I have to preface with the admission that I thought Manny Machado would be a better fit for the Yankees among the big stars who should be available over the next 12 months. I obviously would love to see Bryce Harper in pinstripes and was always a fan of Giancarlo Stanton, but I thought that Machado’s position and the idea that he may be undervalued coming off a down season would make him the best fit for the Yankees. As an aside to an aside, I abandoned all hope of the LA Angels tanking and putting Mike Trout on the market when they signed Shohei Ohtani. Clearly, they are under the misguided notion that they can win. I’ll start the “Free Mike Trout” chants in July.
But when a future Hall of Famer lands in your lap, plans and ideas change. Giancarlo Stanton for Starlin Castro and two players who haven’t been above low A ball, is an absolutely insane deal for the Yankees. And if we’re being frank, it isn’t hyperbole to say it may go down as one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history.
First, here are some things you need to know about Giancarlo Stanton:
He’s played 5 full seasons, and has led the National League in slugging percentage 3 times.
He’s 1st in Major League Baseball in Wins Above Replacement for corner outfielders since 2011, despite missing time.
He’s getting better: Both his strikeout percentage and his chase rate (swinging at pitches outside the strike zone) dropped significantly from ’16 to ’17. And given that from ages 20-27 he missed time due to injuries, it’s likely his next eight seasons will be better than the past eight.
For some historical perspective, there are 25 corner outfielders in the Hall of Fame. Among those 25 Hall members his SLG would rank 4th only behind Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Hank Aaron (only 1 point behind Aaron), and his OPS+ would be 8th. This is legitimately a higher tier Hall of Famer in his prime who’s probably getting better.
Speaking of Aaron…
Both Aaron and Stanton played 8 seasons before turning 28 years old in the off season before their 9th seasons – that works out pretty well for us for comparative purposes. With the caveat that Stanton’s 1st season was about 2/3 of a season and he missed parts of 2 seasons due to injuries, this is how the Gianbino measures up to Hammerin’ Hank at the same points in their careers – 8 seasons in the books, age 28 going into season 9:
Now, most of you know I’m not big on HR as a measuring tool and I’m way bigger on HR than I am on RBI, which are pretty worthless to me as a measuring stick. But for those of you who do prefer the HR and RBI numbers for your power hitters, those are very similar numbers. Considering Aaron played in a lower run scoring environment but Stanton had far fewer PA, it’s remarkably close.
Speaking of run scoring environment, OPS+ factors that in. For the first 8 seasons of their careers, Aaron’s OPS+ was 153, Stanton’s is 146. Again, very similar production.
How about the old standbys of OBP and SLG?
Again, very similar offensive players. In terms of total value, Aaron was a plus base runner and a plus fielder so he has an edge over Stanton. But it must be noted that Stanton ranks just around average as a fielder and a base runner, so it’s not as if he hurts you having him out there.
And if you’re curious about what happens next: For what it’s worth, Aaron’s seasons 9-16 were better than his first 8.
So Stanton is not Aaron (yet) but it is certainly close enough to use them as comps for the sake of discussion.
Now to what the Yankees are losing: Starlin Castro and two very low level minor leaguers.
If you’ve read my stuff before, you know I’m a card carrying member of the Castro is overrated club. Among MLB 2nd basemen from 2016-17, Castro ranks 20th in WAR. We can go back and forth all day, but the reality is he isn’t anywhere near as valuable as most Yankee fans think he is.
So to find a comp I did a little digging. From 1960-61 (Aaron’s 8th season), Jerry Lumpe had 3.8 WAR as a 2nd baseman, which is the closest to Castro’s 3.3 over the past two seasons
So for our evaluative purposes, we can say that Stanton for Castro is the equivalent of Hank Aaron for Jerry Lumpe in 1961. I know that’s not a perfect comparison, but it’s pretty damn close.
If I told you that Hank Aaron was traded for someone named Jerry Lumpe in 1961, we would all agree that would be the worst trade in MLB history (or best, depending). That is what we are potentially looking at with Stanton for Castro – possibly the most lopsided trade in baseball history.
But what about the minor leaguers in the deal?
21 year old Jorge Guzman threw 66 innings at low A ball with very good numbers. He exhibited good control and the ability to miss bats. And age 21 is about average for that level, so he likely would have started next season in high A Tampa. If he plays in the show, it won’t be for a while.
18 year old Jose Devers had just over 200 plate appearances in rookie league, and has done nothing.
This trade isn’t exactly Stanton for Castro straight up, but it’s pretty close.
So what does this mean for the 2018 Yankees?
It means Aaron Boone’s role just became more important and his pressure level went from very high to immense.
The Yankees were among the best teams in baseball last season in scoring runs, preventing runs and run differential and that was with several key players missing big chunks of time due to injuries. Well now, assuming health, they’re probably going to score more runs. A hypothetical lineup of Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Stanton, Greg Bird, Aaron Hicks, Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres and Chase Headley will likely lead the league in runs scored. With a good starting rotation (the ability to add to it in July if need be) and a still dominant bullpen, the Yankees are expected to win…now.
Now in addition to the prior questions about Aaron Boone’s role, the issue of his strategical acumen becomes huge.
Will he screw up the batting order by having inferior players bat ahead of better hitters? Will he continually use Aroldis Chapman in mop up duty? Will he insert a poor base runner to pinch run for a good one? Will he put his 12th best pitcher into a tie game in the 7th inning?
Because Joe Girardi did all those things and it cost the Yankees games and it cost him his job. And I’ll remind you that the Yankees went 18-26 in one run games last season – the answers to the questions above matter, a lot.
How Aaron Boone answers to those questions will most likely decide the outcome of the 2018 season for the Yankees.
Thanks as usual to Baseball Reference for the numbers.