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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.