Breaking news: the San Francisco Giants can’t hit home runs. Shocking, I know. They ranked dead last in home runs during the most prolific power year in MLB history, hitting 23 less the the 29th ranked Pittsburgh Pirates. Yes, they did win three World Series titles without much power to speak of, but the game has changed. Plus the pitching staff is no longer historically great and can’t make up for the power deficiency.
It makes sense then that the Giants are rumored to have interest in each and every power hitter available via free agency or trade this offseason. And the one name you’ll here again, and again, and again until he’s dealt is Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton to San Francisco seemed like something that could only happen in a video game a year ago, but trusted baseball insiders like Jon Heyman and Bob Nightengale continue to report that not only are the Giants interested in the 27-year-old right fielder, they might just be the favorites to acquire him.
Adding a player in his prime years who was one homer shy of 60 this season seems like a no-brainer. But before you reserve a spot in McCovey Cove, let’s look at the pros and cons of trading for Giancarlo Stanton.
PRO – HOMERS HOMERS HOMERS HOMERS HOMERS
It’s common knowledge among fans by now that Major League ballplayers set a record for most combined home runs in a single season in 2017. The 6,105 dingers hit in the regular season were nearly 500 more than the previous record set in 2000, right in the thick of the steroid era. Unfortunately for the Giants, they contributed just a measly 128 to that total and were the only team in baseball without a 20 home run hitter (Brandon Belt was the closest with 18).
Who better to solve the Giants’ power outage than the guy who hit the most home runs in a season since 2001? Stanton is the obvious choice and frankly the best choice. Since his debut in 2010, his 267 home runs are the fourth most in baseball. On average, Stanton’s homers traveled 418.3 feet in 2017, second only to the Rangers’ young slugger Joey Gallo.
There’s a good chance that any slugger moving to AT&T Park will see their home run totals take a significant hit though, but that shouldn’t be much of a concern for Stanton. His home park, Home Run Sculpture Stadium A.K.A Marlins Park in Miami, was the sixth worst home run hitting park in baseball in 2017. If you’re still convinced AT&T Park will suck the power out of Stanton’s bat, his nine career home runs there is his 2nd best total for a non-NL East park, with only homer-haven Coors Field ranking higher.
Granted, this doesn’t account for park factors like wind or rabid seagulls but it’s encouraging. Simply put, the guy will hit bombs, and lots of them, no matter where he’s playing.
CON – MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY
$310 million over the next 11 years. $310 MILLION. Yes, Stanton is a once in a generation power threat, but also $310 million is kind of a lot of money. That said, the Giants aren’t known for being penny pinchers. Their Opening Day payroll was third-highest in baseball in 2017, their overall payroll was sixth highest. But general manager Bobby Evans has openly expressed concerns about going over the luxury tax yet again in 2018, something that will almost surely happen if they acquire Stanton.
If it does, that makes the Giants a four-time offender which means they would have to pay a 50 percent tax on the dollar once they fly past the $197 million limit. Luxury tax fines would likely become a regular occurrence with Stanton in tow. For a team that already has so much money invested in long-term contracts and another one looming with Madison Bumgarner, that’s a major concern.
“Not my money!” is what half of you are probably saying at this point. In the long run though, that’s not entirely true. Taking on a massive $310 million deal and paying big luxury tax fines means the Giants will have to make up the cost somehow. In all likelihood, that means the game day experience at AT&T Park will become a little pricier. So if you want to see Giancarlo Stanton in orange and black, just be ready to spend more on parking, beer, garlic fries and everything in between.
PRO – He might actually be a bargain (for a couple years)
Bargain is probably an overstatement, but there’s an argument to be made that Stanton is going to be making less than his market value in a few years. It’s safe to say that Stanton is one of the three or four best outfielders in baseball right now. Last season only Mike Trout and Aaron Judge posted a higher OPS than Stanton, and the only outfielders who are better overall players than Stanton are probably Trout and Bryce Harper. Both players, especially Harper who’s a year away from free agency, have been rumored to command record-breaking money when they hit the open market.
Nothing is set in stone, but numerous reports have said Harper could receive as much as $300 to $400 million dollars in free agency. If that’s the case, the amount Trout would get could be staggering. Which takes us back to Stanton, who will be making $25-$26 million for each of the next three years. Considering that Trout and Harper could rake in $35 or even $40 million annually in the future, Stanton’s deal may not look as daunting as it used to. Plus, Stanton can opt out of the deal after 2020, as unlikely as that seems.
