Mailbag: Revisiting the Stanton Trade, Realmuto vs. Sánchez, & More

Happy Friday, everyone. The Yankees are back in action tonight against the lowly Red Sox. I’m hoping they take at least 3 out of 4 from their rivals, but only because asking for a sweep sounds greedy. We’ve got a mailbag to hold you over before then, though. Five good ones today.

As always, send in your questions to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com to be considered for a future iteration. We answer our favorites each week.

Dan Asks: If the Yankees could do it over again, would they still make the Stanton trade?

Yankees at Orioles 4/4/19

Yes, they would. I’m confident saying that emphatically, despite how frustrating his injuries have been. And they’ve been frustrating! I’m as big of a Stanton defender as you’ll find and I’ll admit that this last hamstring strain got to me. It’s not his fault, but you get it. It’s also not a super great sign for the long-term, which has to factor into this too. Even still, they make the trade again. Ten out of ten times.

Remember, Stanton essentially fell into the team’s lap. He was fresh of an NL MVP campaign in which he hit .281/.376/.631 (158 wRC+) with 59 home runs in 159 games for Miami. It was a strange few days that December with Jeter-led Miami trying trade Stanton and find a suitable match that also aligned with Stanton’s no-trade clause. Deals with the Cardinals and Giants fell apart and next thing you know, he’s in New York. Here was the deal:

  • Yankees Get: Giancarlo Stanton, $30 million in conditional money, lowering Stanton’s AAV for CBT purposes to $22 million
  • Marlins Get: Starlin Castro, Jorge Guzman, Jose Devers

The Yankees gave up a decent middle infielder they immediately replaced with Gleyber Torres and two nice but far-away prospects for Giancarlo Stanton. They don’t miss Castro, and neither Guzman (1.0 IP) nor Devers (A-Ball) has made an MLB impact yet. It’s not like they miss these guys, nor would they have even helped the Yankees win 28. Certainly not more than Stanton. That’s for sure.

The Yanks were – and are – in absolute win-now mode, and there is literally no chance that they could have traded those players for a better player at that time. The process was right. The trade was sound. They’d do it again – and that’s without even mentioning that Stanton’s hit .269/.355/.512 (133 wRC+) with New York in 800+ PA.

Christopher Asks: With Cole on the books in addition to Stanton do you think it’ll be a long while before the Yankees go after another big ticket guy?

This is a corollary to the above question, and it’s a tough one. The Yankees have $58 million tied up in Cole ($36m AAV) and Stanton ($22m) through 2027 when Stanton’s contract expires. It’s a lot of money, but it’s tied up in two great players. There are worse problems to have. Now, it’s a better “problem” if Stanton stays healthy, sure. But I’m not losing sleep over it, even if it makes it superficially “difficult” to pursue free agents.

It’s hard to project going forward given the upcoming CBA negotiations going forward, though. We have no idea how the league’s financial structure will work. That has the potential to change the whole calculus. What I do know right now is that the Stanton contract sure didn’t prevent them from giving Cole $334 million. The A-Rod contract – offered 13 years ago and had a much higher present value than either of these contracts now – sure didn’t stop them from signing CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira to mammoth contracts, either.

The point is that the Yankees are a financial behemoth capable of signing whomever they want whenever they want. It’s of course possible that Stanton precluded them from signing Harper or Machado after 2018, but they knew that would be the case before the trade. It’s not like they were surprised. They made that choice. The same is true with Cole. They chose the player they wanted and they weren’t balking at the present or future price.

In other words, if a generational talent becomes a free agent and steals Hal Steinbrenner’s heart, as Gerrit Cole did, I’m very confident the Yankees will open the checkbooks. It just has to be the right player, as we’ve seen time and time again recently. In the short-term, I think the Yankees team we see is the one we’ll get for a while. They’ll lock up some current talent and try to get at least one with this extremely good team. Works for me.

George Asks: You knew it was coming: if Realmuto becomes a free agent, what are the chances the Yanks sign him and trade Sanchez? If so, what could Gary bring as a return?

I’d say it’s a pretty small chance. Look, Realmuto is incredible and he’s one of the few catchers who’ve been better than Sánchez over the last 2 years (118 OPS+ vs 106 OPS+). He also plays great defense and he’s off to a scorching-hot start in 2020. This is a natural question and I’m sure it’s not the first time we’ll hear about it. In theory, I’d love Realmuto on the Yankees. I really would.

Still, I’d be surprised to see this happen. Sánchez has a boatload of potential and he’s been a very dominant player at the MLB level very recently. He hit .245/.315/.556 (122 wRC+) in the first half just last year. He’s also still in his first year of arbitration and makes just $5 million. Odds are that he will not command a huge salary in his next year of arbitration, either. Certainly less than Realmuto, who is also older, will get in free agency. See where I’m going with this?

