“The Yankees are talented, well-developed and returning to the form with which we’re all familiar. It’s a great team and, for the first time in a long time, for the outsider, they’re likeable. Give Cashman credit: he’s reinvented himself in real-time and built a next-generation Yankees team that, save for pitching, is reminiscent of those teams that started the last dynasty.”
That would be yours truly, on October 5, previewing the ALDS.
Yes, hell was freezing over. The New York Yankees–the Yankees!–weren’t the team everyone loves to hate. They had retooled the team the right way–no more massive free agent contracts, homegrown talent, had to play their way into the postseason and caught fire against the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card Game. The 2017 Yankees were the good guys for once.
Fast forward two months, and most of us outside of the five boroughs feel a bit snookered. Cashman swooped in after Giancarlo Stanton rebuffed the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, offered the Miami Marlins an offer that could be easily-enough refused, and the team–whose face is now Yankee legend Derek Jeter–was allowed by their superstar to make the deal. It will be formally announced Monday.
And I hate it.
I’m admittedly being a little melodramatic, but the optics on this deal just don’t *ahem* look good.
In 2011, the then-New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers agreed to a complex deal to send Chris Paul to the Southland. It was so lopsided, commissioner (and Dark Lord of the Sith) David Stern vetoed it.
In fairness, it’s to a significant extent apples and oranges: different sport, different CBA, different economics. Stanton flexed his muscle through a total no-trade clause freely agreed to between himself and Marlins management (then overseen by Jeff Loria) in a mammoth 13-year, $325M contract signed in 2014. In so doing, he nixed reported deals with the San Francisco Giants (which made sense, the Giants are currently a tire fire) and St. Louis Cardinals (which makes no sense, Stanton goes to a hitter-friendly division, a team that needs a single plus-bat to be instantly competitive and he would have been revered as a god in baseball-happy St. Louis and I’m freely conceding these points as a Milwaukee Brewers fan!)
So, no: the Yankees aren’t the culprits here. Doesn’t mean we have to like it.
Further, on paper, of course this makes the Yankees a better team: the team already had solid bats in Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez, speed and upside in Aaron Hicks, big upside in Greg Bird and a mutant beast in Aaron Judge. When news started circulating, Yankees Twitter started in on how this would be the new Murderer’s Row, how Jeter should get a ring for his part in the 2018 World Series pennant, etc.
Stanton is an all-world talent and the reigning National League MVP, but he struck out at a 2:1 ratio to taking walks, set a personal low for outs in a season (447, by far his highest to date), grounded into 13 double plays (after totaling 11 in 2015 and ’16 combined) and likely will not see the field in AL play.
The Yankees have also agreed to take on the overwhelming majority of Stanton’s remaining contract, which is straight out of the old spend-spend-spend playbook that turned the Yankees into full-on baseball heels. Further, if there are injuries (not out of the question) or he underperforms (see also: Giambi, Jason, Ellsbury, Jacoby, Johnson, Randy), Stanton has zero incentive to opt-out in 2020. The Yankees have tied a significant part of their future to a star who is showing signs of beginning to trend in the wrong direction and won’t help in the field.
I’m not in any way convinced that Stanton will absolutely make the Yankees better than they would be by staying the course. We’ll never know now; nevertheless, that’s a lot of money for a player who hasn’t played meaningful homestretch baseball, much less in October.
And let’s be real: Giancarlo Stanton is a great ballplayer, but he’s not Bryce Harper and he’s certainly not Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth. For the Yankees, this is a clearance rack bargain in the same way that your local Marshalls isn’t a Nordstrom Rack.
We can hate the Yankees, but we all can agree that this was the deal they really couldn’t not make. For that, we can hate Jeff Loria more than we already do: after all, Loria allegedly tanked the Montreal Expos (Hi, Jonah Keri!) and sold them to Major League baseball, only to pull a Bill Veeck and acquire the Florida Marlins, hold Miami and Dade County over a barrel and build an atrocity of a stadium with an eyesore they call artwork in left-center, and then sold the team for a reported $1.2 billion dollars to the current, Jeter-led regime.
No, it’s not the Yankees being the evil empire. But it’s not ideal for those of us genuinely enjoying the Yankees’ success playing the same fiscal game as (most of) the rest of Baseball.
Brent Sirvio is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.