowds and missing out on the playoffs again?

Stanton was promoted to the big leagues by Miami in 2010 and has played in 986 regular-season games for the Marlins. Eight seasons into his MLB career, Stanton has never played in a postseason game. Not one. The Marlins have had a losing record in all eight of Stanton’s season. Their best finish was 80-82 in 2010. They’ve finished at least 15.5 games out of first place in the NL East since 2010.

Stanton has started 951 games for Miami. The team has won 444 and lost 507 in Stanton’s 951 starts. Since 2010, the Marlins rank 28th in the 30-team MLB with a .453 winning percentage. When the Marlins’ new ballpark opened in 2012, the team drew 2.219 million at home. Other than that, the Marlins haven’t gone above 1.75 million in annual home attendance at the new yard.

The average home crowd over the last six seasons is 21,961. When Stanton rocked 59 homers this past season — the seventh-highest HR total in a National League season — the Marlins averaged 20,395 at home.

In 2017, the Cardinals drew 3.447 million to Busch Stadium … or more fans than the Marlins seated at their home park in the 2016 and 2017 seasons combined.

The Cardinals haven’t drawn less than 3 million at home in a season since 2003. And even then, the club reached 2.91 million. The Cardinals’ average attendance for home games since Busch Stadium opened in 2006 is around 43,000.

And what about winning?

The Cardinals would provide Stanton with a hella shot to play October baseball for the first time. Since the start of the 2000 season, no NL franchise has competed in more postseason games (125), or won more postseason games (65) than St. Louis. The Cardinals and Yankees are the only two big-league teams to play in 125 or more postseason games over the last 18 seasons; no other NL franchise has competed in more than 78 over that time.

Sure, the Cardinals had a downturn in 2016 and 2017. But as I’ve mentioned before, the Cardinals (A) still ranked 9th in the majors in winning percentage over the last two seasons and (B) entered the final week with a chance to make the playoffs in both years. The Cards are close to moving in on a playoff spot again, especially if they can get some help. Which is why they’re making a play for Stanton.

The Cardinals could give Stanton a chance to live through two special experiences he’s never gotten to enjoy with the Marlins: sellout crowds at home, and a red October spent chasing the 12th World Series championship in franchise history. And remember, no matter where he goes, Stanton can opt out of his contract after the 2020 season.

Stanton has $295 million (guaranteed) remaining on his contract.

Money isn’t a problem for him. He’s set for life financially.

I don’t know Stanton (at all), but I’d have to think that winning matters to him.

And I’d have to believe he’d be fired up by playing at Busch Stadium, the site of the MLB’s third-best regular-season home winning percentage (.590) since 2006.

Busch is where the Cardinals clinched the World Series title in 2006 and 2011, and wrapped up the NL pennant in 2013. In fact, since 2006 no major-league ballpark has been the scene for more postseason wins (25) by a home team.

I have no idea how this will turn out.

The rumors were buzzing an accelerated pace on Thursday, being spun quickly on the web by the usual sources.

The race for Stanton includes the San Francisco Giants, the Cardinals, the Boston Red Sox… maybe the sneaky New York Yankees … don’t count out the Dodgers… and of course, there are Mystery teams.

The Cardinals have the best chance.

No, the Giants are in the lead.

The Cardinals.

No, the Giants.

The Cardinals will finish second.

Sheesh.

Just meet us in St. Louis, Giancarlo Stanton.

Or at least meet with Matt Holliday.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

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