Dear Ruben Amaro: Stop Trying to Acquire Giancarlo Stanton

Poor people do not drive Cadillacs. World of Warcraft guild leaders do not date Victoria’s Secret models. And teams with mediocre farm systems do not try to trade for Giancarlo Stanton. It’s called “living within your means”.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston globe reports that the Phillies have attempted to acquire Stanton from the Miami Marlins at least ten times. If you have followed Phillies news throughout the year, this is the least surprising development of the year. The Phillies don’t have the requisite pieces to pull off such a trade. Their best pitching prospect, Jesse Biddle, is at best a #3, and aside from Maikel Franco, their best position player prospects are found at the lower levels of the system.

The Phillies actually made some progress during the year. Expect them to be more in the middle of the pack in Keith Law’s next organizational rankings rather than 27th, as they were back in February. But Cafardo lists a bunch of teams who would be competing with the Phillies for Stanton’s services, including¬†the Tigers, Mets, Mariners, Yankees, Orioles, Angels, and Red Sox. They ranked 25th, 14th, 8th, 10th, 13th, 30th, and 17th, respectively. That’s five teams that can put together significantly more competitive offers than the Phillies could.

This all assumes that Stanton would be worth acquiring for the Phillies, and as obvious a “yes” as it seems, it might not be the case. He had knee surgery in July 2012 and he needed a stint on the DL this past season with a strained right hamstring. Tigers big-bodied first baseman Prince Fielder has logged at least 157 games per season since he started playing regularly and he has accrued at least 680 plate appearances in seven consecutive seasons. Comparatively, Stanton has played in more than 123 games once and he maxed out at 601 plate appearances.

Stanton, who turns 24 on November 8, is eligible for arbitration for the first time this off-season. He can become a free agent after the 2016 season, which means that if the Phillies do acquire Stanton, they would want to sign him to a long-term contract at some point in the next three years. Given his on-field performance and reputation, he would negotiate a rather rich deal. As an example, would you feel comfortable signing over $150 million over six years, taking him into his age-30 season? The most attractive feature of trading for Stanton is the opportunity to get not only his age 24-26 arb-eligible years, but his 27-29 post-free-agency prime as well. But if that’s not a relatively risk-free venture, it is likely not worth selling the farm to get him.

The Phillies have learned the hard way why it’s bad to bankrupt your Minor League system. They did exactly that to acquire Hunter Pence from the Houston Astros back in 2011. They sent prospects Jonathan Singleton, Domingo Santana, Jarred Cosart, and Josh Zeid to complete the deal. Going into the 2011 season, Singleton was the organization’s #2 prospect behind Brown; Cosart was #4, and Santana was #9. The trade was a gigantic failure because, first of all, it was a massive overpay. Secondly, the Phillies failed to capitalize on their 102-60 regular season record in 2011, getting ushered out of the NLDS in five games by the St. Louis Cardinals. The Phillies were a sub-.500 team in the first half of 2012, motivating them to recoup value on Pence by trading him to the San Francisco Giants for Nate Schierholtz, Tommy Joseph, and Seth Rosin, a markedly weaker package than they gave up for him a year prior — especially considering the Phillies non-tendered the most valuable piece of that deal several months later.

Selling the farm for Stanton would necessitate a win-now — or win-soon — approach, which the Phillies aren’t in a great position to do, frankly. This is especially true without knowing how they address their many nagging issues. Trading for Stanton would make sense if they also sign, for example, Jacoby Ellsbury and Ricky Nolasco, or Shin-Soo Choo and Brian McCann. The team as it’s presently constructed is patently a sub-.500 squad. Adding Stanton would be putting lipstick on a pig, and Amaro would be bankrupting the future to do it.

Maybe the Phillies can revisit a potential Stanton trade next year. Perhaps the Minor League system will have made even more progress and the team will be markedly closer to being a post-season contender. Right now, the Phillies are a Wendy’s fry cook trying to drive off the lot with a Cadillac.

Stop trying to make Giancarlo Stanton happen. It’s not going to happen.

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35 comments

  1. Jeff P

    October 14, 2013 12:28 PM

    Good stuff Bill. Totally agree that it’s not going to happen, and because of what you laid out above, agree that it’s not even worth it.

    Even a deal of Brown/Franko/Biddle plus two upside A ball guys can easily be beat, but it doesn’t make our team any more than mediocre still for 2014.

  2. joecatz

    October 14, 2013 01:00 PM

    I agree that it isn’t going to happen Bill, but at the same time:

    Ben Revere, Dom Brown, Maikel Franco and Jesse Biddle is a package tat keeps the Phillies in the conversation.

    I think everyone assumes that tams only want high impact prospects. With Miami, if they dealt Stanton, they want ready impact players at the major league level.

