What a Cubs Trade for Giancarlo Stanton Might Look Like

Yesterday, Bob Nightengale got baseball Twitter in a bit of a tizzy when he reported that the Miami Marlins plan to give Giancarlo Stanton a franchise-record contract. Of course, a franchise-record contract for the Marlins doesn’t mean a whole ton since Stanton is expected to command maybe $100 million or more above that mark.

Because of this, many speculated that a Stanton trade is likely this coming winter. Naturally, the discussion turned to what the Cubs might give up for Giancarlo Stanton.

Before we get into what Stanton might command in a trade, it’s worth going over exactly how incredible a player Stanton is. In five major league seasons, Stanton has hit 154 home runs while hitting .271/.363/.540 (good for a .385 wOBA and 143 wRC+). In that time, he’s amassed 19.1 fWAR and 21 rWAR. This is an elite power hitter, the likes of which simply aren’t seen in baseball anymore.

What does it take to get a premier hitter? A whole freakin’ lot.

I’ve done trade value posts before, usually looking at the value of a player vs. his contract and figuring out the surplus value provided in a trade. I’m going to do that here, too, but I’m not sure how valid it is – systems like this tend to break down on the extreme ends. So, I’ll also be looking at recent mega-trades to try and develop an idea of what Stanton would cost.

Surplus Value Method

This one is simple: take the expected value of a player over the next few seasons, figure out how much that is worth to a team, and subtract a player’s salary from it. In this case, teams are trading for 2014-style Stanton, injury risk and all. Stanton is going to be a 6-7 win player this season, and aging curves suggest he’s not likely to get that much better. It’s honestly difficult to imagine Stanton being much better than he’s been this year, as the strikeouts really limit his batting average.

So, with a 7-win season in each of the next few years, and at $5 million/win, the expectation is that Santon would be worth about $70 million over the next few years. He made $6.5 million in his first arbitration year, but if he wins the MVP this season that arbitration payout could double. For the sake of simplicity let’s assume he jumps by $4 million this season, and $6 million in his final arb year, which would put him right around a record arbitration payout each season.

Therefore, over the two seasons before he became a free agent, Stanton would produce $70 million while being paid $27 million – put another way, we’re assuming Stanton will be providing $43 million in surplus value. If we include something like the marginal win curve, this number escalates. By how much is quite contentious and I’m just going to leave it along for this short post.

What does $43 million in surplus value buy you? Well, this ancient study gives you an idea of how valuable a prospect of a certain ranking is. Just eyeballing it, Stanton may be worth a top-10 hitting prospect (Russell or possibly Soler), a top-50 hitting prospect (probably where teams would value Baez nowadays – not that his talent has slipped much, but a 40% MLB K% isn’t a good look), and a couple of good-but-not-great prospects to round things out.*

So maybe you’re looking at a Russell/Soler+Baez/Pierce Johnson/CJ Edwards+Vogelbach/Similarly Talented Player. I’m not going to judge whether or not such a deal would be worth it for the Cubs, just stating what I think a realistic Stanton package looks like.

Recent History Method

It’s tough to find many recent examples of a young, elite player like Stanton getting dealt. The deal that immediately comes to mind is the Miguel Cabrera trade in 2007. The Marlins sent Cabrera, along with a rapidly-falling-apart Dontrelle Willis for a deal centered around recent top-10 prospect Andrew Miller and top-6 prospect Cameron Maybin ($52.4 million in prospect value).

Mark Teixeira is another great player who was traded in 2007, and he returned around $55.5 million in prospects: Elvis Andrus (top-75 hitter), Neftali Feliz (top-100 pitcher), Matt Harrison (top-100 pitcher), and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (top-50 Hitter).

A year later, Matt Holliday was traded twice within a single season. The first time he went for a deal involving Carlos Gonzalez (top-25 hitter) and Huston Street (young, established stud closer; oodles of trade value). The second time he went for Brett Wallace (top-50 hitter) and a few not-very-good pitchers.

Less applicable examples:

  • David Price (who probably had a lower value when traded than Stanton does now) returned a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter, a recent top-100 prospect, and a likely back-end top-100 prospect.
  • This spring, Mark Trumbo (a player worth 10% of Stanton) returned Tyler Skaggs, a top-15 pitching prospect as recently as a year before, and Hector Santiago via Adam Eaton, who had been a yop-100 prospect the year before.
  • R.A. Dickey (who was not young, but was extremely good at the time) returned a top-30 pitching prospect and a top-10-25 catching prospect. That same offseason, James Shields was traded for a top-5 hitting prospect, a top-50 pitching prospect, and a couple of interesting lower-level prospects ($52.4+ mil).
  • In 2011, the Padres traded a very good, very young Mat Latos for $37.6 million in value in Yonder Alonso (top-40 hitter) and Yasmani Grandal (top-50-75 hitter). Gio Gonzalez was moved the same month for AJ Cole (top 50-100 Pitcher), Derek Norris (top 100 Hitter), Brad Peacock (#36 according to Baseball America), and Tommy Milone ($40.5 mil).

If there’s anything to take away from these, it’s that not-as-good-as-Stanton players have frequently commanded at least $50 million in surplus value.

Just looking at these recent deals, I have to assume Stanton would command one elite prospect, a top-50 prospect and/or a recently ranked prospect who was promoted to the majors, and some interesting borderline-top-100 names. This is pretty similar to the deal above, and I think a deal of Russell/Soler+Baez/Alcantara+McKinney/Vogelbach+Pierce Johnson/CJ Edwards+Corey Black would compare favorably to recent mega-deals.

Again, I’m not going to pass judgement on whether or not such a deal is a good idea, just providing what I think might be needed to capture Stanton. Given the farm system possessed by the Red Sox (who are rumored to really, really want Stanton), the bidding could get pretty insane.

*This comes out to a little more than $43 million, but I do not believe $/WAR is a linear thing above ~4-5 wins, nor do I believe teams value wins on a linear scale when it comes to extreme players

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