Stanton would be set to make an average annual salary of $29 million for 8 seasons if he opts into the rest of his deal, so it might not feel like much of a bargain then. But who knows! There was a time when Alex Rodriguez’s $22 million salary seemed crazy, and he was the consensus best player in baseball. In 2017, that same number gets you Jason Heyward. Point being, the money being spent in baseball is crazy and is only getting crazier, so a $29 million average annual salary might not sound so wild in a few years.
CON – Giants may not be able to address other pressing needs
The Giants’ offensive ineptitude has been well documented and fixing it should be the team’s top priority this offseason. But you don’t become the worst team in baseball by failing at just one element of the game, the Giants need to improve in practically every way. Their team ERA was a very pedestrian 4.50 and the defense was ranked as one of the worst in baseball according to defensive metrics. Their -42 defensive runs saved was fifth-worst in the game last season.
There’s at least five spots on the roster that could use significant improvement, and that’s a conservative estimate. In a perfect world, the Giants will have a brand new outfield, a new third baseman, another lefty reliever and maybe even another starting pitcher by Opening Day. That’s a lot to ask for, but it’s what the team will have to do if they are determined to compete next season.
While Stanton would provide an obvious power upgrade and become the most buzzed about Giant since Tim Lincecum, his contract would likely limit the team from making any other significant improvements. Yes, I’m fully aware that this line of thinking sounds a lot like Brian Sabean’s infamous quote about why they didn’t sign Vladimir Guerrero back in 2003, but unlike that team these Giants are not fresh off a World Series appearance and really do need to fill a bunch of spots.
So if you’re hell bent on seeing Stanton in right field next season, you might have to settle for a bargain center fielder, Pablo Sandoval at third base, in house options for the bullpen and a platoon of Hunter Pence, Denard Span and Austin Slater in left field.
PRO – Stanton makes the Giants must see TV
The Giants are only three seasons removed from a World Series victory and only a season removed from an exciting postseason appearance, but that 2016 NLDS already feels like ages ago. The team got very bad very fast, and mounting injuries to star players only made things worse in terms of fan interest. On top of it all, the Giants’ downward spiral directly coincided with the Golden State Warriors dominant championship run, solidifying the Dubs’ status as the top sports attraction in the Bay Area and beyond. It won’t be long until that attraction is only a couple blocks away from McCovey Cove, something that has to be on the front office’s mind.
The Warriors will be the best show in town for a while, but that doesn’t mean the Giants can’t be a close second. The A’s and 49ers are in rebuild mode for the foreseeable future, the Sharks are stuck in hockey purgatory just two seasons after they went to a Stanley Cup Final, and the Raiders are a lame duck franchise with sights set on Las Vegas. Bringing in Stanton would instantly make the Giants the most exciting team not playing basketball in the Bay Area.
Even if the team still stinks, fans will want to see what Stanton does every night. When the Giants were playing sub .500 ball during the latter years of the Bonds era, fans still showed up in droves to see the show. Sure, Bonds was also chasing a home run record but Stanton is the closest thing we’ve had to him since. It’s easy to forget that power hitting was once synonymous with the Giants, and the fans are starving for power. Stanton would be just the guy to capture the attention of a homer hungry fan base.
CON – Injuries are a major concern
Stanton played in 159 games in 2017, the most he’s ever played in a single season. But between 2012 and 2016, Stanton never played more than 145 games per season and on average played in just 115 a year over that time. Some of those have been freak injuries, he was hit by a pitch that fractured his face late in 2014 and suffered a hand fracture after another hit by pitch in 2015.
After that, the injury history is troubling. Two separate right hamstring strains, a groin strain, shoulder soreness and an abdominal strain have made Stanton miss a total of 239 games since 2011. All of that came before Stanton ever entered the prime years of his career, so who knows what kind of time he’ll miss as he enters his 30’s.
Considering how much time he’s already spent on the DL, it’s pretty incredible that he’s more than halfway to 500 career home runs. That’s the positive spin, but not having Stanton in a potential 2018 Giants’ lineup would be devastating. Even if the team can find some interesting players to build around him, at best the team would look like the mid-2000’s Giants without Barry Bonds. In case you forgot, those teams weren’t very good. Not 2017 bad, but definitely not good.
Acquiring Giancarlo Stanton should be an absolute no-brainer. Young, powerful, athletic and a superstar in every sense of the word. But he’s also an injury prone player with a contract that, even under the best circumstances, is likely to weigh them down for years. Trading for him would be one of the biggest risks the franchise has ever taken, but considering the style of play seen across baseball and in the World Series, it might be a risk the Giants have to take.