By inking a record-setting 13-year, $325 million deal, Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton solidified himself as the face of the franchise for at least the next six years, and possibly more if he decides against exercising his opt-out clause in 2020. He also gave the Marlins an excellent opportunity to acquire the talent to be successful during the first several years of this mega-deal by agreeing to a backloaded contract structure that will pay him roughly two-thirds of his total sum during the last seven years of the deal.
Of the $325 million Stanton will earn, $218 million will come after 2020. As ESPN's Jayson Stark reports, the contract's structure is a product of Stanton's desire to give his team the necessary financial flexibility to win now. Because Stanton will earn a combined $30 million during the next three seasons (a hefty total but still well below what he could have earned through arbitration and a year of free agency), the Marlins can expend their payroll funds on essential upgrades in the infield and perhaps even by adding an impact arm to a rotation that already features Henderson Alvarez, Jarred Cosart, Tom Koehler and Tommy John recoveree Jose Fernandez.
The decision to backload the contract is mutually beneficial. Stanton, despite earning far less than he could have on the open market or through arbitration, gives his team a chance to win by guaranteeing some payroll relief. From the Marlins' perspective, Stanton also has plenty of incentive to stay in Miami for the final seven seasons of the deal (as opposed to opting out, as he has the power to do) because he would be leaving $218 million on the table, or $31.1 million annually. Even if he does opt out (which is the more likely scenario), the Marlins will still have had six years of Stanton's services at a highly discounted price—including a bargain $6.5 million salary in 2015. Here's the complete breakdown, via details from Stark's article and a recent report from CBS Sports' Jon Heyman:
|2028||$25 million team option OR $10 million buyout|
The Marlins were middle-of-the-road offensively last season, scoring 645 runs to rank 16th in baseball, something Stanton's contract structure should give them the capacity to improve upon as soon as this offseason. As Stark noted in his article, the Marlins have expressed interest in first baseman Adam LaRoche, a free agent who hit 79 home runs during the last three seasons for the division rival Washington Nationals. Acquiring a hitter like that who is capable of hitting behind Stanton—providing him some protection while also taking advantage of Stanton's high on-base percentage—is of paramount importance, especially in an infield that didn't have a single position that ranked better than 19th in WAR last season.Whether or not Stanton remains in Miami for the duration of his 13-year deal, as Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria predicted he would, the stability that Stanton adds to the team could attract some of the game's better free agents during the next six seasons, especially next offseason when an elite class of players with expiring contracts (David Price,Jeff Samardzija, Jordan Zimmerman, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Ben Zobrist, Ian Desmond, etc.) becomes available.
Part of the fun of the MLB offseason is its unpredictability, and with the recent completion of the most lucrative deal in sports history in North America, the most interesting part will be observing how the Marlins take advantage of the unique advantage they have gained from the structure of said deal. Expect Loria and his team of front office executives to push hard to build and develop a core around Stanton that can help the team contend by the end of his guaranteed time in Miami—while perhaps convincing him to stick around for the latter seven years.