According to several reports, such as this one, Giancarlo Stanton is about to sign a 13-year contract for 325 million but the deal will have an opt out clause after 2019. Stanton also wasn’t set to become a FA until after 2016 but Miami wants to show their fan base that they want to keep their stars this time around. We will see if that actually happens though.
Stanton is probably the best pure power hitter in the game. Chris Davis might be the only guy in MLB that can match Stanton in terms of just pure power. He has a career 904 OPS. His OBP and slugging numbers are very good. He carries an excellent walk rate as well. His BA has been up and down in his career but he is still young enough where that can continue to improve. (He hit .290 in 2012 and .288 in 2014, never above .262 in any other year). According to UZR and UZR/150, Stanton has been a solid defender outside of 2013. He also added 13 steals to his stat line this year.
In the 5 seasons he has been with the Marlins, he has been worth 19.5 fWAR and he is coming off of a season where he had a 6.1 WAR (his career best) and may have won an MVP had he not missed most of September due to him being hit in the face with a pitch. He has apparently fully recovered from that and, from Miami’s perspective, hopefully the mental aspect of things won’t get to him when he steps back into that batters box, like what has been rumored to have happened to the late and great Paul Blair. Basically, you are getting an excellent all around player and probably one of the handful of players out there that can stake the claim of being the best player in baseball.
So, what is the downside here? Well, the biggest strike against Stanton has been health. Obviously, you can’t really blame him for what happened at the end of this past season but he still missed 17 games and Stanton has still only played 150 games once in his career and never more than 150. In 2013, he only played in 116 games and in 2012, he played in 123 games. He has had to battle leg injuries, including a hamstring injury that kept him out 5 weeks in 2013 and he had knee surgery in 2012. Stanton is a big guy and you don’t like to see young athletes having leg issues early in their careers. For the sake of the Marlins, MLB and Stanton, hopefully those issues are past him.
Seeing as this is a site about the Orioles, you may be asking yourself, what is the connection to Baltimore? Well, the Orioles happen to have one of the best young players in baseball in Manny Machado and the Orioles are likely going to be thinking about a long-term deal for Manny in the upcoming months or years before he hits free agency. So, how does this Stanton deal impact a potential Machado extension?
The first thing I would say is to look at service time. Stanton was a few years away from free agency. After making 6.5M in 2014, he was set to get a huge raise in 2015. Right now, Machado is still in his pre arbitration years, which means we should be able to sign him to a lesser deal now, both in terms of years and money per season. The impact of a deal like this, as well as the deal Trout got last year (6/144.5), should cause the Orioles to look at signing Machado sooner rather than later.
The issue here, of course, is that Machado is coming off of 2 straight years where his season was ended due to knee surgery. He has now had a surgery on each knee and, as I said earlier in this article, you hate to see knee/leg issues with young athletes. The good news is, once Machado got his legs under him last year (no pun intended), he didn’t show signs of that knee being an issue.
I have spoken many times on the BSL message board about how my wife went through the same surgery Manny did in 2013. The condition Manny seemed to suffer from is much more common in women, especially younger women/girls than it is in men. It’s more of a “dancers injury”. My wife was a dancer (no guys, not THAT kind of dancing..unfortunately) and the movements of dancing can cause this type of issue. As soon as she heard what happened to Manny, she said it was the same issue she had and he should have the surgery. Another interesting thing that my wife’s surgeon told her is that if you have this condition in one knee, you are likely to have it in the other knee. As it turns out, that also applied to Machado and his condition.
So, what does this all mean? To me, I look at these surgeries both ways. On one hand, surgeries tend to weaken the area and could lead to other issues. OTOH, this isn’t a complicated surgery and these knee issues that Manny has had, should be gone assuming he rehabs correctly, which all indication are, that he is. So, for me at least, this is both good and bad. I may actually prefer this to a player with muscle issues or something along those lines because this may be a problem that is actually fixed versus a problem you can only do so much for.
The Orioles now need to decide what these surgeries mean for them in terms of a long-term deal for Machado. Duquette said last spring training that they had discussed a long-term deal with Manny but nothing came of it. We don’t really know what that means and we didn’t hear much from it. Manny himself has said he would be “up for it” if they wanted to talk to him. The question isn’t will the Orioles explore this extension; the question is when will they explore it. Do they need to see their young 3rd baseman play a full season on those surgically repaired knees? Are they willing to “gamble” and say, we feel he is going to be past these surguries and explore those extension talks this off=season, when he is likely going to be the “cheapest” he will ever be?
When you compare Machado and Stanton, there are a few things that stick out. First of all, both have suffered leg injuries early in their careers and at young ages. Stanton, right now, is clearly the better hitter. His walk rate is miles better than Machado (although it was nice to see Manny improve in that regard from 2013 to 2014) and the power is much better. Manny plays a premium position and may be the single best fielder in all of baseball, regardless of position (hope you like that GG Kyle Seager, you won’t have it for long). Stanton is coming off his best fWAR season but that is a season where Manny’s 2013 still was better, according to fWAR, albeit by only .1 WAR. Manny did play in more games though and since WAR is a counting stat, we can basically call that even. Last year, Manny put up a 2.5 WAR in the 82 games he played, putting him on-pace for a 5ish fWAR season. That fWAR number is better than what Stanton did in 2013; a season where he played many more games than Manny did last year.
While the power differences are stark, you can argue that Manny is the better all around player and while Stanton is probably nearing, or is at, his ceiling; Machado has some time to go before he hits his.
Let’s go back to the idea of when do you offer Machado the extension? For me, I have no issue offering him one right now. I feel pretty confident that the knee issues will be behind him. He may have a flare up here and there but we have a manager who will be smart about that and will bring him along at the pace he needs and will rest him when he needs to. I believe that Machado is on the verge of becoming one of the best all around players in baseball. The defense is obviously there and the power is coming. He has shown an ability to use all fields and, as I noted, he showed an improved BB rate in 2014 and hopefully that continues. Add to that, the fact that third base is becoming more and more of a premium position and I think you start to see why locking him, sooner rather than later, becomes a priority for this organization.
Now, would I have an issue if the Orioles decide to go the wait and see route on Manny and make sure everything is good with his knees? No, not really. I think any reasonable person should be okay with that idea – but if I am the Orioles, I am not waiting too long.
Machado will get a raise for next year and probably make close to $1M, pre arbitration. He will then probably make something in the 25-30M range in his arbitration seasons, give or take. Youth remains on his side, as Machado does not turn 23 until July 6 of next year, so we are talking about his arbitration years taking him until his age 27 season, which is historically the peak year for an offensive player. I know some would give Machado any length of deal he would want – and I can also get behind that idea to an extent – but for me at least, there is a limit on how many years I would guarantee him. That limit for me is 10, although I would prefer an 8 or 9-year deal with an option.
Sticking with the idea of an 8-year deal, I would structure something like this:
2023: 27M team option
2024: 28M team and player option
That is 8 years, with $128M guaranteed. You can play with those numbers somewhat here and there but basically, that would be the rough deal I would put on the table for him. That would be a deal that I think Manny would be hard pressed to turn down right now, especially coming off of two knee surgeries and understanding that if he is past those surgeries, that he could still be a FA at an early enough age where he could still get another lucrative contract.
Machado is a huge part of the future of this organization and has a chance to be the next Ripken. He is that good and has that much upside. Keeping him here for the long haul is imperative and the longer you wait, the more it will cost you.