If they do, the club's future will be undeniably brighter...Albeit in a complicated way.
But first things first. There's more going on here than mere speculation, as Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com has reported this week that the Mariners have talked to the Miami Marlins about a potential Stanton trade. This report came just days after Jim Bowden of ESPN and SiriusXM reported that the Marlins will listen to "all offers" for their star right fielder.
Likely to happen? Not at all. In fact, Morosi characterized the odds of a deal getting done as being "doubtful," and that comes off as being rather generous. Since Stanton is really the only draw the Marlins have left, it's going to take a Herschel Walker offer to get them to budge.
The Mariners, though, may be one of a very small number of teams that can make such an offer.
The Mariners won't be able to match wits with the Texas Rangers—who could conceivably offer the Marlins Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt—if they get involved with Stanton, but they do have several elite prospects they can offer Miami.
One idea would be for Seattle to surrender all three of its top pitching prospects: right-hander Taijuan Walker and left-handers Danny Hultzen and James Paxton. Walker and Hultzen rank in the top 10 of Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com's top 100 prospect rankings.
Or, the Mariners could attempt to keep at least one of those three by offering to throw in one or both of their top position prospects instead. That would mean shortstop Nick Franklin and/or catcher Mike Zunino, both of whom are close to being ready for the majors.
Regardless of the exact package of players, a Stanton trade would surely be a farm-system killer. The Mariners would go from being relatively rich in prospects to being broke in a split second.
But, as I've maintained all along, Stanton is one of maybe three or four players in baseball who would be worth a farm-emptying deal. This is especially true where the Mariners are concerned, as a deal for Stanton could be the first step in them becoming one of MLB's premier franchises.
In three seasons spanning 373 games, Stanton's career numbers are already impressive. He owns a .903 career OPS, as well as 93 home runs. Since he came into the league in 2010, no player in baseball has a higher HR/FB rate and only Jose Bautista has compiled a higher ISO (see FanGraphs).
Stanton is also an above-average defensive player. Per FanGraphs, he owns a career UZR of 20.8 and a Defensive Runs Saved of plus-26 for his time in right field.
About the only negative thing that can be said of Stanton is that he strikes out too much, as he owns a career strikeout rate of 28.8 percent. But even with that taken into consideration, he's clearly one of the very best young players in the game, and he certainly has the look of a perennial MVP candidate as he progresses towards the prime of his career.
What's scary is that the prime of Stanton's career is indeed still in the future. He's only 23 years old, meaning he likely has a decade of elite production ahead of him before age takes its toll.
Stanton's youth is just as big a reason why the Mariners could justify selling the farm for him as his talent. He's not due to hit free agency until after the 2016 season, and he won't be eligible for arbitration until after next season.
So if the Mariners were to trade for Stanton, they'd have a young, elite, controllable slugger smack in the middle of their lineup for at least the next four seasons. To make matters even better, he be flanked in Seattle's lineup by fellow youngsters Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero and Kyle Seager, all three of whom are under club control through 2017.
That's not a bad core of players, and it would look all the more dangerous if the smaller dimensions of Safeco Field end up helping Ackley, Montero and Seager the way the Mariners are hoping.
If this core of players—which would be complemented by the recently acquired Kendrys Morales—were to live up to its potential in 2013, the addition of Stanton would make Seattle's offense one of the better units in the league right away. With a rotation headed by Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma and a strong bullpen in tow, the Mariners could immediately find themselves in contention for their first AL West title since 2001.
The real interesting stuff, however, would come after 2013.
The Mariners' most pressing long-term concern these days is the fate of King Felix. His contract is up after 2014, and the Mariners are tasked with signing him to a long-term extension worth fair market value in a day and age when pitchers are only getting more and more expensive.
Assuming Hernandez doesn't fall apart in 2013 or 2014, he's going to command an annual salary worth at least $25 million per year. He may command more than that if Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw, who are also due to hit free agency after 2014, sign lucrative extensions before he does.
The only way Hernandez is going to settle for anything less than fair market value is if he lets his love for Seattle overrule his best business interests. Given how strong his love for the city already is, there's already a fair chance of that happening.
There could be an even better chance of Hernandez taking a discount to stay in Seattle if the Mariners do end up finding a way to deal for Stanton. Such a trade could be what convinces King Felix that Seattle is the best place for him to win in addition to being the best place for him to be happy.
But even if Hernandez does take a discount to stay in Seattle, the Mariners would probably still be on the hook to pay him, say, $23 or $24 million per year rather than anywhere between $25 and $30 million per year. That would set them up for a new dilemma:
If the Mariners sign Hernandez to an extension after trading for Stanton, would they then be able to sign Stanton to an extension?
Because Stanton is quickly approaching $25 million-per-year territory as well, the Mariners could find themselves in a position where they'd have to be calculating whether or not they can afford to have two players sucking up roughly $50 million (or more) on an annual basis. That's an awful lot of money for a small-market team like the Mariners to commit to only two players.
However, television revenue could be the Mariners' excuse to get away with such a massive commitment to two players. After all, the club stands to get $50 million per year just from MLB's new national TV deals, and there's also the possibility of a new local TV deal to consider.
Via FanGraphs, we know that Seattle's deal with ROOT Sports pays the club $45 million per year and expires after the 2021 season. However, the Mariners can opt out of it after the 2015 season and then seek a deal worth more money.
That could already be the club's plan. If the Mariners were to trade for Stanton, it surely would be the club's plan, as they would know that they'd need as much revenue as possible coming in to keep the team they have constructed intact for the long haul.
If the Mariners were to trade for Stanton, re-sign Hernandez and then opt out of their deal with ROOT Sports, they could find themselves in the market for a local TV deal worth more like $100 million per year. If they were to find such a deal, they'd have roughly $150 million per year coming in just from television to go along with the (likely) increased revenue being generated at the turnstiles.
With so much money being generated, the Mariners would thus have an unprecedented capacity to invest in their product on the field, which would have a chance to be something really special with players like Hernandez and Stanton at its core.
If such a dream were to become a reality, I doubt anybody would miss the prospects the Mariners gave up to get Stanton. A deal for him surely would set the team's farm system back, but it has the potential of sending the organization as a whole forward in a big way.
None of this is to suggest that a deal is bound to happen, mind you. It takes two to tango, and a deal shall remain highly unlikely as long as the Marlins are sticking to their guns where their young superstar is concerned.
That being said, all of this may shed some light on why the Mariners are at least taking the trouble to ask.
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