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Are the Marlins hindered with mega contract with Stanton?

November 19, 2014

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The Miami Marlins are expected to sign their star slugger, Giancarlo Stanton, to a 13-year, $325 million deal on Wednesday, the largest sports contract in American history.

Stanton, 25, came in second in the National League’s MVP voting this year, and held an impressive .288/.395/.555 batting line (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging) in 2014. Many baseball experts predict that Stanton will only get better over the coming years, and that the baseball world didn’t even get see him live up to his full potential this season after a wild pitch cut his season short.

Is Stanton worth that much dough? The slugger is just entering his prime, but as many baseball fans know, it’s common for players to hit a wall in their 30s, and injuries can sideline even the best.

Twins catcher and first baseman Joe Mauer is a prime example of the risks teams take when they sign stars to mega contracts, as Sports on Earth points out. Minnesota signed Mauer to an eight-year $184 million deal in 2010, following a MVP season in ’09.

The 31-year-old has had some all-star-quality years since his signing, but his .277/.361/.371 batting line in 2014 was underwhelming and he only participated 82 games in ’11.

His $23 million annual salary took 24.9 percent of the Twins’ $92.37 million payroll, according to Baseball Prospectus, and Minnesota finished dead last in the AL Central.

Dedicating 24.9 percent of payroll to a slumping player is crippling for any team, because it limits their ability to pull in top free agents in the offseason and bargain at the trade deadline.

However, an ESPN report on Tuesday suggested that the Marlins might avoid this issue, at least for the first few years of Stanton’s contract. According to the article, the outfielder’s contract will be heavily backloaded as $218 million of that money will come after his first six seasons, which is a whopping 67 percent of the total deal.  After those first six seasons Stanton will also have the ability to opt out his contract.

Sources told ESPN that he agreed to this structure to help the Marlins build a team that could win now, adding that Stanton will only pull in $6.5 million in 2015. That’s just 14.9 percent of Miami’s 2014 payroll — if his salary was evenly spread out, it would represent more than half of this past season’s $43.63 million budget.

This is great news for the Marlins, a team that has done well in terms of winning championships over the last 20 years — they’ve won two World Series in that period — but has been financially handicapped throughout most of its short existence.

After the 2012 season, the Marlins unloaded nearly all of their top talent — including shortstop Jose Reyes, third baseman Hanley Ramirez and pitcher Josh Johnson — and enraged the city of Miami. This year, they had the fourth-worst attendance in MLB.

In other words, its unclear how the Marlins would both pay Stanton evenly throughout his 13-year contract and remain competitive at the same time, since their fan base has little love for their antics.

But, if the ESPN report is true, they won’t have to worry about that for another six years. We’ll know for certain after Miami’s 11 a.m. ET news conference that will officially announce the deal. 

Here’s Stanton tying the Marlins’ home run record earlier this year.

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