This is supposed to be the fun time of the year, when any and every team can make a big splash and dominate the headlines. The biggest deals often go down at the Winter Meetings, but the early Hot Stove League usually gives us something.
This year it has been so quiet it might as well be dead.
Perhaps baseball executives have simply hit snooze, and are waiting for next year…when arguably the greatest free agent class in sports history hits the open market.
Or, more likely the entire baseball world is in a holding pattern until its two biggest dominoes—Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani and Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton—fall.
Where Ohtani ends up is anyone’s guess. Baseball’s CBA restricts the financial aspect of signing international players, thereby any of MLB’s thirty teams could realistically make a competing offer. The player called the Babe Ruth of Japan will likely sign with a better positioned, bigger market team, but everyone has a shot.
The same can’t be said about Stanton. Armed a no-trade clause, a record setting contract, and coming off a monster season, there are very few teams in position to acquire the Marlins’ outfielder.
And the Marlins have no choice. The former owners backed the team into a corner, heavily backloading the mammoth contract and essentially forcing the current owners into trading the best player in franchise history.
The teams mentioned most often in rumors are the deeper pocketed franchises. The Red Sox, Dodger, Giants, and Phillies are quick thoughts. The Cardinals, while not an elite money spender, have the cash and need, and have been bandied about a lot, and it does make sense.
However, the team that makes the most sense, the one that adding Stanton to solves TWO issues, has not been mentioned once in connection with him.
The Washington Nationals.
Yes, there are tons of reasons why this makes absolutely no sense, beginning with the Marlins’ apparent desire to get him out of their division. Even if they haven’t thought about that, why would they want to trade away Stanton only to watch him from the opposing team’s dugout nineteen times per year for years to come?
And then there are the Nationals reasons why it’s a bad idea. They already have their own superstar right-fielder, nowhere for Stanton to play, and a payroll that’s already topped the luxury tax threshold.
Acquiring Stanton would blow their budget. His salary would single handily vault them deeper into the luxury tax penalty than they have every been before.
But only for 2018. Following the season Washington clears more than $65 million from its books, and likely would be out from under the tax.
Nearly a third of those dollars belong to Bryce Harper, who undoubtedly will leave Washington for much greener pastures, which makes acquiring Stanton a preemptive strike aimed at keeping the Nationals window of contention wide open.
Either Stanton or Harper can man left-field for a year, and together they could mash their way into bringing a championship back to D.C. Then when Harper leaves Stanton can slide into his place, and the Nationals might not miss a beat.
However, it would be an extremely risky move. It might not cost Victor Robles, but the price is going to sting. And for years the Nationals have been robbing Peter to pay Paul, deferring tens of millions of dollars.
Regardless of how their TV contract negotiations/lawsuits go, those bills are going to come do. And it could bankrupt the franchise. But that’s not enough of a reason not to bring the game’s best slugger to the nation’s capital.
A parade down Pennsylvania Avenue would look pretty sweet in late October.