Angels Land Otani; Dodgers Blow It With Stanton
December 11, 2017

If the reports are to be believed, Giancarlo Stanton wanted to be a Dodger. In this case, why wouldn't you believe the reports? Stanton is a SoCal kid, rooted for the Dodgers growing up, and could literally choose his own destination in a trade from the Miami Marlins. Instead, and alas, the slugger is now a New York Yankee.

This year's National League MVP, who batted .281 with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs, grew up in the valley. He went to Notre Dame High School on the corner of Woodman Avenue and Riverside Drive in Sherman Oaks, right down the street from where my late grandfather lived. The front of that high school has served as a backdrop for many television shows and movies. How perfect for Stanton, who was there for four years, would come back to Los Angeles, and Hollywood would come to him.

Meanwhile, down in the O.C., the baseball world is still stunned that Japanese sensation Shohei Otani agreed to a deal, of his own free will, with the Los Angeles Angels. If you haven't heard of Otani by now, he's being called the Babe Ruth of Japan, and with good reason. He's only 23, but he pitches between 97 and 100 miles an hour, and is also a good hitter. With the Nippon Ham Fighters last season, he batted .332 with 8 home runs and 32 RBIs in 202 at-bats. In five seasons with the Fighters, he batted .286 while going 42-15 with a 2.52 earned run average with 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings. You can see why all 30 major league teams were interested.

If other reports are to be believed, Stanton's idle while growing up watching the Dodgers of the 1990s, was Eric Karros. It's reported that when Karros, as a broadcaster a few years ago, covered Stanton in a home run derby, Stanton was more excited to meet Karros than Karros was to meet Stanton. You could then infer from these reports, if true, that all the Dodgers had to do to get Stanton from Miami was make a phone call. They apparently didn't.

Otani's situation was unique. Believe it or not, it wasn't a matter of money. If Otani stayed in Japan until he was 25, he would have been a free agent, and could come to the United States in a mega-deal—sold to the highest bidder. Instead, he is subject to international signing rules, where he can only get a few hundred thousand dollars, which in this day and age, any MLB team could afford. He quickly narrowed his field of 30 teams down to seven (eliminating the Yankees, believe it or not, in the process), and before you could say Mike Scioscia, chose to sign with the Angels.

Derek Jeter owns the Marlins now. He and a group of investors purchased the Marlins during the off-season, and knew they were going to have to cut payroll. Stanton, who has ten years remaining on a 13-year deal with full no-trade rights, is owed 295 million. The Marlins aren't drawing fans and aren't winning anyway, so out he goes. The Dodgers, who can afford the 295 million, have reportedly said they didn't want to take on that kind of payroll, because it would put them over the luxury tax threshold—meaning they would have to pay money to the other 29 teams. You can't blame them for not wanting to do that, but this is Giancarlo Stanton. He has 267 homers in just eight seasons, and is only 27. Get the Marlins to agree to take someone like Brandon McCarthy or Hyun-Jin Ryu or Scott Kazmir, Yasiel Puig, and two decent prospects, and it would seem to work. They might have to pay the luxury tax for a year or two, but they'll also have a Seager-Turner-Bellinger-Stanton middle of the order that could rake for a long time. Nothing is a sure thing in baseball, but you'd have to like the Dodgers chances of winning the World Series in 2018, exactly 30 years after their last one.

The Angels have to figure out what they are going to do with Otani on days that he doesn't pitch, but just days after the announcement, the franchise has been invigorated. Otani will likely DH, forcing the aging Albert Pujols to either sit or play first base, with the latter likely. Pujols is 37 now, but still had 101 RBIs last year. What becomes of C.J. Cron will also be an issue. Remember, the Angels also were the last team eliminated from wild card contention last year, and traded for outfield Justin Upton. They are also rumored to be looking for a second baseman, namely Detroit's Ian Kinsler, and perhaps a third baseman, like Mike Moustakas or the slugging but low-average hitting Todd Frazier.

Even after the news broke that the Yankees had agreed to a deal for Stanton, there still had to be some thought that the Dodgers could still jump in. Starlin Castro and two minor leaguers went to Miami, and the Marlins agreed to eat 30 million of Giancarlo's megadeal. The Dodgers could have done better than that. They chose not to, but still have arguably the best team in the National League. Just remember this week if the Dodgers face the Yankees in the World Series.

Incidentally, the Dodgers and Angels face each other back-to-weekends in July (July 6-8 in Anaheim and 13-15 at Dodger Stadium). Too bad it won't be Otani vs. Stanton, but you can see that when the Angels face the Yankees April 27-29 in Anaheim, and May 25-27 in the Bronx (both weekends—Sunday Night Baseball anyone?). As one national sports TV host said today after the Stanton signing, “it makes one feel good about hating the Yankees again.”

Hot hot hot stove: The Otani and Stanton announcements were made before baseball's annual Winter Meetings officially opened Sunday in Orlando (Lake Buena Vista, Florida). The biggest free agents on the board are J.D. Martinez, Carlos Santana, and Eric Hosmer for hitters, starting pitchers Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, and closers Greg Holland and Wade Davis. The Marlins could also sell off more of their players like Christian Yelich and Marcel Ozuna.

Marlin meltdown: The Marlins have gone through fire sales before, and this figures to be another. Before trading Stanton, the Jeter group dealt drug cheat and former Dodger Dee Gordon to Seattle. Gordon stole 60 bases last year, and will move from second base to center field. If you are keeping score (and you should), Gordon joins Nelson Cruz with the Mariners who have both received PED suspensions. Maybe the Mariners could trade for Starling Marte next.

There's no to-Morrow: Brandon Morrow, who last year went from a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, to the best reliever the Dodgers had before getting to closer Kenley Jansen, has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. If those reports turn out to be true, Morrow could close for skipper Joe Maddon next year. Wade Davis is a free agent.

CBS Sports Spectacular: I watched three sporting events on Saturday, without planning to watch any of them. I was up at 9am, so I turned on the UCLA-Michigan game. The Bruins blew a 15-point lead in the second half, and lost in overtime. Still a pretty entertaining contest. CBS followed with the Army-Navy game, which I no interest in whatsoever, until they showed a shot of the stadium in Philadelphia, and it was snowing like crazy. Navy missed a field goal try at the end to seal the Army victory. Then, flipping over to the CBS Sports Network, Cal led most of the way at San Diego State, lost the lead late, but came back and won. Both my basketball teams lost (and so did the Rams on Sunday), but at least all in entertaining fashion.

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