Just six games into his big league career, the Rays saw enough in Evan Longoria to make a commitment to him right away. Back in April 2008, the club signed their rookie to a 6 year, $17.5M deal. All he did was go on and win the Rookie of the Year award that year, logging a .272 AVG with 27 HRs while manning 3B. With incentives, the contract could have ballooned to about $44M over that span.
Recently, Longoria just agreed to an extension that will see him stay with the same club for his entire career, wrapping him up until 2023 with a deal that could be worth $144M.
The Marlins need to take notes. Recent discussions in the press with Larry Beinfest have revealed that the Marlins have not reached out to their angry young slugger, Giancarlo Stanton, who announced on Twitter his frustration after the trade with the Blue Jays that watched the Marlins jettison about $100M from its payroll. The response was that the Marlins wanted to give some distance to the situation and allow feelings to cool down a bit. Huh? It is right then and there that they should have stepped up and made certain that you have a plan and this is phase 1 of that plan. They should be asserting that they are committed to winning and to having Stanton as the centerpiece of that vision. This would help assuage Stanton’s anger and frustration, and also communicate a little more openly with the extremely frustrated fan base that there is a direction here, too.
Stanton has a lot more power potential than Longoria and when stacked next to Miguel Cabrera, he could be possibly the second generational player the Marlins have in their grasp. Stanton has 93 home runs in just 3 seasons, 37 of which came this year in a spacious new ball park despite a serious knee injury during the season.
Perhaps this is the biggest difference between the Rays and the Marlins despite only about 300 miles of terrain. The Rays make commitments to their players and compete in arguably the toughest division in all of baseball. They have been able to build with young players and commit to them while at the same time gradually fortifying their fan base with consistency and winning. The Marlins have rolled the dice too much and as a result, there has been too much turnover and turmoil. It is hard to build fan loyalty when there is no solid tradition of winning, competing, and players that you can build a product with. The only Marlin that really can be considered an associative player with this organization is Jeff Conine, who helped win in 1997 and came back on a second tour of duty to win again in 2003 with that team. Miguel Cabrera was the team sweetheart back in 2003 as a 20 year old rookie, and he just won the first triple crown in baseball in over 40 years – with the Tigers. One day when he enters into the Hall of Fame, it will be as a Tiger, not a Marlin.
In Stanton, the Marlins have a chance to get things right. Gone are the excuses about the stadium and not enough revenue. If they want to make this latest trade out to be a baseball move, and not a payroll move, they have to make some commitments. Stanton is obviously a great young power hitter and the Marlins would be foolish to not make a strong commitment to him right now. In doing so, they may not only turn things around and net a Longoria-like dedication to this franchise, but he would also have the confidence to grow into the leader on this team and be a player that fans can stand behind. Stanton could be an anchor for this franchise but the Marlins will have to suck up their pride and approach him in much the same way the Rays approached Longoria.