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What would Cardinals payroll look like with Giancarlo Stanton?

He makes a lot of money. Here’s how it would affect the Cardinals.

Craig Edwards

We are just about a week away from the all-important September 1 date where players outside of an organization are not eligible for postseason rosters, effectively ending the waivers trade period that being on August 1 after the initial trade deadline. There’s still time for the Cardinals, or any other team, to make a move, although a big move seems unlikely. There’s been a lot of talk about Giancarlo Stanton and his salary. Let’s dive in.

We probably don’t need to get too much in to what Stanton brings to the table or what a trade might look like. Ben Markham laid out a massive blockbuster here that discussed Stanton’s value, though that one only worked before the trade deadline. John Fleming discussed the need for a big bat. And last week we discussed the possibility of a waiver trade, with Pegasus concluding:

Giancarlo Stanton’s contract isn’t a big positive. Stanton the player, however, is. He’s one of the few legitimate three-win upgrades that might be actually available to the team right now, and he’s good enough now that his production during the next few years is a decent bet to pay for the bad years at the end of his contract. The expense of those bad years, when they come, should be easily absorbed by the Cardinals. If they can go get him in a waiver trade, they should. He’d look great in red.

I don’t have much to add to the pieces above, though there have been considerable discussions in the comments section regarding why the Cardinals wouldn’t have just put in a claim for Stanton if they wanted him. There are two relatively simple explanations.

  1. By putting in a claim on a player on a team in the midst of ownership change, then negotiating a trade in 48 hours seems difficult if not impossible even before you get to dealing with Stanton’s no-trade clause. After that 48 hour period, there is then zero possibility for a deal until after the season.
  2. No team put a claim on Stanton, which means generally either point one from above is true (including the Marlins telling teams that if he is claimed they will pull him back) or all teams do not value Stanton at 10 years and $295 million and any team trading for Stanton expects to pay less than that or perhaps send prospects in exchange for paying less in salary.

In any event, it is possible that claiming Stanton would make a deal less likely, not more likely. We know that Stanton has now passed through waivers, and that while not likely, a deal is technically still possible, and would be possible in the offseason regardless.

The image below shows what Cardinals payroll might look like if the team brought Stanton on starting in 2018. I made a few estimates on arbitration, and some of those later years in arbitration should be considered more placeholders than set in stone roster spot.

Craig Edwards

A few notes:

  • Aledmys Diaz isn’t included here. He’s owed $2 million this season and presumably will make about the same for the next few years so if you want to mentally add that feel free.
  • Options are included in that final number, though some, like Mike Leake’s, don’t seem likely to be picked up. If those players with options are still producing, none are overly onerous.
  • These arbitration estimates are very rough as future play will have a large consideration in what these players receive.

Overall, a salary like Stanton’s should fit in to the Cardinals existing structure pretty well. It’s not hard to think that the Cardinals could go in to next season with the current team in the infield, Stanton in place of a current outfielder like Piscotty, and the same rotation with Weaver/Reyes swapped out for Lynn.

It appears the team has little flexibility in 2019, but paying decent salaries for both Piscotty and Grichuk seems unlikely and they have movable pieces elsewhere should the need arise. The same is true for 2019 as well as the options for Gyorko and Carpenter. After that, everything gets pretty flexible.

Of course, that note at the bottom of the chart is a bit of a doozy. From 2025-2027, in Stanton’s age-35 through his age-37 season, he will be owed $96 million. The odds of Stanton being highly productive during that time isn’t high, though by then every single current member of the Cardinals will have reached free agency or signed a new long-term contract.

That is both fortunate, in that it provides time for planning, and scary, as having Stanton at the tail end of a contract making big money on a team of unknown talent could be a bit wasteful. One thing to keep in mind is that the salaries then—$32 million, $29 million, and $25 million plus $10 million buyout on an option in 2028—are not paid in 2017 dollars.

If we assume that baseball salaries keep rising at 5% per season, which isn’t a guarantee, but that’s what they’ve been doing for some time, those salaries are $21 million, $18 million, and $21 million in 2017 money. Paying Giancarlo Stanton that money at age-35 through age-37 is equivalent to the free agent contract Edwin Encarnacion signed this past winter for age-34 through age-36.

The likely scenario is that Stanton isn’t worth the money at the end of the contract. It’s also true, that there are players who might be a better fit for what the Cardinals are looking for position-wise as well as long- or short-term commitments. What is true, is that the Cardinals likely can afford Stanton—both now and in the future—and he would make the team better for the next several years.