A theory took hold last night, perpetuated by marks such as Boston superfan Bill Simmons and Marlins beat reporter Dan LeBatard, that Miami’s decision to trade Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees for a package light of prospects but high on salary relief, was all part of an elaborate ruse centred round Marlins CEO Derek Jeter.
In Simmons’ version of events, Jeter, the storied Yankees shortstop, was cast in the role of a burgeoning Kim Philby, a mastermind turncoat with the best interests of his old team – and more importantly, the worst interests of the Boston Red Sox – at heart.
The reality is surely far further from the truth. Stanton is on the verge of shipping to the Bronx thanks to Jeter’s tactical acumen; but more due to its lacking than his cunning. Others have sought to pin the blame for the mess on Marlins majority owner Bruce Sherman, or previous incumbent, cum baseball mega villain, Jeffrey Loria.
Both these takes are valid – let’s face it, there’s plenty of blame to go round here. The Marlins have just lost a generational player for the return of a toolsy second baseman in Stalin Castro and a pair of B+ prospects from the League’s deepest farm. Not to mention All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon for pennies in the dollar.
Rather than scorn, Jeter deserves a little sympathy. He is more naif than mastermind. Not Kim Philby, but more like Top Cat’s arch-nemesis Officer Dibble.
From day one the Marlins attempts to move Stanton have been ham-fisted.
Surely a front-office saddled with a gargantuan contract and a full no-trade clause which gave the player all the leverage would engage him. Give a little love and understanding, work together to get what’s best for everyone, right?
Wrong. Jeter went on the record stating that he hadn’t spoken to Stanton about his preferences, nor did he intend to. This was accompanied in the press by reports that the Marlins’ front office had sought to blackmail the player to accept a trade by threatening to decimate the team around him, leaving him as the Star of Africa diamond in a crown made of cake.
There followed a rather public dance between the Marlins and Stanton’s suitors in St. Louis and San Francisco. In the social media age we’ve become used to speculation and conjecture in sports being available on tap 24/7; but even with this backdrop the Stanton negotiations seemed like a porous, pulsating psychodrama.
The backdrop to this was not only an angry, disenfranchised player but a front office shorn of a forest of staff from their scouting and analytics teams, all of whom had vengeful incentive to share gossip with the likes of Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman.
This climate of irritation, with Stanton forced to make Sophie’s Choice as his teams motives – and their lack of value of his presence in Miami – became increasingly obvious, only served to stiffen his resolve to get a move that suited him. That, too, is on Jeter and Sherman.
Let’s pause for a minute to consider the move he chose.
All the reporting ahead of time suggested that Stanton favoured a move to warmer climes, preferably the winning Dodgers in his home state of California. Another line of the last 24 hours (especially from sour Red Sox and Cardinals fans) has been to suggest that the player has played them like a Stradivarius. As if adding burnish to this year’s losing ALCS team, already chockful of outstanding talent with more to come, has nothing to do with it. Get real. The list of reasons why Stanton wouldn’t want to live and play in New York is as follows – it’s cold sometimes. End.
Brian Cashman’s role in this saga shouldn’t be underplayed. He has managed to continue to turn out winning Yankee teams whilst trading away top drawer talent and hoarding other clubs Grade A youngsters. The Stanton trade is his coup de grace.
Like Top Cat, Cashman has caught Jeter and the Marlins on the hop and caught the big fish as it flailed on the banks of the Hudson.
This price for the best slugger in baseball is larceny. Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers might turn into solid players, but before yesterday they didn’t register on the radar of even knowledgeable fans. And this in a farm system where the names of players like Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar whet the lips of fantasy players the world over.
Many speculated that Stanton’s ultimatum would force the Marlins to take on a bad contract or two. The Yankees Jacoby Ellsbury or the Dodgers Adrian Gonzalez.
Realising the continued desperation of Jeter and co to further shed payroll was the real genius here, though. No team wants to be lumbered with a replacement level ex-star.
In Castro, the Marlins aren’t. The Yankees dealt from depth (Torres, the phenom, is their putative second baseman of the next ten years) and offered the Marlins another fungible asset – another $10m of salary relief to flip for a fringe prospect or two, likely during this week’s Winter Meetings. Irresistible.
You’ll read a lot this week about how the Marlins are/aren’t rebuilding. They aren’t – you don’t rebuild a 77 win team with a low payroll by selling incredibly low on one of their all-time greats.
You’ll read also that this is a derogation of public duty to the people of Miami, which it unquestionably is.
Many will seek to shield Jeter the player, from Jeter the executive and they mustn’t. He chose this role, and must wears its scars.
From Superman, to Inspector Clouseau – it’s quite a journey.