In 2014, at age 24, Giancarlo Stanton batted .288/.395/.555 with a league leading 37 home runs. He finished the season second in the National League MVP voting and appeared to be on track for superstardom. Here was a guy who, in an era without many 50 home run threats, looked capable of having multiple such seasons. Yet he was also hitting for average, getting on base, and possessing a cannon for an arm in right field. He looked to be the real deal. That off-season Stanton signed a contract with the Marlins for 13 years and $325 million, which was the most guaranteed money ever given to a professional athlete.
That contract is now...interesting. Late in 2014 Stanton got drilled in the face by a fastball in one of the scarier baseball moments of the past decade, yet the Marlins paid him anyway. Even now the shot of Stanton getting hit in the jaw can be hard to watch:
Stanton has still been a good player since this happened. As recently as February 2016 I thought he was in consideration for one of the top five picks if all of baseball had a re draft. Now though? Not so much. His numbers aren't horrible. He doesn't walk nearly as much anymore or hit for as high of a batting average, but the power has been there while he's been healthy. And he still beats the living shit out of the baseball when he makes contact, at least up until this year. His average exit velocity over the past three season has ranked first, third, and now 29th. On second thought I would say it's worrisome that he has only regressed since signing the giant contract.
Let's think about something for a second. If Stanton were to hit free agency after this season, what kind of contract would he command? He's still only 27 so it would certainly be a long term deal, and elite power hitters these days typically command $25-30 million per season. That being said it's conceivable a team would be willing to go as high as seven years and $200 million for Stanton.
Remaining on Stanton's contract, though? 10 years and $295 million. That's after this year. Now there's an opt out following 2020, which will be interesting to see what happens with. Unless Stanton opts out or the Marlins are able to find a trading partner, the contract is going to become extremely ugly over the next decade. He seems destined to grow increasingly frustrated with Miami's inability to surround him with talent, and the Marlins front office will be forced to start rebuilding without the option of signing impact free agents.
It's tough to criticize Miami too much because there's obviously no way they could have expected to be without Jose Fernandez this year. That guy was the emotional leader of the team. Without him this off-season the front office tried to focus on the bullpen. After missing out on Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman they signed Junichi Tazawa and Brad Ziegler, both of whom have been bad. And the Marlins have next to nothing ready to come through the farm system. Outside of their outfield, which also includes Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, they have no real assets. This caused Stanton to declare last week that he was as frustrated as he's ever been with the organization.
Ultimately both parties here are to blame. Giving Stanton $325 million coming off the best season of his career, years before he had the leverage of free agency, was incredibly irresponsible. As for Stanton, now he's sick of losing? What did he expect when he signed with Miami? If Stanton is really sick of losing by 2020 he will opt out and sign with a contender. But he would not get close to the amount of money he would receive if he stayed, so it won't be until then when we find out how frustrated with the organization he really is (unless he gets traded). However, whether it's via the opt out or a trade is seems like a near certainty he doesn't live out this contract with the Marlins.