Sure, he is arbitration eligible after this season, but he is not free agent eligible until after the 2016 season. But don’t expect that to mean that he will stay with the Marlins long term.
When Miguel Cabrera became arbitration eligible in 2007, he went from making $472K to $7.4M (the Marlins were offering $6.7M). He was later traded, along with Dontrelle Willis, in the offseason to the Tigers. The rest is MLB history in probably one of the most one-sided deals between two teams.
The Marlins were concerned because they were limited to a payroll budget, and felt that they could not give Cabrera the money he was looking for – something in the then-Alex Rodriguez range. Critics will say this is another instance in Marlins’ history where Loria unloads a star for pennies – and in point of fact, the Marlins really didn’t get anything in return from this deal (Cameron Maybin is on the Padres, while Andrew Miller has bounced around and is currently with the Red Sox).
Now there are rumors that teams are “preparing” offers for Stanton and will approach the Marlins to make a deal. This doesn’t seem very likely at this point – for starters, the Marlins are completely starved when it comes to hitting for power and although that would not preclude the Marlins from making a deal, there isn’t any incentive. The Marlins wouldn’t acquire a more promising power hitter in the game with such a valuable contract situation. The only way they would possibly make a deal is if they received two stud prospects, say a Jurickson Profar and a Mike Olt – and that may really be a stretch for both sides.
Yet right now, Stanton’s numbers are very weak. He is going to have to go through a transition and become a more patient hitter. He just won’t see many pitches as the rest of the lineup is not doing much to protect him. This could be a blessing in disguise though. With a down year, his arbitration numbers might actually come back more favorable to the Marlins. They could also decide to “buy up” his arbitration years by offering a longer term deal, through 2016 for example, to keep Stanton here more long term. It is something the Marlins did with Hanley Ramirez, so it isn’t like the Fish don’t have a history of doing this either.
The Marlins signed Hanley Ramirez, in 2008, to a 6 year deal with $70M. They cited the new stadium as the reason for the break with their normally frugal approach with contracts.
“I think [the stadium] is definitely a big part of it,” Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest said. “We’ve had a lot of good young players here. Whether it’s Derrek Lee or Dontrelle Willis, several players were probably worthy of multiyear consideration. But there wasn’t a stadium on the horizon. Now there is.”
Could Stanton net a 6 year, $100M deal? Possibly. The question is, do the Marlins think he would be worth it? They clearly would have to waive their no-trade clause, something they have been rethinking considering the reaction this past offseason. Yet, in getting Stanton after a down season, the Marlins may be able to save money and lock in a player that could be the face of the franchise moving forward.