He watched as his team’s management decimated the roster for a package of prospects. Now Stanton sits in the wreckage of what used to be a team most thought would contend for the National League East Division title. Now they’ll be lucky not to lose 100 games.
Stanton has been very open about his desire to be traded, but the Marlins have control of his contract through 2016. The question now will be whether he gets his wish. If you believe the Marlins’ front office, it’s not happening.
When great players are stuck in bad situations, they must possess and display great character and intensity to perform at the same level as if they were on a contending team. Here are five examples of great players who will have to perform in bad situations in 2013, as well as a look at how these players might be able to get out of their current mess:
Stanton is the No. 1 young right-handed power hitter in game, and he already has 93 career homers despite turning 23 just last month.
But Stanton is no one-dimensional slugger. He is also an above-average right fielder with an above-average arm. He studies the game as well as any young player and has terrific work ethic and baseball instincts. If he stays healthy, he’ll have a chance to join the 600 home run club someday.
The Marlins won’t contend until at least 2014, so the prudent move would be to trade him and maximize the return for a player of Stanton’s caliber.
What’s next: The Marlins have said they won’t trade Stanton, realizing that he is not only their best player and a future superstar but, more importantly, also their only drawing card. But if he shows up to camp and continues to be unhappy, the Marlins will have to listen to trade proposals come July. There is not a young position player in baseball who has more trade value than Stanton, and with the rebuilding Marlins, if a team such as the Texas Rangers wants to empty the farm for him, the Fish will have to listen.
The 28-year-old Tulowitzki is considered the best all-around shortstop in baseball. From 2009-11, he hit better than .304/.376/.554, averaging 30 home runs and 97 RBIs. He has been to two All-Star Games while winning two Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. He is signed through 2020 for about $158 million. Tulowitzki is the face of the franchise, and it's treated him as such.
The problem is that in 2010, when the Rockies offered that contract extension, they had just finished back-to-back seasons with winning records for the first time since 1996-97. But the Rockies starting rotation has since collapsed, and their record over the past two seasons is a dismal 137-187, including 98 losses last season. The offseason hasn’t seen any significant improvement, and most analysts have already predicted a last-place finish for the Rockies. If it weren’t for Tulowitzki's tremendous leadership and loyalty to the Rockies, one might think they’d be better off trading him in his prime.
What’s next: The Rockies view Tulowitzki as their version of Derek Jeter, David Wright or Evan Longoria. Therefore, the biggest question going forward is how long before the Rockies can contend again. The Rockies have a history of trying everything to get starting pitching to work in Coors Field and are embarking on their umpteenth plan, which includes reduced pitch counts and using more pitchers per game. However, with the farm system failing to produce impact starters and a tightened budget, trading their star player to improve the rotation might be their only option.
After battling injuries in 2011, Mauer rebounded this season, hitting .319 with 31 doubles, 10 home runs and 85 RBIs. He led the AL in OBP at .416 and was one of the Twins' few bright spots.
Mauer is just 29, and his picturesque swing and strong intangibles would fit perfect in a big market like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Mauer signed an eight-year, $184 million pact in 2010 right after the Twins had finished 94-68, their best record in eight years.
After to back-to-back 96-plus loss seasons, the desperate Twins traded two starting outfielders, Denard Span and Ben Revere, for starting pitchers they hope can help them compete in 2013.
In any normal environment, a Mauer trade to the Yankees or Red Sox for a large prospect package would make the most sense. However, Mauer made sure to include a complete no-trade clause in his extension. Further, Mauer’s new wife is a St. Paul, Minn., native like him, so he seems committed to finishing his career as a Twin even though it will mean he’ll have to wait a couple of years to contend.
What’s next: Twins GM Terry Ryan has been wheeling and dealing this offseason more than at any other time in his executive career. His major trades have netted top pitching prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May and rotation pitchers Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey. Watch for Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau to be dealt by the July trade deadline. Ryan’s aggressive approach could have the Twins contending again by 2015, and Mauer could be a part of that.
Gonzalez took advantage of his 2010 breakout season by signing a seven-year, $80 million extension. Like Tulowitzki, he felt the Rockies had the potential of being a perennial contender. As the Rockies try to rebuild their rotation, Gonzalez has a better chance than Tulowitzki of being traded in July if the Rockies' young pitchers don’t develop. There could be a time that a team like the Rangers or New York Yankees come forward and overwhelm the Rockies with such a package that they have no choice but to trade him.
What’s next: There is a strong possibility that the Rockies eventually trade Gonzalez. In addition to the clubs already mentioned, the Rockies match up extremely well with the St. Louis Cardinals, whose bevy of young pitchers give the Cardinals enough trade pieces to figure out a way to land Gonzalez. Along with top prospect Oscar Taveras, it would set up the middle of the Cardinals’ lineup for years.
Cabrera, 27, is one of the best all-around shortstops in the American League. He has range to both sides and a strong arm, and his exchange from glove to hand is the best in the league. Cabrera is also an offensive spark plug, averaging .279/.342/.416 with 14 home runs and 78 RBIs over his five-plus seasons in Cleveland. But the reality is that the Indians are one of the worst teams in baseball. Thus, Cabrera was in the middle of many trade talks this offseason until the Indians landed Trevor Bauer without using Cabrera as a trade chip.
As Cabrera gets ready to enter his prime years, he does so with the noncontending Indians. With just two years of control left on his contract, don’t be surprised if this is his final season in Cleveland. By July, he is a sure bet to be in trade discussions with the Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and perhaps the Yankees. As one of the best shortstops in the league, Cabrera deserves a winning atmosphere and the national attention from a bigger market.
What’s next: The Yankees already are having internal conversations about life after Jeter. Not knowing how much longer he is going to play and how much longer before they ask him to move to third base means they have to find the heir apparent. The Yankees presently don’t have much in their system, and Cabrera is one player some Yankees scouts are targeting when he reaches free agency after the 2014 season.