Mention Giancarlo Stanton and general managers drool.
What would it take for the Miami Marlins to part with him? Everyone has a price, right?
Marlins GM Dan Jennings digs in and swears Stanton is not for sale.
Jennings said as much on Sirius/XM radio with Jim Bowden in the offseason. As we spoke in Jupiter, Fla., last week, Jennings said, “Only one team has called us on him.”
Jennings wasn’t willing to name that team, though the Philadelphia Phillies have been openly lusting for Stanton for some time.
To change the atmosphere around a team that won just 62 games last year, Jennings added veterans Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Garrett Jones, and Rafael Furcal to a talented young core that includes the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year, pitcher Jose Fernandez, and outfielder Christian Yelich and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria.
Over Stanton’s four major league seasons, the Marlins have gotten worse, not better.
The 6-foot-6-inch, 240-pound righthanded slugger with the V-shaped physique has heard his time in Miami would be limited since he first came up and started hitting 30-plus homers in 2011. The feeling has always been that the thrifty Marlins won’t pony up the money to retain him. Jennings is resisting that notion with every bone in his body. There has been no trade proposal even remotely tempting enough to move the 24-year-old superstar.
Numerous teams would be in the hunt for Stanton, including the Cubs, Tigers, Angels, Dodgers, Phillies, Yankees, Mets, Giants, Twins, and Mariners. You’d have to give up top young players, and then sign Stanton to a huge long-term deal.
But in reality, the team that matches up best with Miami is Boston. The Red Sox have the young players Miami wants and they have the financial resources to sign him.
Stanton at Fenway Park? Imagine. He’d also be in a lineup where he’d have protection and he wouldn’t get pitched around as often as he has in the Marlins’ lineup.
Stanton has heard the Boston rumors.
“My GM will let me know what’s legitimate,” he said. “There’s rumors at every step — from high school to college to the pros, you learn what to filter out. Of course, some of those rumors do happen, but you can’t listen to everything.”
Stanton paid close attention to the Red Sox in the World Series. He loved the team concept they displayed. Part of his decision on whether he’ll stay with the Marlins long term is whether they adopt a team concept.
“It’s not about the money for me,” Stanton said. “I want to win. I want to move toward winning. I’d love to stay if we can accomplish that.”
Regarding the Red Sox’ World Series run, he said, “It seemed from afar, they believed in themselves. They never approached any game like ‘how can we win today?’ They approached it, ‘we’re going to win today.’ It seemed like they had a lot of fun going on that journey with everyone kind of together pulling in the same direction. Maybe it’s cliché, but that works.”
Too often, Stanton believes the Marlins have had a defeatist attitude, like, “OK, we’re not going good for two weeks so therefore this is the way it’s going to go. No, that’s not the way it has to go,” he said. “We have to stop accepting that.
“For me, if I go into a slump it used to be, ‘OK, this is going to be tough to get out of.’ So I have to get myself out of that and think more like I know I’m going to get out of it. It’s going to be better.”
Let’s say Jennings at some point has to entertain a deal more seriously. What would the Red Sox have to give up to get Stanton?
Assuming the Red Sox would put Xander Bogaerts and Henry Owens on their no-trade list, the Marlins have always liked Will Middlebrooks and certainly feel Garin Cecchini is a top prospect. Add one of them to a package of Matt Barnes, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts? Would that be enough? Would that be too much for the Sox to give up?
One issue with Stanton is health. He played 116 games last season and 123 in 2012. He’s not yet dealing with the fragile/injury-prone label, but one more year of missing time could send critics in that direction.
“I think when you have a young guy missing time, you always worry,” Jennings said. “He takes great care of himself. He started to do some yoga stuff to elongate the muscles. Sometimes . . . and I don’t want this to come out the wrong way . . . you don’t need to run a 4.3 when there’s a two-hopper to second base when you know what’s going to happen.”
Whatever private thoughts Stanton has about his next professional home, his devotion remains to his current team.
“Just be a team, be a solid team,” Stanton said of his team goals. “We should never have the feeling we’re going to lose. We always have a chance until the last out of the game. Whether you see or just feel it, there’s that aura in the dugout, that, ‘Ah, we’re not going to win this game. There’s not enough here to win this game.’ So we need this sense of mentality to change.”
Up to this point, the long-term contract chatter on Stanton has been minimal.
“His agent knows we want to sign him long-term,” Jennings said. “We talked about that briefly. And then we focused on getting a one-year deal complete.”
“We honestly have taken that [trade talk] and removed it from our thoughts,” Jennings said. “We need him to have a monster year that we expect from him. We were historically horrible last year. It was pretty bad. Now we’ve brought in some veterans who have won in other places like Salty, Garrett Jones, Furcal. They can do some damage and this will enable Giancarlo to get better pitches to hit.”
THE LIGHT WENT ON
Johnson’s career is brighter with Braves
Chris Johnson grew up in the city (Fort Myers) where Thomas Edison once resided, about five minutes from where JetBlue Park is located.
It’s appropriate then that the light finally went on for him in 2013.
The Braves third baseman, son of former Red Sox coach Ron Johnson, and successor to Chipper Jones, hit .321 with 12 homers and 68 RBIs last season.
Until then, Johnson, who was the “throw-in” in the deal that sent Justin Upton from Arizona to Atlanta, had endured some frustration in his years with Houston and Arizona. Now 29, Johnson said he finally realized who he was.
“I always thought of myself as a hitter who could hit for a high average, but not with the power that other third basemen have,” he said. “I just got true to myself. I’m not a home run hitter. I’m not saying that won’t emerge in time, but for me, I just wanted to hit the ball in the gaps and make solid contact and just be the type of hitter I think I am.
“I finally found a comfort zone and the hitting coaches here and the players here, they were behind what I was trying to do. We have guys here who can hit the ball out of the park. I just wanted to be a guy who could get his share of hits and get on base [.358 clip last year].”
Johnson is 6-3 and strong. So the power should emerge. His high is 15 homers with the Astros and Diamondbacks in 2012. Johnson believes his way of making contact, rather than swinging for the fences, will serve him well.
“I think being on a good team really helped,” Johnson said. “I think that positive atmosphere is contagious. Everyone wants to win. Everyone has confidence on the team and everyone pulls for each other.”
Johnson’s defense is a work in progress. Again, the comparisons are with Jones, so the range isn’t there and he doesn’t come in on slow rollers and make those highlight plays as Jones did for so many years. But in terms of an overall replacement for a superstar, he is respectable.
Apropos of nothing
1. The Marlins timed one of Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s throws to second in a recent game at an above-average 1.91 seconds. They realize his throwing is an issue, but they’re happy with it so far. Salty said of the Marlins staff, “It’s amazing the amount of talent. It’s going to take a little while to get to know everyone, but I’m looking forward to the finished product.”
2. According to prognosticators I’ve talked to, the Athletics and Rays are picking up steam as possible favorites in the AL.
3. Here’s what the Red Sox have to overcome to repeat: The loss of Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the order, less steady and spectacular defense on the left side of the infield (unless they re-sign Stephen Drew), and older starting pitchers. On the plus side, they have an exciting offensive player in Xander Bogaerts and the possibility that Grady Sizemore reclaims his career.
4. David Ortiz doesn’t talk much about his contract anymore. Think there’s a “wink-wink, we’ll take care of you” that’s perhaps been communicated to him?
5. If Angels hitting coach Don Baylor gets Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton back to being the forces they used to be, and right now it’s looking that way, he wins coach of the year. Pujols has so much personal pride and believes his last two down years have been because of injuries.
6. Rays right fielder Wil Myers, the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year, seems to be getting over the embarrassment of his fielding miscue in the playoffs at Fenway Park. But the biggest issue is whether Myers can take the next step. There are holes in his (long) swing, according to one AL executive, that could be exploited. The Rays need him to be an offensive force.
7. Robinson Cano is stating the obvious when he says the team could use another bat to hit behind him in Seattle, but should he say that after the team paid him $240 million?
