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Why hasn’t Giancarlo Stanton told the Cardinals “no” yet?

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Now that the Marlins have accepted an offer from the Giants, are the Cardinals still in the running?

World Series - Houston Astros v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two
what’s he plotting up there
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Let’s say you’re not completely happy at your current job, so you decide to start quietly going out on interviews. Let’s say you receive intriguing offers from two different companies within a day of one another. You now have three choices: stay put, or pick one of the two new jobs.

Let’s say your compensation will be the same in each position. You know what you don’t like about your current job, and in fact you have reason to think it will get worse soon — but you have total job security and don’t have to leave. One of the new companies is reported to have a good workplace culture and good, stable business projections in the future, but it’s in a city you’re not wild about moving to. The other is located in a different city that you really like and is closer to your family, but they’ve had some bad business results recently and you wonder how much stability they can offer.

Let’s say you weigh the pros and cons, and decide that if you are going to take one of the new jobs at all, it’s going to be the one in the city you like more. You’re still not 100% sure if you’ll take that one at all, but you do know one thing for sure: you’re not taking that other new job offer, the one in the city you’re not wild about. So what’s your next move?

As a matter of professional courtesy, you call the company that lost out, and politely decline. You don’t have to decide whether you’re taking the new job in the great location to know that you’re not taking this one. And they’ll want to move on to other candidates.

Based on current reporting and rumors, that might be Giancarlo Stanton’s situation right now. The Giants are the shaky but well-located business, and the Cardinals are the rock-solid company with less desirable geography. He essentially has standing job offers from both clubs—as the Marlins have agreed with both on trades in principle—and his no-trade clause allows him to pick (or refuse both). Longstanding rumors have always held that if those are Stanton’s choices and he opts against staying with the Marlins, San Francisco wins. The hope for Cardinals fans all along has been to be presented to Stanton as the only option acceptable to the Marlins. Alas, that didn’t happen, so now there’s a feeling like we’re just waiting for the blade to fall.

And yet, three days after the Cardinals made their pitch to Stanton, the phone call from his agent thanking the Cardinals for their interest and politely declining hasn’t come. What’s that mean?

The first possibility is that he knows he’s not coming to St. Louis, and is just being rude by leaving the Cardinals hanging. A point in favor of this theory would be that he routinely smashes baseballs with no regard for the law or mores of normal human society. But a point against is that he seems like a pretty nice guy. Another point against is that even if he’s just an athlete and is wholly oblivious to professional courtesy, his agents know better (and represent other players who the Cardinals may target this offseason, which would counsel against needlessly annoying Cardinals executives). I think we can dismiss this one.

A second and more realistic possibility is that, contrary to the rumors, Stanton simply hasn’t made his mind up.

He has said he’s motivated to leave Miami because he’s tired of being around for rebuilds. Well, San Francisco was terrible in 2017, has a poor farm system that can’t offer much help either through trades or graduations, and has long-term financial commitments that—with Stanton on top of them—preclude patching up very many issues with money. As I previously wrote, the Giants do project for a solid bounce-back, but still project about ten wins away from contention in 2018. Stanton gets them six of those, but also hamstrings their ability to spend money in search of more. That leaves them searching for trades with a poor farm system or, more likely, hoping for the best.

And of course, the bounce-back might not come, or might not come completely. Which would make them simply an old, expensive, not-quite-mediocre team stuck in neutral. Maybe Stanton can escape that with his opt-out clause after 2020, but maybe his production dips in the interim and that would mean leaving money on the table. Maybe, maybe, maybe. You can understand if Stanton suddenly has some cold feet, now that a Giants trade is up to him and only him.

Then there’s a third option, for the conspiracy theorists out there: all the rumors about the Giants aren’t about Stanton actually wanting to be a Giant. They’ve been about him wanting to be a Dodger. Stanton’s interest in playing for his home-town Dodgers is well known, and the extent of the leaks regarding that interest is easy to read as a blaring siren saying HEY DODGERS, PLEASE GET INVOLVED IN THESE TRADE TALKS from Stanton’s camp.

Yet the Dodgers have largely sat on the sidelines, leery of the luxury-tax penalties Stanton’s contract would require. No matter how much Stanton wants to go there, he can’t force them to make an offer Miami would accept. But here’s one way to try to get a team off the sidelines, if it’s truly a big deal to you: threaten (through the media, because the tampering rules prevent direct contact) to go to their arch-rival.

Fair enough. But what if the arch-rival takes it seriously, makes a real offer, and you don’t want to go there and never did?

You keep another team in reserve. A team you’ve supposedly been telling people you won’t go to... but who you oddly haven’t turned down yet. This is important: knowing the Giants deal is in place is all the motive the Dodgers would need to bid on Stanton. There’s no need for Stanton to keep a Cardinals trade on ice if he knows he’d ultimately pick the Giants over them. If (huge if) Stanton actually has made a decision between the Giants and Cardinals already, and all he’s doing is giving the Dodgers one last chance, his choice might actually be the Cardinals. Why else keep them hanging around at all?

I’m not saying that’s what’s happening here. Most likely, as with all reported things, the reality is that the true facts are as reported: geography is important enough to Stanton that he’ll risk Miguel Cabrera’s fate as an immovable contract on a sinking ship. And the Giants won’t necessarily be bad; maybe they convinced him of their plan to be good again.

Still, nobody should feel hopeless about this until they hear that there’s actually no hope left. If and when Stanton rules the Cardinals out, he will let them know, and we’ll find out soon thereafter. In the meantime, we’re either waiting him out and hoping he decides he’d prefer a better chance at winning after all, or waiting the Dodgers out and whispering to ourselves, the Giants were just a smokescreen this whole time.

[GRABS MICROPHONE WITH TWO HANDS AND PRESSES IT AGAINST MOUTH]

TOO MUCH SOY IN OUR DIETS IS SAPPING OUR TESTOSTERONE LEVELS, MIKE MATHENY DID 9/11, SAN FRANCISCO FELL INTO THE PACIFIC IN FEBRUARY 2010 AND AT&T PARK IS A SOUND STAGE IN THE GRAND TETONS, THE WORLD’S TILAPIA SUPPLY HAS BEEN TAINTED WITH

[DRAGGED OFF BY SECURITY]