    Domonic Brown is exactly the kind of player theyd want back for Stanton.

    the biggest reason Phillies fans should hope that they don’t trade for Stanton isn’t for the fear of depleting the farm, its because it would cost them actual major league controllable impact assets.

  3. cjd

    October 14, 2013 01:13 PM

    YOU GUYS AND YOUR FANTASY TRADES. NOT VERY INTELLIGENT ONES EITHER. BROWN IS JUST AS VALUABLE AS STANTON AND FRANCO IS A STUD WAITING TO HAPPEN.

  4. jauer

    October 14, 2013 01:45 PM

    Domingo Santana was the player to be named later, correct? I just looked at his minor-league walk rate and cried for a few minutes

  5. MattWinks

    October 14, 2013 01:51 PM

    Player to be named later does not necessarily denote a lesser prospect. Everything I have heard says the Astros had a list to choose from that included much of the lower minors (minus some select guys). It was a significant piece knowingly given away as part of the trade. This wasn’t so much undervaluing an asset (Santana) as overvaluing what to give up for Pence.

  6. Corinne

    October 14, 2013 01:54 PM

    I think you’re overreacting a bit to a non-story here. Giancarlo Stanton is exactly the type of piece the Phillies are lacking and RAJ isn’t doing his job if he’s not regularly checking in on the price tag if for no other reason than as a source of comparison while shopping this winter.

    Now if he actually pulls the trigger, go on and have a cow.

  7. nik

    October 14, 2013 02:32 PM

    Teams take crappy returns for stars all the time. Look at what the Indians got for Lee and Sabathia. Look at what the DBacks got for Justin Upton. I’m all in favor of Amaro per suing all avenues. It only takes two people to make a deal and sometimes teams do make dumb trades.

  8. KH

    October 14, 2013 02:46 PM

    I’m not sure I’m sold on Stanton as the type of guy you want to trade for and then hand a 20 million per year contract anyway. He has been good not great and even with his youth its not a lock that all of a sudden he gets 20% better and is a 5-6 WAR type player instead of 3-4 he has been.

  9. Bill Baer

    October 14, 2013 03:05 PM

    @ nik

    The Lee and Sabathia hauls were actually good at the time. You can’t judge trades based on information learned after the fact, such as Matt LaPorta flaming out. At the time, all four prospects the Phillies gave up for Lee were within the top ten in the system.

    Additionally, Cafardo lists eight teams that would be in the hunt along with the Phillies for Stanton. That drives his price tag up a lot. Even if the field is narrowed to two or three, those two or three teams will still be able to put together a much more competitive package than the Phillies would.

  10. T. Martin

    October 14, 2013 03:08 PM

    @joecatz Ben Revere has little to no trade value. If the Marlins want a guy with the arm equivalent of a 12 year old girl but who can steal a base after he slaps a ball out of the infield they could just as easily sign Juan Pierre.

    Does anybody else find it odd that Ruin Tomorrow played the OF but it’s the most mis-managed part of the roster during his tenure?

  11. LTG

    October 14, 2013 03:09 PM

    In fairness to RAJ, Loria seems like precisely the sort of old-hat businessman who would overvalue ’80s pop-art-rock.

  12. MattWinks

    October 14, 2013 03:11 PM

    @nik

    The Justin Upton trade is a bit different because their hand was forced by his veto and no trade clause in general. Though to be fair to the Diamondbacks, Upton is now coming off a 2.6 WAR season, and they may have been trying to move him while he had some value.

    If it is prospect value you are looking for then the Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, Stephen Pryor, + package that was rejected would have been a substantial haul.

    Also on that Sabathia trade, I think a lot of people forget that the Indians also got this guy, who has been really solid value www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/brantmi02.shtml

  13. Chris S.

    October 14, 2013 03:16 PM

    Don’t forget about trades like Beltran for Wheeler or Kazmir for Victor Zambrano.

  14. TheBadgerine

    October 14, 2013 04:36 PM

    I have season tickets on the scoreboard porch, so I kind of get a little trouser wiggle thinking about The Outfielder Formerly Known as Mike trying to land souvenirs in my beer. After that subsides, I do realize that it doesn’t make long term baseball sense to destroy our whole system for one guy.

    My friends and I like to get drunk and argue about the Phillies all year round, (It’s really just one friend, as I am sad and lonely) and we love to hypothesize fantastic trades and FA coups. I am not a Dom Brown fan. I cannot wrap my head around how someone with his build and fluid gait can be such a frustrating fielder. I would love to see the Phillies move him for a prospect list like we moved for Pence. I think his greatest contribution to the next deep Philly October will be live arms the Padres could part with to watch SSDTDB fly out to the warning track in that soccer stadium they play baseball in.

    Also, I still have faith in the offensive capabilities of a healthy Chase and a properly managed and platooned Howard, Freddy should start over Jimmy, Asche will be a better pro 3B than Franco, and with a Dugan/Hart RF and Edwin Jackson rounding out the rotation, I think the Phillies have a perfectly reasonable shot to compete next year. I look forward to the Crashbag follower’s creative ridicule.

