John Harper, for SNY.tv | Twitter |
So what are the chances the Yankees could interest the Dodgers in trading for Giancarlo Stanton as a way of clearing a path to sign either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado?
Put it this way: they probably have a better shot of convincing Brodie Van Wagenen to send Jacob deGrom their way for some minor-league prospects.
That may have been the case under any circumstances, but especially so after the Los Angeles Times on Thursday reported the Dodgers have sent documents to investors pledging to stay under Major League Baseball's luxury-tax threshold for the next four years.
They're up against that threshold already with some high-priced contracts, most notably Clayton Kershaw's $31-million-a-year deal, so the Dodgers apparently couldn't add Stanton's $29 million-a-year salary even if they wanted him.
It matters because the Dodgers are probably the only team for which Stanton would waive his no-trade clause, allowing the native Southern Californian to play close to home.
Yes, the Angels fit the geography requirement too, but Stanton has made it clear he wants to play for a winner after all those years in Miami. Besides, that franchise is still saddled with Albert Pujols' albatross contract, in addition to paying $34 million-a-year to Mike Trout.
Bottom line: Stanton isn't going anywhere, and on the surface that's not necessarily a bad thing, as he'll surely help the Yankees win a lot of games for the next several seasons with his power numbers.
Still, I have to believe Yankees were shocked at the depth of Stanton's offensive funks last season. It's not like they didn't know he could be streaky, but there's no way they expected him to be so badly overmatched by elite righthanded pitching, most notably those horrendous at-bats against Craig Kimbrel in the ALDS.
With that in mind, they certainly have more need for the left-handed power of Harper, who is a better overall hitter, as well as the positional value Machado brings as a slugging shortstop or third baseman.
Obviously the Yankees could afford to sign either one of them anyway, especially after re-setting their luxury tax at a lower rate by staying under the $197 million threshold in 2018.
Yet people close to the situation say Hal Steinbrenner has no interest in taking on a second mega-contract in addition to Stanton, whose deal calls for nine more years and $265 million in salary.
There's always a chance the owner could have a change of heart, of course, as he did after the 2013 season when he relented on his stated goal at the time to get under the luxury-tax threshold. Indeed, he wound up signing off on a huge free-agent shopping spree that seemed to be at least partly in response to Robinson Cano signing with the Mariners.
It's worth remembering the Red Sox won a championship that season as well, which can never be discounted as motivating the Yankees to do more.
And presumably either Machado or Harper would be a better investment than the infamous seven-year, $153 million contract the Yankees gave Jacoby Ellsbury at the time.
We'll see how it plays out. At the GM meetings in Carlsbad, Calif. this week GM Brian Cashman made it clear the priority is adding starting pitching, with Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ widely regarded as two of his top targets.
Beyond that, as well as adding some insurance at shortstop while Didi Gregorius rehabs from Tommy John surgery, you can make the case the Yankees don't need much, after winning 100 games and leading the majors in home runs.
So what would push Steinbrenner to make a big splash offensively?
Perhaps nothing, considering that was the point of taking advantage of the Stanton situation a year ago, seeing the trade as a more cost-efficient decision than what they projected it would take to sign Harper or Machado.
And in strictly financial terms, they are probably going to be right about that, if it's true the bidding starts at 10 years and $300 million, which is what Harper reportedly turned down from the Washington Nationals.
Remember, the Yankees got the Marlins to eat $30 million of Stanton's contract, so they'll be paying less for him than it would cost per year for Harper or Machado.
And who knows, perhaps the first-year pressure of playing in New York affected Stanton so significantly that he'll prove to be a better hitter, even against top-flight pitching, than he looked in 2018.
But for a franchise that is all about championships, the Yankees may have miscalculated on how much impact Stanton can have in that regard.
Trading him to the Dodgers would be the easy out, but that's not happening, and the rest is up to Hal.
He has said publicly he's angry after watching the Red Sox win another championship, which begs an obvious question, as it relates to Harper or Machado: