The meaning of "willing to listen" about Giancarlo Stanton

Mike Ehrmann

Are the Marlins going to trade Giancarlo Stanton? If you have enough time for just 140 characters, you might think it's going to happen before the big ball drops tonight. Well, maybe not so much. Here's The Palm Beach Post's Joe Capozzi, reading the tea leaves after assistant GM Dan Jennings' recent radio interview:

Based on the excerpt of Jennings’ interview that I heard, I don’t get the feeling the Marlins will trade Stanton by opening day, if at all in 2013.

Jennings pointed out how some star players are refered to as "untouchable." But teams can be motivated to move such a player for the right deal.

"They may be untouchable until someone either overwhelms you or you get a package back that makes such a significant improvement on your club going forward," Jennings said.

"We’ve always been willing to listen… But what we are not going to do is move a player for less than what we value their ability. And Giancarlo Stanton, you’ve got a 22-year-old guy we think going forward has got a chance to be a .300 hitter and (hit) 50 home runs and be a guy who is a big-time run producer.

"While we are not shopping him, certainly not looking to move him, yeah, if someone knocked on our door and said, ‘Hey, will you guys consider this and this and this,’ you have to listen."

I'm not sure if any of this constitutes news. As I've mentioned a few times, there have been only two untradeable players in major-league history: Babe Ruth in 1927 and Cal Ripken forever. You do have to listen; if you're a general manager and you won't listen, you're derelict in your duty.

How talented is Giancarlo Stanton? With Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index, I made a list of the 10 best OPS+'s for 22-year-old players, since World War II and with a minimum of 500 plate appearances. Here's the list, Hall of Famers in bold: Boog Powell, Eddie Mathews, Dick Allen, Giancarlo Stanton, Mickey Mantle, Jack Clark, César Cedeño, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Hank Aaron.

Only three Hall of Famers, but Cabrera and Pujols will make it five. And Powell, Allen, Clark and Cedeño were all outstanding hitters for years afterward. The farther down the list -- past the top 10, I mean -- the more question marks you'll find. But Curt Blefary, who's No. 17 on the list, is really the first guy who actually flopped after his big Age 22 season. The message being, of course, that there is a high likelihood that Stanton will, if not necessarily improve over the next few years, remain one of the league's best hitters.

At some point, he'll be paid like that. Next winter he'll be eligible for arbitration, at which point he'll likely be due for a HUGE raise. And then another the year after that, and the year after that.

It's not that the Marlins won't be able to afford Stanton's salaries, even as they grow ever larger. It's that he might never be a more valuable commodity than right now. And if the Marlins aren't planning to compete for postseason berths between now and (say) 2016 and don't intend to sign Stanton to a long-term contract, their best course probably is to trade him now.

Would they take a p.r. hit? Sure, but most of that damage has already been done. Trading Stanton would simply turn terrible attendance and TV ratings to slightly more terrible attendance and TV ratings. At this point, the general manager can't concern himself with 2013 or 2014. He has to be thinking solely of 2015 and '16 and beyond, and it's quite possible the Marlins are better in 2017 without Stanton than with him.

But only if, when trading Giancarlo Stanton, they receive a couple of future stars in return. And that's the hard part.

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