  15. nik

    October 14, 2013 07:06 PM

    Everyone pretty much knew that the Phillies gave up a poo platter for Lee. Noone was crying about losing Carrasco, Donald etc even though they were top 10 in a weak system. Only guy people worried about losing was Knapp but I a have a feeling the Phillies knew his shoulder was a ticking time bomb.

  16. Joecatz

    October 14, 2013 07:08 PM

    I still don’t buy the more competitive package arguement.

    No one will overpay for Stanton more than Ruben will save maybe john Daniels.

    Other teams may have more valuable prospects, higher raked prospects, etc.. But they also have to have the willingness to part with them.

    I find it hard to believe there are many teams that would be WILLING to part with a package of players that trumps Domonic Brown, Maikel Franco and Jesse Biddle. There are a ton of them that have the assets to trump it.

    What’s frightening about the santon rumors for me is that I actually believe that Ruben will top at no costs to acquire him, and ownership wants him badly.

  17. MattWinks

    October 14, 2013 08:05 PM

    There is a team that will overpay that much. The rumor is that at the deadline the Pirates package started with Polanco plus the Marlins choice of Tallion or Cole. The Pirates have plenty of ammunition to get him if he is on the market

  18. Bill Baer

    October 14, 2013 08:39 PM

    Noone was crying about losing Carrasco, Donald etc even though they were top 10 in a weak system.

    This had more to do with the fact that the Phillies were a perennial powerhouse than with the fact that the prospects were expendable.

    Two things: 1) the Phillies are far from that position now; and 2) the Minor League system is markedly weaker than it was then.

  19. Matt

    October 14, 2013 09:50 PM

    Yeah, I’d be very hesitant to trade for Stanton. At least after trading for Pence, they still had a couple guys around (namely Brown), to get Stanton, they would have literally nothing. If it wasn’t for the injury I’d be down, but knees can be bad news. And he didn’t exactly have a “sell the farm” year this year. And what would they do if they got Stanton? Great we have Stanton! And…nothing else…for a team that’s rebuilding they be trading off all the assets they would currently have that would help them, you know, rebuild. Stanton would clearly be the most talented player in the trade, but one player can only do so much.

  20. Joecatz

    October 15, 2013 06:06 AM

    Bill,

    Every one of those guys was either expendable or damaged goods in the phillies minds. And I’m not sure I’d call a team that was at the time, 6 games up on the division coming off a World Series championship a perennial powerhouse. That kind of started with the lee deal.

    And while the system was “better” than today, it still wasn’t much past Domonic brown, and the real high ceiling guys were drabek, darnaud, gose and Taylor at the time.

    That trade was a steal they, and it’s still a steal. Moving him that offseason was the stupid part.

  21. Joecatz

    October 15, 2013 06:20 AM

    If you really think about it, where Ruben has failed miserably in regards to trades is not in the actual trades themselves, so much as in the fact that he’s targeted controllable guys, players with additional time left on deals (lee, pence) vs rentals and paid a high volume price in prospects for each, only to in both cases trade said player in less than a year, for a lesser return that the give, and try and replace that player (in the case of lee with himself) on the open market the following season.

    It’s not the good deal bad deal, good prospects bad prospects concept, here.

    It’s the fact that between Halladay, lee Oswalt and pence the phillies gave up virtually everyone of their top prospects except brown. A total of, I think 13 or 14 players in less than two years.

    Whether any off them amounted to anything or not is beside the point. Half of them should have been traded for sure. That’s how this kind of team should operate. They simply gave up too many prospects in too short a time period. No system could withstand that. Good bad middle of the road.

    And if they had won in 2009 or 2010 or 2011 we may be singing a different tune here.

  22. Ryan

    October 15, 2013 08:49 AM

    We would definitely be singing a different tune if the Phillies won in 2009-2011. The only buying deal I really had a problem with at the time was the Pence deal. It just seemed unnecessary given that they had Dom Brown ready to take that spot. The fact that Pence took Brown’s playing time instead of Ibanez’s was even more unforgivable.

    I don’t understand why Ruben can’t ever seem to get good returns when he’s selling. That pisses me off.

  23. MattWinks

    October 15, 2013 11:08 AM

    Essentially the Lee trade would be the equivalent of the Phillies trading Jesse Biddle, Shane Watson, Tommy Joseph, and Cesar Hernandez. It certainly is not a small haul.

    The Roy Halladay trade equivalent would be Franco, Biddle, and Crawford.

  24. Joecatz

    October 15, 2013 11:10 AM

    Bill,

    They gave up their 2,3,4 and 10th ranked guys for lee AND francisco.