It makes sense to me to stick with Gary, who is good despite what anyone else says, for a value sense. When right, he can provide similar on-field value to the Yankees as Realmuto for less cash. I think that’s how the Yankees see it, too. After all, they’ve never once abandoned Gary in the last 4 years. I think he’s here to stay.

Peter Asks: Does JA Happ have a no-trade clause in his contract?  I know previous to the pandemic, his vesting option essentially acted as a barrier to trade, but I recall a no-trade clause.  Anyway, if he doesn’t have a no-trade, do you see any conceivable way the Yanks can trade him to some pitching desperate team (Atlanta) for some rookie ball, non-40-man player?  With the opening of the 40-man via the trade they could insert Schmidt without having to DFA any guys rostered. 

Happ does not have a no-trade clause. You’re right that the vesting option essentially functioned as one, but I think that ship has sailed now. We don’t know the new terms – if they’ve been set – but I don’t think there’s any risk he hits it. He just hasn’t been good enough to get however many innings it is, or if he does, it’ll be a much lower, re-negotiated salary than the original $17 million.

Let’s be real, though: Happ has absolutely no trade value. He is 37-years-old with declining velocity and spin rates. He’s also been extremely bad: since the start of 2019, he has a 5.13 ERA (5.47 FIP), is allowing nearly 2 HR/9, and has a .275 BABIP against. He is borderline unusable.

There are certainly pitching-starved teams out there, and I’m sure the Yankees would give him up, but I just can’t see anyone giving up a player of even the smallest value. Happ’s here through the end of 2020. Might as well get used to it. It’d be better if he was in the pen, though.

Steven Asks: Let’s say the Yankees get a top 3 seed by winning the division: Which under-the-radar team would you most fear facing in a three-game set?

None of them? The Yankees should steamroll whoever is in the first round, even though a 3-game series is enough to give me agita. Anything can happen. I guess one of the under-the-radar teams to really worry me is the Astros, who are 8-10 and may sneak into the playoffs. They have some talent on that team and I wouldn’t want to face them in a short-series. I kid, I kid.

Another team that doesn’t count is Oakland. I’m not 100% sold that they’ll be able to hold off the Astros all summer – it’s looking like it, though! – and odds are they won’t match up with the Yankees. Kind of irrelevant, but Oakland is much better than people generally think. An underrated club, they are, and I just wanted to bring that up.

Anyway, to the point, the choices here more likely to be a team like Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, or Texas. None of those really worry me, but Chicago is the best of the bunch. They have some serious firepower over there on the South Side, and I’d rather not play them if it could be avoided, even though the Yankees should destroy them every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

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6 Comments

  1. Mungo

    Realmuto is simply not an option. He’ll get paid big time, but he’s a catcher who will have entered his 30s when he becomes a free agent. He can hit (for a catcher), but his 108 OPS+ last year suggests he’s a good hitter for a catcher, but nothing elite, and his defensive skills will soon decline. Not where I’d want the Yankees directing their money.

    Gary’s problem is simply one of expectations. A career 118 OPS+, including 119 OPS+ last season, with 34 bombs in a little over 100 games. He’s not going to be Johnny Bench, but he’s still in the top two or three catchers in the game. Appreciate him for what he is compared to the field, not what you hoped he’d be.

  2. dasit

    it’s not technically stanton’s “fault” that he pulled a hamstring, but health is a skill and he doesn’t seem to have it. neither does higgy, which is why i was surprised the yankees gave him the BUC job

    • Mungo

      And neither does Judge. As I noted in another thread, the two big men are the opposite of what made the recent Yankee dynasty teams great. Health. They can survive having one of them being injury prone, but not sure they can both. I mean, they have so far by building great depth, but that wall will crack eventually too. How can they trade Frazier or Andujar, yet also fit them on the team once their options run out?

  3. Jack Bannister

    Talk of potential is pointless with Gary. He’s 27 years old now and in his fourth full season in MLB. He’s not a kid anymore. We need to stop talking about him as if he is one. What he is, offensively, is someone who sucked for the entirety of 2018, sucked for the last 3/4 of 2019, and has sucked so far in 2020. Even if you take his entire first half last season, a .245 avg./.315 OBP is nothing worth celebrating.

    The guy who lit the league on fire in 2016 and was really good for most of 2017, it seems, is a distant memory. I hope that guy comes back, but for the last 2+ seasons, for the most part, he’s been a pretty damn poor hitter relative to his so-called “potential”.

    • MikeD

      The world is dark and gloomy, and Jack will only focus on negatives.

      • Ron Lavelle

        Sanchez’s problem is he cant recognize the slider or hit it.This is the major leagues and once they find out your weakness you either work on it or it will eat you up and spit you out all in the same motion.Gary can hit the fastball but once the count is not in his favor the sliders come one after another.If he ever overcomes this weakness your looking at a future MVP candidate..

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