Derek Jeter delivers Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees. And the Red Sox don’t even get a gift basket. Rats.
This was one of those occasional one-sided blockbusters during hot-stove season that leaves a Red Sox fan cold, a Saturday that reminds one to loathe the Yankees at all times, presuming such a reminder was even required.
Jeter, the face of an investment group that bought the Marlins in September, two years after realizing playing shortstop for the Yankees would not be a lifetime appointment, did his old team a solid Saturday, not that he had much choice.
The Marlins, in their natural condition of desperately trying to slash payroll, traded Stanton, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, to the Yankees for talented but erratic second baseman Starlin Castro and a couple of decent prospects . . . oh, right, and $265 million in salary relief, which is the chunk of the remaining $295 million on Stanton’s contract that the Yankees will absorb.
The deal will become official once Stanton passes a physical. Stanton, who hit 59 home runs in 2017, with approximately 47 of them still in orbit, is pretty much the only player in baseball his new brother-in-Bronx-bombs Aaron Judge can’t call Little Fella. He looks like someone who does all right at physicals.
It’s happening, and whether you wanted Stanton on the Red Sox or not, it’saggravating since Stanton is the prototype of what the Red Sox lineup needs (they hit 168 homers last year, last in the AL) while he’s a sure-we’ll-take-him-at-that-price luxury to the Yankees (led by Judge’s 52, they topped Major League Baseball with 241 homers in ’17).
The optics aren’t good, either. The swap is not shady, but it sure presents that way. Take the money out of it, and it’s the kind of lopsided deal a Yankees fan might call sports radio host Mike Francesa to suggest on WFAN. (Francesa, of course, would tell him it was foolish, hang up, then claim to have discovered Stanton.)
I will happily hear all wacky conspiracy theories that Jeter colluded with the Yankees on this, just as I will listen if you want to suggest that Jeter wakes up every morning with the existential dread of knowing that he was the captain of the Yankees team that finally lost to the Red Sox. It would be more fun if I could actually believe them.
If I’m a Marlins fan — heck, if there are Marlins fans — I’d sure be wary of Jeter, who is the front-facing executive despite owning just 4 percent of the team, ran off beloved ex-Marlin Jeff Conine (along with Andre Dawson and Tony Perez) from the organization, traded away Dee Gordon to the Mariners, and now delivered their best player since Miguel Cabrera to the organization with whom he became a generational icon. But hey, Starlin Castro. He’ll solve everything.
When the Red Sox acquired ace lefty Chris Sale from the White Sox in a deal that included superb prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman wryly — and perhaps a bit enviously — referred to the Red Sox as the Golden State Warriors, meaning that they were a team overloading in high-end talent. Sure feels like much more than a year ago right now, doesn’t it?
It’s never fun when the Yankees end up with an accomplished, charismatic player who appeals to Red Sox fans. But this is not an unfamiliar plot twist. This situation is strikingly familiar to the winter of 2003/04, when the Red Sox had an agreement in place to acquire Alex Rodriguez from the Rangers, only to have it fall apart because the union did not approve the contract terms. The Yankees swooped in and even won a championship during his 12 seasons there. Mark Teixeira in the winter of 2008-09 was another circumstance in which a near-Red Sox became an annoying Yankee. He also won a ring, singular.
Now there’s this Red Sox whiff on Stanton. It’s frustrating because the Red Sox need someone like him, and there aren’t many that are like him. Right now, they look like the fourth-best team in the American League behind the Astros, Indians, and Yankees, and the anticipation for Dave Dombrowski to act is about to turn to impatient aggravation. He kind of has to sign J.D. Martinez now, doesn’t he? I bet Scott Boras thinks so.
It stinks that Stanton is in pinstripes. But I don’t mind that the Red Sox didn’t get him. I know, I’ve got a bit of reputation as someone who years ago commandeered the bandwagon to get Stanton to Boston. I’ve probably written nearly as many columns about him through the years than I have about, oh, Dustin Pedroia. But those columns were pecked out before he signed his 12-year, $325 million extension in November 2014 when previous owner Jeffrey Loria spent three nanoseconds trying to convince fans he cared.
That isn’t absurd money, but it’s too long of a commitment to a musclebound corner outfielder who has struggled to stay healthy. His top three career comps through age-27 are Juan Gonzalez, Jose Canseco, and Darryl Strawberry. This is a fearsome hitter in his prime. This is not someone who is going to be worth his salary deep into his 30s. I’d prefer the Red Sox prioritize locking up Mookie Betts and Chris Sale.
The small satisfaction in all of this from a Boston standpoint is watching the Jeter backlash percolate on social media. But the reality is that he was not the one who pulled the strings to make this happen. You know who delivered Stanton to the Yankees? One person: Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton himself. The Marlins had a deal in place with the Giants. The Cardinals said in a don’t-blame-us press release aimed at their self-appointed best fans in baseball that they had reached an agreement with the Marlins, too.
But Stanton didn’t want to go to San Francisco or St. Louis. And because he had a no-trade clause, he didn’t have to. It was his prerogative. He in essence chose the Yankees before they chose him. The only way this might have been prevented is if the Dodgers, believed to be the Sherman Oaks, Calif., native’s first choice, had become involved.
They did not, so another franchise filthy rich in cash and talent brought him aboard. I wish I knew why he wasn’t interested in Boston, and I’m sure we will know in time. But man, what a rapid reloading it has been in the Bronx. This is why all of those “Hey, the Yankees are kind of likable!’’ stories from last October were so tone-deaf, shortsighted, and obnoxious. The Evil Empire always does get around to trying to rebuild the Death Star. Saturday, it became fully operational. Here’s to the Resistance, and an overdue clash in October.