    Carasco was the only guy at the time who had real potential as a solid regular. Andre phillies were not high on him. Marson was blocked by Ruiz, and they had darnaud in the fold. Donald was projected as a super U guy, and knapp was already considered an injury risk.

    No one hated that deal at the time. And they kept brown, Taylor, drabek and darnaud.

    My point has nothing to do with evaluating trades after the fact. I’m simply stating that saying a team gave up four top ten prospects means very little in relation to who those guys were.

    There is no way this team will compete any time soon without trading someone of value. It’s just not how a high payroll team can and should operate. They key is making sure they move the right prospects.

    And in reality, we may not like some of the returns or reasoning for the trades, but amaro has a track record of actually sending out the right players.

    Maybe you can’t analyze a trade after the fact for some reason, but you can certainly look at the players we dealt and ask yourself how anyone could have such blind luck as to has not missed on virtually anyone the way they have (with the jury still out on the pence deal)

  25. Joecatz

    October 15, 2013 11:16 AM

    Matt,

    I agree in principle in terms of rankings maybe, but what you also have to consider is depth. Meaning T the time of both those trades well the prospects we gave up had value, they had more value in trade than to the phillies. Not sure that’s the case now with Crawford biddle and Franco.

    To get back to the original point I’ve been making here, the reason why a Stanton trade would be horrible is because in my opinion you sacrifice more major league talent and ready major league talent than its worth.

  26. MattWinks

    October 15, 2013 11:26 AM

    The prospects value to other teams are the same regardless of your prospect depth. To the Phillies they have equal value as well, but they are more expendable. That still does not make it nothing they gave up for Lee. I don’t disagree with the Halladay trade either for the same reason.

    I agree with the Stanton premise (and any major trade for that matter in which the Phillies are giving up prospect depth). You cannot give up all of your top guys year after year when you are also not bringing in high end talent from the draft due to forfeiting draft picks and refusing to go above slot in early rounds (or spend in Latin America).

    Even big market teams need minimum salary players to fill in to keep payroll under control.

  27. Joecatz

    October 15, 2013 11:49 AM

    The phillies haven’t traded a top prospect since July 29th 2011. Whether that’s because they didn’t have any or chose not to, it’s also a big reason why they are where they are. And it’s a direct correlation to having dumped so many of them so quickly between July 2009 and July 2011.

    I agree that they have to be careful about depleting the farm system, but there is no hope for competing with their payroll the way it is without finding a balance between trading assets and keeping talent.

    They’re at a point where hothey have to trade some assets to compete this offseason and it’s the right decision.

    Again, the key is guessing right on both sides which is easier said than done, but they can’t realistically fill the holes solely through free agency and development.

    They’ll end up losing guys in rule five anyway, and be forced to make those decisions regardless.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. While I chastise Ruben for the pence trades, I also praise him for not moving Dom. Either at the high point or the low point.

  28. Joecatz

    October 15, 2013 11:51 AM

    And they’ve kind of delved into Latin America Matt, and refused to give up the top pick last year, which netted crawford, and they’ll keep the pick this year.

    That said, they either trade for an OF or likely give up the 40th pick for Nelson Cruz or someone similar. We’ve talked about this, but they’ve got to give away some depth one way or another.

  29. Joecatz

    October 15, 2013 01:07 PM

    Fair enough bill. No disrespect meant here. I just take a different position when it comes to trades and prospects. I’m a firm believer that hording prospects is as bad as depleting the farm system by over trading.

    There has to be a balance. Whether it’s this offseason or mid season or after 2014 there simply isn’t any way for this team to be competitive without trading assets away.

    Eventually the Astros have to do the same to be competitive it’s all timing proper analysis and budgeting.

  30. Joecatz

    October 15, 2013 01:12 PM

    I should clarify here. There’s no way they can compete AND stay under the luxury tax limits without trading assets. Something has to give there. And there’s really no way they’ll go rebuild with the TV deal and the budget as I stands and they obviously can’t pull another band aid job like last year and hope the darts stick.

    They’re either spending or trading or both this offseason.

  31. NavyJoe

    October 16, 2013 03:26 PM

    Bill:

    By stating that you cannot evaluate a trade after the fact, aren’t you rendering the organization’s opinion of its own players as irrelevant?

    My point is that the Phillies should have a better understanding of their own players than Baseball America or Keith Law could ever hope to have (notice I said they should). Bearing that in mind, it stands to reason that an organization’s internal ranking of its prospects may not necessarily match those of the various analysts.

    The organization should also have a clearer picture of the various intangibles that may impact a player’s development than the analysts would have.

  32. HCE

    October 20, 2013 10:54 AM

    I’m a little late to the party here but why not include Cliff Lee in a package of some kids but just agree to pick up all of Cliff’s money? His contract runs till 2015 @ Stanton isn’t a FA till 2016 so their contracts don’t over lap.

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