The Florida Marlins are, according to multiple reports, extremely close to signing star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton to the biggest deal in MLB history. Stanton will, it appears, earn an incredible $325 million over 13 years, an average of $25 million per season.
Stanton, who just turned 25 this week, is one of the very best players in baseball. This past season saw him place second in National League MVP voting after he hit .288/.395/.555 with 37 home runs over 145 games. In five seasons, he's a two-time All Star and already has 154 home runs.
Seven years ago, the Brewers had Ryan Braun coming off a season where he won Rookie of the Year after hitting .324/.370/.634 with 34 home runs. Milwaukee gave him an eight-year contract worth $45 million. A few years later, they upped the ante, giving Braun another $105 million on top of the original deal for an additional five years.
So, overall, Braun is receiving $150 million over thirteen years. Stanton is receiving more than double that amount over the same period of time.
Currently, with about half the length of his deal and most of the money remaining, Braun's future is in flux. Early in 2013 he suffered a damaged nerve in his right thumb/hand, an injury he originally tried to rehabilitate via non-intrusive methods. In 2014, Braun hit just .266/.324/.453. He's now undergone one cryotherapy procedure this offseason and will have two more before the 2015 season begins. If cryotherapy does not help, Braun will continue to swing essentially one-handed, sapping his production.
Braun should serve as a strong warning to the Marlins about how this deal with Stanton could go wrong. Freak things happen. If Braun isn't healthy, his deal becomes an enormous problem for the Brewers. If something happens to Stanton (and I hope nothing does), his deal presents an even bigger problem for the Marlins.
What the Marlins are doing is giving Stanton more than double what Braun received with a payroll that's been about half the size of Milwaukee's. Not that Miami's payroll can't go up -- they did have a $101 million payroll in 2012 after all -- but they'll need to actually draw fans. Which, of course, is hopefully what a long-term commitment to Stanton will do for the organization.
But if Stanton gets hurt, the Marlins are screwed. Anything could happen that could keep him from performing at expected levels long-term. A thumb injury, for example. Maybe he gets hit in the head by a pitch accidentally and suffers a concussion that just won't go away. Post-concussion symptoms ended former-Brewer Corey Koskie's career early. Any other variety of injuries could happen, making this a huge risk for the Marlins.
The Marlins front office has certainly thought about all this and is confident that what they are doing is correct. But certainly they likely thought about Ryan Braun and the numerous other players whose big contracts don't work out. I hope Stanton makes it through his career healthy. If not, the Marlins will have a tough time recovering from this new contract.