Jeffrey Loria and the Marlins front office need to save face as much as anyone since Harvey Dent (dated pop culture reference: check). One suggestion has been that they should re-sign their one remaining superstar, Giancarlo Stanton. That is easier said than done, given that Stanton publicly expressed displeasure in the immediate wake of the team’s massive trade with Toronto. Even if he had not, why would any player want to make a long-term commitment to the Marlins at this point (note to Giancarlo: make sure and get that no-trade clause in writing. Also, stick with rentals.)?
As Buster Olney points out, even if one thinks Stanton is unlikely to sign an extension, if the Marlins do at least make a good faith offer, they can at least say they tried, which in itself would be progress and might help them a bit in the court of public opinion. Naturally, Loria is saying exactly the wrong thing: “Giancarlo needs to play this year.” Aside from the particulars of the whole Marlins mess, when considering how much it would cost to extend Stanton, not many recent comparisons come to mind. Olney cites an agent to compares Stanton to the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez after his 2010 season, when he signed for seven-years and $80 million dollars. That comparison makes sense in that Gonzalez was then and Stanton is now young, talented, and still a year away from arbitration eligibility. But while that is a good starting point, it seems that even if the Marlins inclined an offer for an extension and Stanton was willing to play ball, it would likely cost the team a lot more, and not just because of the greater amounts of money in the game now compared to 2011. As good as Gonzalez was and is, Stanton projects to be even more valuable.
It is important to understand how the cost of marginal wins has increased since 2011 and how that might effect a hypothetical Stanton extension. In addition, when getting to concrete details, one cannot leave aside how unattractiveness of playing for the Marlins might drive up a player’s expectations. I will not be focusing on those issues with respect to Stanton and the Marlins, however. Instead, I want to focus on something else that would likely drive up the cost of a Giancalo Stanton extension relative to that given to Gonzalez prior to the 2011 season: Stanton’s greater projected value compared to Gonzalez prior to 2011.
This is not to take anything away from Gonzalez. While he has not been able to replicate his monster 2010 season, his regression was expected and built into the contract. It is wild to think about Dan O’Dowd taking Billy Beane to the cleaners, but that is what happened when Gonzalez was just once piece of a trade for one year of Matt Holliday before the 2009 season. I simply think that when comparing how Stanton projects now to Gonzalez projected in 2011, there are goos reasons Stanton has greater projected value.
Not everything tilts towards Stanton’s side of the ledger. Stanton is a fine defensive right fielder, but back in 2010, Gonzalez was still playing a chunk of the season in center field. Whatever the defensive metrics have said since then, I could understand if someone would prefer Gonzalez’ defensive skills. Gonzalez’ superior speed also manifests itself on the bases. Questions of value aside, one might have more confidence in Gonzalez’ likelihood of aging gracefully given his speed. Moreover, while Gonzalez is not a master of contact, Stanton’s strikeout rate — 28.8 for his career so far — is still a bit scary. It is not that so much that strikeouts are worse than other outs, but that a lack of contact puts pressure on his other skills and also might indicate old player skills, i.e., a player that might decline earlier. Stanton’s knee surgery last season might also be a bit of a concern.
These are legitimate points, but I still think that the Stanton’s projected offensive superiority relative to opre-2011 Gonzalez tips the scales significantly. It might be simple enough to point out that from 2008-2010, Gonzalez hit for a 118 wRC+, while from 2010-2012, Stanton has a 140 wRC+. That does a nice job of summarizing the gap — and that is a massive gap — but the specifying the differences will highlight not only that Stanton has been better the last three years than Gonzalez was in the there years before his extension, but why the projection would be more favorable.
Stanton, perhaps surprisingly for a power hitter, has had a high BABIP (.328) so far in the majors, so one might be concerned that it would regress. However, he has not been reliant on that BABIP for a more significant part of his offensive production. More germane to the point, Gonzalez’ BABIP through 2010 was .369. That is not to dismiss BABIP as a skill for hitters, but given that it does fluctuate more year-to-year than many other peripherals, having a higher BABIP may indicate a greater degree of luck than having one closer to average.
When we look at skills that stabilize more quickly, we also see that, aside from strikeouts, they favor Stanton over pre-2011 Gonzalez. Stanton’s walk rate is about 10 percent so far in the majors, whereas Gonzalez prior to signing his contact was below seven percent. Perhaps most significantly, and definitely most obvious in this case, is the power differential. While CarGo’s power was impressive even in the context of Coors field (.220 from 2008-2010, .262 in 2010), Stanton’s, as is well known from dozens of .gifs, is simply monstrous: .282 over the last three seasons, culminating in a stunning .318 in 2012. Given how quickly power (especially home run power) stabilizes relative to other stats, the advantage for Stanton here is quite significant for hjis