8. The phantom play can’t be reviewed, so let me get this straight: if an infielder doesn’t touch the bag with the ball in his possession, that’s OK?
9. The new protective caps for pitchers haven’t exactly caught on.
10. Nobody eats more donuts (and somehow stays in great shape) than Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo.
11. The running joke when the Red Sox brought only one everyday player to Jupiter to face the Marlins, who were annoyed by that fact, was that they brought the guys they’d be willing to deal for Giancarlo Stanton.
Updates on nine
1. Ervin Santana, RHP, free agent — The bidding for Santana had come down to the Orioles and Blue Jays Saturday night, according to a major league source. The Rockies were also in it for some of the day, while the Phillies did their due diligence but did not appear to be in the hunt. A one-year contract worth between $13-$14 million seemed to be in the cards for Santana. Teams were wary of his past elbow issues and there had been talk of a John Lackey type clause (play for the minimum if he had to undergo Tommy John surgery) if he signed a longer deal.
2. Bud Norris, RHP, Orioles — If Tommy Hunter can’t do the job as Orioles closer, one alternative might be Norris. If the Orioles sign Santana, they would have too many starters and Norris could be asked to close. There’s always a trade possibility as well, as Norris still has appeal in the NL. It doesn’t appear the Orioles would go for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon because of the money, but if the Angelos family has seen the light and believes it can go for it now, stranger things have happened.
3. Stephen Drew, SS, free agent — The free agent compensation system shouldn’t change. What needs to change is a player accepting a qualifying offer. Nobody has accepted one in two years. “Why not accept a $14.1 million qualifying offer for one year?” a Red Sox player said when speaking of Drew. “Is that a bad deal? That’s a lot of money. Stephen would be here playing with us by now if he’d done that.”
4. B.J. Upton, OF, Braves — With a .184 average, nine homers, 26 RBIs, 151 strikeouts, and a .557 OPS, you could say Upton was among the worst three players in baseball last season, in the first season of a five-year, $75 million deal. One NL scout doesn’t think it’s going to get much better. “The numbers will improve, but he has never been able to sustain any consistency in his swing. He’s one of those guys whose skill set will carry him for a while, but not sure he’s committed to be the best.”
5. Zach Britton, LHP, Orioles — Scouts are watching him closely as he’s out of options. Only 26, Britton is still a pitcher scouts think they can salvage. He has pitched well and is trying to recapture the strong start to his big league career in 2011. The Orioles are aware of his value and the interest by other teams, but could keep him in the bullpen if they can’t get good value for him.
6. Rick Porcello, RHP, Tigers — The Tigers are said to be willing to listen to offers on him, according major league sources. Porcello is once again at the back end of the Tiger rotation. While still young and promising, the Tigers need more consistency in the rotation. The Tigers took lefty Robbie Ray in the Doug Fister deal, but Ray is likely not quite ready to make the jump.
7. Alejandro De Aza, OF, White Sox — He is a trade chip for the White Sox, who are getting interest. He’s not exactly everything you want in a center fielder, leadoff type, but last season De Aza hit 17 homers and drove in 62 runs. His career .336 on-base percentage (.323 last season) isn’t that compelling, but for teams looking for a center fielder who brings some varied skills, he’s not a bad option. The Twins have some interest.
8. Johan Santana, LHP, Orioles — He could have gone back to the Twins but elected to sign with Baltimore. One of the reasons might have been Chris Correnti, one of the best trainers in baseball. Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe swore by him over the years. Santana used Correnti with the Mets. He’s one of the most trusted trainers in the business, a guy the Red Sox once had.
9. Larry Bowa, bench coach, Phillies — Bowa is one of the great coaches in the game and he returns to the Phillies after a run at MLB Network. He will play a significant role in trying to get the most out of veteran players — Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Chase Utley in particular —
From the Bill Chuck files: “The Red Sox have beaten the Royals 123 times at home. The Royals have beaten them 123 times in Kansas City” and “Big news: minor league pitcher Loek Van Mil signed with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Van Mil is 7-1” . . . Happy birthday, JohnCurtis (66).Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.