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Giancarlo Stanton is available, but may not be worth the risk

For a high price, you’d get one of the most exciting players in baseball...when he’s in the lineup.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Do you want Giancarlo Stanton? Because it sure sounds like he’s going to be available, according to Jon Heyman. With the Marlins poised to rebuild yet again, Stanton has made it clear that he wants out of Miami and the new Derek Jeter-led regime will likely be looking to grant his wish. Heyman lays out three clubs, the Giants, Cardinals, and Phillies, who are the favorites before the gates even open, before also mentioning the familiar suspects: the Dodgers, Angels, Yankees, and Red Sox.

And, on the surface, it seems like a no-brainer. Stanton is coming off a season where he hit 59 homers and drove in 132 RBI to lead all of baseball. His 1.007 OPS is beautiful to behold. He was worth somewhere between seven and seven-and-a-half wins above replacement. And he’s only 27 years old. Stanton has physical talent that outshines anyone else who’s going to be available this offseason. He is a dynamic and charismatic player who any team would want in the heart of their lineup.

But how often is he really going to be in the lineup? Across seven full seasons in the Majors, Stanton has started more than 120 games just three times. Now, one of those partially-lost seasons is because he was hit in the cheek by a fastball, a freak occurrence that is unlikely to recur (especially with the cheek guard he wears on his batting helmet to prevent his face from breaking). But he also has muscle strains and groin tears and knee surgeries, and those have all kept him out of action for several weeks at a time.

So while he’s easily a 6-7 win player over a full season of games, he’s actually been worth far less than that. Indeed, he’s averaged roughly four and a half wins per year over the last three seasons. Even with some additional good luck staying out of the trainers’ room, he’s still only likely to produce another win or so.

Of course, that’s only if his skills don’t atrophy. Despite how amazing he is right now, and likely to be for the next couple years, Stanton is a good bet to lose effectiveness after he crosses the Rubicon into his 30s. Aside from his facial fractures, his injuries are likely to reoccur, especially as someone who is Stanton’s size ages. Moreover, those reoccurrences are likely to be even worse as his body loses its youthful elasticity and natural healing ability. Finally, these are injuries that, over time, are likely to gradually drain him of that incredible talent, much like Troy Tulowitzki’s have left him a shell of his former self.

Finally, Stanton comes with a contract. A massive, massive contract that calls for him to be paid at least $295 million over the next 10 seasons. Now, that’s not the worst deal in baseball. It’s well below the annual average value of, say, Zack Greinke or Miguel Cabrera. And, as salaries continue to escalate, it will seem more and more reasonable over time. It won’t disappear, though. And if Stanton’s skills start to slip, his team will simply have to learn to live with paying $25 million a year (with a $10 million buy-out at the end of the deal) for a struggling ballplayer, the way that the Angels have had to put up with Albert Pujols or the Tigers with Miguel Cabrera.

And that’s even before we get into the massive package of prospects it would take to acquire Stanton.

All of that said, a trade for Stanton could still work out well for a club who sees itself being competitive for the next 3-5 years. He is not likely to fall off the table soon. But whatever club does step up and pay the fare will have to accept the very real possibility that they’d be left with a black hole after Stanton exits his prime. For somebody, that will be worth the risk. I’m just hoping that it isn’t my team who jumps at the chance.