The Case For Bryce-For-Giancarlo

Ok, yeah, it sounds ridiculous. But as we dive into the GM Meetings, before the pieces start moving, it’s fun to deal with the ridiculous. So let’s.

The biggest story, which feels like it’s going to drag into spring training when some team can barely contain their giggles as they give the Marlins five cents on the dollar and get the Marlins to eat most of that ridiculous contract just so Derek Jeter can claim he did something, is going to be Giancarlo Stanton. And yet his market is already dwindling. It was reported today that he won’t accept a trade to Boston or St. Louis, which are only two of a handful of teams that could even consider taking this on. The Yankees don’t need him, nor do the Dodgers (though I suppose they could flip Puig over to left to accommodate Giancarlo, but that seems like a a lot maneuvering for a team that just won 104 games).

So where else?

The Cubs aren’t a contender, even if they do dream about a right field replacement for Jason Heyward (and there may be one they’re dreaming about, and he’s part of this article). The Mets? Ha, that’s funny. They’re hardly any big market teams left. The Rangers? Doesn’t seem like it, even if Choo is a million years old.

Which brings us to the Nationals. They face a crisis. Bryce Harper is in a walk-year. It seems a fait accompli that he’s walking next winter, be it to the Bronx or the Northside or wherever he feels. When Harper goes, he kind of takes a good portion of the Nationals’ chances with him. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You have to believe the Nationals aren’t going to let Harper walk without a fight. So they must be budgeting for some kind of 10-year, $400 million offer, or whatever it might take. You know you’re making it, and you know what you’re going to do if he actually signs it.

So in that sense, Giancarlo Stanton is cheaper than Harper. Yes, he’s older by three years, but in reality he’s not much that worse. While Harper is the better player, it’s not by as much as you’d think, thanks to injuries. Harper only has one 6.0+ WAR season, his MVP season of 2015. Stanton has two of those years, including last year, and another 5.6 WAR season. No, Stanton isn’t exactly durable either, In the past six years, or all of Harper’s career, Stanton has played 32 games less than Harper. That’s six per season. It’s not a lot.

No, Stanton isn’t the defensive player that Harper is, or was, but he was actually a better defensive player than Harper in right field last year. Harper’s defensive abilities have always been a touch overrated.

When healthy, Harper is the total hitter, where Stanton is more of a slugger. Still, overall, Stanton career +144 wRC+ is better than Harper’s 141. And if you’re getting someone cheaper, you accept that he might not be quite as good.

Obviously, it’s not that simple. Max Scherzer’s salary jumps up after next year, though a portion of that is deferred. Gio Gonzalez is a free agent after next year as well, and we know that even mid-rotation starters get PAID on the open market. But Strasburg is locked up, Rendon is still in arbitration, and Zimmerman only has two years left on his deal.

Beyond 2018, the Nats still have a core of Scherzer, Strasburg, Michael Taylor and Trea Turner. It’s not a bad point, and if the Nationals think they can compete after 2018, they have to think about filling in a Harper-sized gap.

You’d only trade for Stanton if you already assume Harper is gone. You’re signing his exit if you trade for Stanton without him being in the deal. Werth is gone now, you could shift one over to left for one, go-for-it season and then try and figure out where you are in 2019 at a later date. You could put Harper into the deal and just figure you’re getting a cheaper contract long term.

Plus, it would just be fun. And that’s what we’re after here.


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