The Giancarlo Stanton trade saga continues to drag on, and the latest news has the makings of a standoff.
A day after reports surfaced that Stanton, who has an ironclad no-trade clause in the contract given to him by former owner Jeffrey Loria in 2015, had submitted a list of the teams he would accept a trade to, the Miami Marlins, led by new CEO and co-owner Derek Jeter, have a stark response. CBS Sports' Matt Snyder, relaying a report from The Miami Herald, said Tuesday night that the Fish informed Stanton in October that if he invokes his no-trade clause, he will remain with the Marlins and that the team will trade other players of value to cut the amount of payroll they want to before the new season.
Not an ultimatum?
The Herald report stressed that this message was not presented to Stanton as an ultimatum.
If this isn't an ultimatum, I don't want to know what an ultimatum does sound like. The implication of this impression is crystal clear. The Marlins want to regain the leverage that Stanton's no-trade clause deprives them of, and they will do it the only way they can: by making the consequences of playing hardball over his destination abundantly clear to the player.
Those consequences could be dire. If Stanton doesn't accept the trade the Marlins want, they will shed salary by trading the likes of Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and more. Stanton would be stuck on a squad that would be a shell of a major league team, one that will likely get pummeled regularly and give the rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies hope of finishing outside the cellar in the NL East.
For a player as good as Stanton in the prime of his career, that would be a nightmare scenario and could make him think twice about invoking his no-trade rights if the Marlins end up making a favorable deal with a team that isn't necessarily on Stanton's list.
While one can't criticize Jeter and the Marlins for trying to regain leverage in this ordeal, Jeter is running a fairly dangerous game.
Jeter has not made a good first impression since taking control of the Marlins. Even before the sale was completed, he dictated a purge of the front office, firing three vice presidents and an assistant GM—all of whom were well regarded in the industry—and four former players serving as special assistants, including arguably the two most legendary figures in the team's brief history, Jeff Conine and Jack McKeon.
That's a lot of scorched earth. Now, in his first foray into player relations, he's dropped an ultimatum (let's drop the charades, that's exactly what it is) to his best player. This is the thing players Jeter may eventually try to lure to Marlins Park could consider when deciding on where to play.
Frankly, it's surprising that Jeter is using this tactic. In 2010, Jeter was stung when the Yankees gave him an offer and then told him to shop himself around the league to find something better. It was a strategy that mirrors the squeeze he is reportedly putting Stanton in right now.
Stanton holds an opt-out clause in his contract he can trigger after the 2020 season, and it can be argued that him holding up the Marlins for a specific destination (or destinations) is unreasonable. But Stanton's injury history is well documented, and in three years it may not be in his best interests to opt out of his megadeal. He has fairly negotiated the ability to decide where he plays, and it is disingenuous to criticize him for using that ability.
It's Jeter who needs to tread carefully. If he presses Stanton on this—or follows through on his threat and maroons Stanton on a glorified Triple-A team for using his no-trade rights—he could cripple his reputation amongst players and agents and make it difficult for him to recruit when he does want to wade into the free agent market. Combined with his front office machinations, which looked bad before he even officially took control of the team, it could all add up to an organization that no one will want to play for.