Wait, what? Is it true that Giancarlo Stanton didn’t hit a single home run in his final go-round in the Home Run Derby last night?
It is? Well, see now? Do you get it? Haven’t I been telling you all along he’d fit perfectly in this Red Sox lineup? These jokers don’t hit any home runs either.
All right, with that weak swing at a joke out of the way, let’s get down to honest business. The daydream of Stanton, the 24-year-old Marlins masher who leads the National League with 21 homers — or 47 fewer than the Red Sox have as a team — is one that has been revived and rehashed here a couple of times over the past two seasons.
(By a couple, I mean an estimated 46 “Hey, How About Getting Stanton?” columns, give or take a Sunday Mail question or two. I tend to work them in between 1,000-word paeans to the Drew family. Seem to have cut the output of those recently for some reason.)
After Stanton’s performance in the Derby last night — he hit six awe-inspiring homers in the first round, including one that damn near rocketed out of Target Field altogether …
… imagining him knocking down walls at Fenway and dropping a hail storm of baseballs on unsuspecting I-90 drivers is something that’s easy to vividly dream about for Red Sox fans.
Especially for those who haven’t seen Stanton, stuck in Miami’s baseball purgatory, beyond the frequent viral clips of his latest home run to reach Jupiter (the Florida town or the planet) or some other not-quite-so distant target like a concession stand:
Maybe the coveting of a pre-prime, charismatic slugger who isn’t a free agent until after the 2016 season has become redundant or even tired. I don’t know. Half the reason for writing these columns is to have an excuse to watch his ever-increasing count of mammoth home runs while I’m on the clock. Yo, here’s one more found with the awesome Google search “Giancarlo Budweiser”:
What I do know is a lot of other writers have understandably seized upon the idea, some giving it legitimate consideration (just as the Red Sox have and will, I assure you), many simply to declare it absurd in the same obstructed-view manner they did the original idea of acquiring young Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez five or so years ago.
Even Stanton has heard the buzz, and he explained to the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton how he copes with knowing Boston covets him: “You’re going to have things your whole career that are nonsense, or start off as nonsense and turn into reality. Until it is in reality, you don’t worry about it.”
The Red Sox will go after him and try to make it reality when the time comes, whether that is this winter, midseason next year, or a more distant date. And the time will come. The Jeffrey Loria Marlins traded Miguel Cabrera after an age-24 season in which he hit .320/.401/.565 with 34 homers. The reason? He was starting to get paid close to what he was worth, having made $7.4 million in 2007 after making $472,000 the year before.
Stanton is making $6.5 million this year after earning a $537,000 salary last year. He will get another significant hike in his second-arbitration eligible season. While there’s a chance the Marlins would make him a long-term offer, there’s no indication in their history that suggests they’re about to pay him nine figures.
And while the Marlins have some hope with young players like Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, they’re again swimming in their usual pool of mediocrity, dipping to 44-50 at the break after an encouraging April.
The mystery is whether Stanton, who was furious when Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle were salary-dumped on the Blue Jays in November 2012, wants to stay in a situation where the commitment to winning has been fleeting.
If — when — he becomes available, the Red Sox are one of a few potential suitors who meet all of the criteria. They have the money to sign him long-term before his prime arrives, the prospects to get their calls answered, and the need in the heart of their lineup.
For all of the young talent over the last decade that the Red Sox have developed — or are developing — there has been one glaring weakness: they’ve failed to come up with a legitimate power hitter since Hanley Ramirez a decade ago.
(Brandon Moss, once rated as the No. 2 prospect in their organization, sort of counts, but it took him several years and organizations to develop.)
The lack of power from within the organization is a problem now, and it’s going to become a bigger problem when David Ortiz slows down. Papi is still going strong despite a 54-point dip in batting average, but he turns 39 in November. There needs to be a succession plan. There isn’t a better one than Stanton, though actually winning the bid for the next Cuban slugger to arrive is an approach they might want to consider as well.
What’s particularly interesting — and what won’t be known for a long time — is the price for Stanton. The Marlins got taken in the Cabrera deal, receiving Andrew Miller, Cameron Maybin, and three other players. Miller and Maybin were overall top-10 prospects who for whatever reason — probably because baseball is hard — didn’t become stars.
The price for Stanton, who could be Manny Ramirez with conventional charm and no destructive quirks, will be much steeper. Acquiring him will leave you crossing out more than a couple of intriguing names from the Red Sox top 10 list in your Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
Many of those names will be reshuffled by the time he is available. Some will ascend, some will fall, some will marry Red Sox sideline reporters.
Just look at what has changed so far this year. Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts developed into overall top-20 prospects in the minors. Henry Owens is ruling Double-A amid skepticism about whether he’s a top-of-the-rotation guy. Meanwhile, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Will Middlebrooks are among those to lose some luster.
To me, Xander Bogaerts remains a deal-breaker. The slump has been prolonged and brutal, but the supreme talent and poise remain. Be patient. Remember October and May and all that he showed us he can be.
Xander Bogaerts remains one to build around. Everyone else — everyone — would be in play to get the other one to build around, to bring Giancarlo Stanton to Boston. Here’s to making the nonsense a reality and the deepest seats in the center field bleachers a home-run danger zone.