The term “silly season” that is used to describe the Major League Baseball offseason took a turn for the, well, sillier in the middle of November 2014 when the Miami Marlins awarded 25-year-old slugger Giancarlo Stanton with what has turned out to be the largest player contract in all of North American professional sports. The deal will earn Stanton up to $325 million over the next 13 years. There will, in the future, come a point when Stanton is making an average of over $31 million per year.
Unlike systems that are utilized by leagues such as the National Football League, MLB has no hard salary cap. Club owners can theoretically spend whatever they want to build squads capable of winning a World Series championship. Such tactics have, in the past, produced positive results for teams. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have, in the eyes of some fans, “bought” titles. Even the Marlins were accused of doing so back during the franchise’s Florida Marlins days.
Just one more thing about the Stanton contract: It doesn’t carry with it anything, at this time, other than a bunch of unfulfilled promises.
Here are 10 reasons the Giancarlo Stanton contract is a mistake for the Miami Marlins.
10. Who is Watching Him?
Stanton is undeniably a great young player, a unique talent who could emerge as a true sports superstar sooner rather than later. What Stanton is not, as of November 2014, is a proven draw in the Miami market. The Marlins are notorious for being responsible for some of the more embarrassing attendance figures in all of Major League Baseball. Only three clubs posted lower attendance averages than Miami in 2014. In awarding Stanton with this deal, the Marlins have guaranteed over $100 million to a guy who is, to casual sports fans in the Miami market, largely an invisible character.
9. Further Lack of Drawing Power
Not only is Stanton not a tremendous draw for fans in the Miami market. He also isn’t yet the type of player who will, on his own, lead other free agents to sign for the Marlins. Take LeBron James as an example. James is the best player in his sport and he has won multiple championships. Of course players from around the NBA would love to play alongside James for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Stanton is not at that level as of the signing of his contract, and it is possible that he will never get there.
8. Miami’s Roster
Inking Stanton to a deal that keeps him in Miami up through the end of the decade is a wise move, but it doesn’t make the club any better than it was at the end of October. Yes, Stanton’s contract is backloaded to help the Marlins acquire more talent over the next couple of years. Miami finished the 2014 campaign in fourth place in the National League East, 19 games back of the Washington Nationals. Unless the other teams in the division all take nosedives between now and 2016, the Marlins are not one positive offseason away from clinching a postseason berth. Speaking of the playoffs…
7. Unproven When it Matters Most
The following is a list of Stanton’s meaningful playoff contributions during his Miami career: There are none, because the Marlins have only made two postseason appearances in the history of the franchise. Nobody can say with any certainty that Stanton will be an All-Star player when it matters most because he has never had the opportunity to play underneath the spotlight that comes with October baseball. Would it have been wiser for Miami to instead overpay for a player who has gotten the job done in one-and-done postseason games? We will find out over the next several years.
6. Injury Concerns?
One thing that is not getting enough play from the national media is the fact that Stanton has been banged up several times during the early stages of his professional career. He underwent knee surgery to repair a problem in July of 2012. Stanton appeared in only 116 games during the 2013 season. While he did play in 145 regular season games in 2014, his campaign came to a crashing halt in September when an unfortunate incident forced him to be out of action for the remainder of the month. It is that moment of his career that leads to further concerns about his staying power in Major League Baseball.
5. The Moment
Stanton’s 2014 season ended for good on September 11 when he was brutally smashed in the face by a pitch, the type of incident that changes a person’s life and the way that he approaches future at-bats. Former Cleveland Indians pitcher Herb Score was struck in the face by a line drive during a game that occurred in 1957, and those who covered the Tribe would later comment that Score, a two-time All-Star and the Rookie of the Year for 1955, was never the same pitcher after that moment. Will Stanton be at all gun-shy when he takes the field in the spring of 2015?
4. No Trade
That Major League Baseball clubs feel handcuffed to award top players with full no-trade clauses through the lives of their contracts does not mean that doing so is a wise move in this situation. Imagine a scenario in which the Marlins are still a losing club after the 2016 season. Miami will be on the hook for $77 million of Stanton’s contract over the following three seasons before he will be able to opt out of the deal. When you’re being paid that kind of money, you have no problem with staying put regardless of the state of the club that sends you your paychecks.
3. State of Baseball in 2014
The Kansas City Royals began the 2014 Major League Baseball season with a team salary of less than half of that belonging to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Guess which of the two clubs played in the World Series this past fall. Hint: It wasn’t the LA club. Granted, the Royals had to pull off some smart business over the past calendar year to achieve all that they did this past offseason, but that doesn’t take away from Kansas City being the model franchise of the league for the season. The Royals would not offer Stanton $300 million, and yet the Royals seem to be trending in the right direction.
2. He’s Not A-Rod
Everybody who is comparing Stanton to Alex Rodriguez because Stanton’s new deal brings back memories of the contract Rodriguez received all of those years ago needs to pump the breaks. Rodriguez was, even before his physical prime, pegged to be a once-in-a-generation athlete, the type of player who was certain to produce Hall of Fame statistics. Stanton certainly has talent, and he should only improve over the next decade of his career. Do not, however, confuse a 25-year-old Stanton for a 25-year-old A-Rod. They are not one and the same.
1. Baseball Needs a Change
No professional sports organization in all of North America and perhaps all of the world needs a course correction as far as player salaries are concerned more than Major League Baseball. Even the thought of a 25-year-old athlete who is currently far more promise than he is finished product getting a deal that is anywhere near $300 million wouldn’t enter the mind of a single National Football League general manager. Whether it is MLB moving to a system that includes a hard salary cap or some other fix, baseball cannot continue these types of practices. While it’s great for the players who cash in, contracts similar to Stanton’s do the league and teams little good, especially if the clubs that offer them don’t win championships.