MLB: With Giancarlo Stanton deal, Yankees are back to being the team everyone loves to hate
The Evil Empire is back and somewhere a baseball executive might be smashing a chair against a wall in honor of Theo Epstein’s fabled fit of anger after the Yankees managed to outfox the Red Sox for Cuban defector Jose Contreras all those years ago.
Giancarlo Stanton in pinstripes?
Yes, that’s enough to provoke an emotional response, but what makes this deal particularly devilish, of course, is that the Yankees took advantage of their former Captain, Derek Jeter, who as new owner of the Marlins was in the desperate position of needing to unload Stanton’s $295 million contract.
It’s not like the Yankees, with all of their home-run power, really need Stanton, but they couldn’t resist the opportunity to bring in baseball’s home-run king on what amounted to their terms.
More on that momentarily, but what’s most fascinating here is how getting Stanton instantly makes the Yankees the Yankees again, at least in terms of image.
Last season they relished their rare status as gritty underdogs, but now they’re officially back to being the behemoth everyone loves to hate.
In truth, adding Stanton may take a bit of the fun from Yankee fans as well, many of which seemed to enjoy seeing their team build a winner with a nucleus of emerging young stars rather than high-priced free agents.
Now, in some ways this feels a little bit like Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors, and only a year after Brian Cashman reacted to the Red Sox getting Chris Sale by likening them to the Warriors.
Nevertheless, somehow I think Yankee fans will get on board with this move.
Mets fans … not so much. But as much as everyone outside of the Yankee universe will scream bloody murder, there’s no denying it’s good for baseball to have the sport’s most polarizing team flexing its muscles again.
For that matter, with Stanton and Aaron Judge matching moonshots in the same lineup, this team will have must-see quality unlike anything since Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were chasing down Babe Ruth’s home run record a half-century ago.
And, oh by the way, welcome to managing, Aaron Boone: as if expectations weren’t high enough already for the new guy.
Yes, the 2018 Yankees are going to have a rock-star vibe to them now that will be reminiscent of the days when Alex Rodriguez came aboard 14 years ago to play alongside Jeter.
Speaking of which: Jeter’s role in this trade is only going to ratchet up the anti-Yankee sentiment, as it will be perceived in many places, starting with Boston, that he did his old team a favor here.
In truth, however, Jeter had little choice, desperate as he was to be rid of the remaining 10 years on Stanton’s contract.
After all, it was the Marlins’ slugger who dictated the deal, via his no-trade clause, blocking trades the Marlins had worked out with both the Giants and Cardinals, thereby putting Jeter in a position of weakness.
And so the legendary former shortstop is not off to such a great start as an owner. He had already made his share of missteps, tossing aside respected former players like Tony Perez, Andre Dawson and Jeff Conine to save a few bucks, then firing a veteran scout, Marty Scott, while he was in the hospital recovering from colon cancer surgery.
Now Jeter looks foolish for refusing to speak to Stanton personally about all of this, going through the exercise of working out trades with the Giants and Cardinals, only to have the player void them via his no-trade clause.
Ultimately that gave Cashman the hammer in his negotiations on Stanton, and don’t think the GM didn’t enjoy that, considering that hard feelings have lingered between him and Jeter since the shortstop’s acrimonious contract negotiation late in his career.
In any case, Cashman was largely able to dictate terms of the deal. As MLB sources confirmed on Saturday, the Yankees got the Marlins to eat $30 million of the $295 million on the contract and take back significant salary in Starlin Castro.
In addition they gave up very little in the way of prospects: two low-level minor-leaguers, pitcher Jorge Guzman and shortstop Jose Devers.
The inclusion of Castro, who is owed $23 million over the next two seasons, was vital in defraying some of the cost, making it possible for the Yankees to still get their payroll under the luxury-tax threshold of $197 million, which Hal Steinbrenner and Cashman have repeatedly said is a priority this off-season.
With some $70 million coming off the payroll in expired contracts, the Yankees do have room to add significant salary and still get under the number.
At Boone’s press conference on Wednesday, in fact, Steinbrenner essentially promised that his Yankees would spend money this winter, but who knew it meant they’d be taking on the biggest contract in the sport.
The question now, regarding the luxury-tax implications, is whether the Yankees will be able to add a starting pitcher, even if it’s only bringing back CC Sabathia on a one-year deal, or they’ll have to rely more heavily on young starters such as Chance Adams, who is expected to be major-league ready.
However the finances work out, this was a deal taken from the late George Steinbrenner’s old playbook, adding the guy who hit 59 home runs to an offense that totaled the most long-balls in the majors last season.
The more stars, the better, as George saw it, and with Stanton in the Bronx the Yankees are the Yankees again. Let the bashing begin.