TAMPA, Fla. – No deal this winter can compare to the Shohei Ohtani deal, where the Angels bought a two-way winning lottery ticket for practically nothing, of course. But the second-best move of the winter was here, in the flesh, and on the field, and Giancarlo Stanton did not and will not disappoint.
Stanton peppered right field with missiles here at George M. Steinbrenner Field, because he is all about the effort and the work. He hit the scoreboard in left once, but he is setting himself up for later. He is a wow kind of guy, but he’s about the work, not the show.
He’s quite a draw though; of that there can be no doubt. The parking lot here at the Yankees spring home was filled for the first time in memory for a freebie practice day, but Stanton was not here to put on a home run demonstration. He was here to prepare for “the 162,” as he put it.
Yankee fans truly love the long ball, and ticket sales are up 500,000 from this time a year ago (that doesn’t mean they will raise that number from the 3.2 million of a year ago, of course, but fans are anxious to pay to see this show). Stanton is said to be similarly excited, so excited that he didn’t think twice about making the $18 million or so tax sacrifice he was making by leaving untaxed Florida for New York; he accepted the trade to the Yankees, waiving his full no-trade clause without hesitation, and never looking back at that controversial, artsy home run statue he set off so often at Marlins Park.
He’s a New Yorker now, and his only Marlins link comes with his plan to share an apartment with his best friend A.J. Ramos, the ex-Marlins closer who’s now a Met, and they are looking for something equidistant between Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.
“That’s the plan,” he confirmed.
It was a rough few months co-existing with the new Marlins regime, now led by Yankees great Derek Jeter (who played only one game in his career where the Yankees were eliminated). But it’s fair to say that Jeter, in dealing Stanton to his old team with 27 World Series championships and a prospect stash that’s the envy of almost everyone, gave Stanton a chance to experience what he did for his whole career.
Stanton made clear back at the Winter Meetings that he thought the Marlins should try to win, that he didn’t appreciate the suggestion by Marlins higher-ups that they’d leave him on a gutted Fish team if he didn’t accept the Giants or Cardinals and suggested Marlins fans might want to keep some distance for the next few years. But he is someone who can hit hard with his words when the time is right — remember when the Marlins’ previous regime gutted the team a few years back? — but also keenly understands the big picture. And he’s clear-eyed about that now; he is exactly where he wants to be.
He’ll leave the humorous barbs to others. Stanton’s longtime agent Joel Wolfe, noting how it’s time to move on but also alluding to one remaining Marlin’s remark that he was “happy” Stanton and Christian Yelich are gone since they didn’t want to be there, noted, dryly, that “It’s now Dan Straily’s team.”
For years, the Marlins were Stanton’s team (and also Jose Fernandez’s team). But the truth is, one of the best players in baseball was hidden in that Miami mess for seven straight years, a wasted talent whose great home run chase was mostly a rumor until the final few days. You think if he’s threatening Roger Maris’ unofficial* record, Yankees fans will stay away?
No, here with the Yankees, where Stanton says he feels a little “like a deer in the headlights,”that won’t be an issue.
The Yankees’ trio of Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Stanton is going to be something to behold, even if fans wanted to see more than the threesome get their work in yesterday (and don’t leave out Sanchez, who has a better career OPS than the other two) – a rekindling of the power-infused and historically-significant 1927 and 1961 teams, with the one difference that those teams proved they could pitch.
No one thought this even possible, but thanks to Brian Cashman and Co., the Yankees made the improbable come true – and they made the biggest move of the winter (and the priciest) while still getting themselves under the luxury tax threshold for the first time since 2003 (not a misprint). Back last July, when the first story appeared on FanRag Sports that the Yankees had reached out to the Marlins, it was ignored … and even ridiculed. And then again at the GM meetings in November, when it was reported here, it was mostly ignored.
Anyway, it was at that time that Cashman told Marlins baseball president Michael Hill that he’d be interested in Stanton if Ohtani were to go somewhere else (at that time, he could have said “if Ohtani were to surprise us, and go someplace else,” but he refrained from saying that.) Back then, the Marlins named a few prospects of an upper-echelon class, guys like Justus Sheffield, Estevan Florial, Chance Adams (if Jeter and his right-hand man Gary Denbo know any team, it’s the Yankees!).
Cashman didn’t want to do that, but he remained interested — if Ohtani preferred to go elsewhere, that is. And when Ohtani went with Cashman’s old friend Billy Eppler (who first met Ohtani when he worked as Cashman’s main assistant), the Yankees were back in the game on the big guy. And Stanton, after first asking Jeter and Co. whether they planned to pick up two pitchers to try to contend and failing to get the answer he wanted, was telling the Marlins the teams he’d have the best chance to accept.
Mind you, Stanton was under no obligation, but he told the Marlins that their best hopes for an acceptance were the Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs and Astros – last year’s four finalists, which shows where Stanton’s head is. The Marlins first tried those teams, then moved on to the others when they didn’t like the offers they were hearing (the Yankees wouldn’t hear of Sheffield, Florial, Adams, etc.) and quickly and efficiently they made prospective deals with the Giants and Cardinals. According to sources, the Giants deal would have taken the full $295 million left on Stanton’s contract, the Cardinals would have included Sandy Alcantara (someone who saw all three deals said he thought the St. Louis offer was slightly better than the others), who they wound up getting as the prime piece in the Marlins’ later Marcell Ozuna trade, anyway.
The Yankees, hearing Stanton wasn’t quick to accept the Cardinals or Giants, as is his right, pounced. Stanton technically hadn’t told either St. Louis or San Francisco no, but as soon as the Yankees got involved and got wind of it, those other teams knew he was headed to the Bronx. Stanton is all about winning. He was frustrated beyond measure over his years in Miami, all those slight ups followed by some major downs with many soap operas mixed in, and he was relieved and thrilled to be coming to New York.
Stanton was exactly himself in a brief press conference after the workout, showing his muscles and modesty in equal doses (he wore a sleeveless shirt).
“It’s amazing. You’ve got All-Stars all over the place, future MVPs,” Stanton said of being here.“I’m just hoping to mesh with them.”
It was vintage Stanton on Day One. It was a day that was supposed to be all about him. But he made it about the team. That’s him. And he finally has the kind of team he has dreamed about forever.
By Jon Heyman