On Wednesday, May 2nd, The Red Sox and Yankees both won. In doing so, two of the biggest stars in the game showed why they are considered among the elite.
For the Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton went 3 for 4 with 2 home runs. It’s been a rough going for Stanton, as the bright lights and intense scrutiny from the fans and media alike have put him on the back page of the New York tabloids for the wrong kind of performance. Even after yesterday’s game, he’s hitting just .240 with 7 HR, 19 RBI and .796 OPS on the young season.
Mookie Betts went 4 for 4 against the Royals. Three of those hits were solo home runs – his second 3 HR game of the season- as he seemed to solidify himself as the early front runner for the AL MVP award. After yesterday’s game, Mookie’s season stat line has him hitting .365 with a league leading 11 HR to go along with 21RBI and a 1.274 OPS
Back in the summer of 2014 Stanton was a just-turned 24 year old outfielder enjoying a breakout season in relative obscurity down in Miami. He’d finish the season with batting line of .288/37/105/.955 OPS. He likely would have taken home the NL MVP had his not been cut short in early September when he was hit in the face with a 90MPH fastball.
Marlins ownership faced a difficult decision on Stanton. He was early into his arbitration years and then owner, Jeffrey Loria, feared that the market in Miami would not be big enough to keep Stanton around when he hit free-agency. However Loria also recognized that he was holding onto one of the most valuable trade assets in all of baseball. A young power-hitter that seemed to be improving with each season. A player that a contender could build around. A player that, in the right market, could become the face of baseball. A player with three years of team control left. With all of those factors Marlins ownership knew that return for Stanton would be an unprecedented haul.
That same summer, the defending champion Red Sox were limping to a last place finish in the AL East. They moved staff ace and fan-favorite, Jon Lester, to Oakland at the deadline for HR Derby champ Yoenis Cespedes, and would continue to look at ways to remake the roster. Knowing that David Ortiz would not be around forever, and having a strong farm system to get a deal done, the rumors involving a deal for Giancarlo Stanton started to heat up.
On August 12th, 2014, the site MLBTradeRumors.com (backed by the Boston Herald) led with a story that a deal between the Red Sox and Marlins was starting to heat up. And the pieces going back to Miami were starting surface in what would be one of the biggest prospect packages moving to a team for a single player. Here is and excerpt from the article:
Cespedes could be a piece of a deal for Stanton, joined by any number of youngsters, from Gold Glove-caliber center fielder Bradley to minor-league hit machine Mookie Betts, to Blake Swihart, who might be the best catching prospect in the game. Even if the Red Sox insisted on keeping Bogaerts — and he’s maybe the only untouchable player in their system — they have the pieces to make an overwhelming offer.
At the time Xander Bogaerts was struggling in his first full season at the MLB level, but he entered the season as the #1 prospect in the game according to Baseball America. That same publication had Swihart rated as the game’s top catching prospect, and Bradley had already established himself as a Gold-Glove caliber center fielder. Little known second base prospect, Mookie Betts, had jumped on the radar by flashing 5-tool ability as he climbed through the minor leagues at a torrid pace. The article suggests that it was Boston’s reluctance to part with Bogaerts that prevented a deal from ultimately happening, but the inclusion of Betts would’ve been the move that would likely haunt the Red Sox for years to come.
Stanton would end up engaging in extension talks with the Marlins that off-season. He’d end up signing a back-loaded extension for 13 years/$325M, making him the highest paid athlete in the history of North American sports. The back-loaded part of the deal would surface after the 2017 season, and prove to be crippling to the new Marlins ownership group led by Derek Jeter. He would end up a Yankee for a dismal return highlighted by second baseman, Starlin Castro, and two middle-tier prospects.
And the little known second base prospect the Marlins were angling for in the summer of 2014? We know him now as simply “Mookie”. The two-time All Star, two-time Gold Glove winner, and the best right-fielder in all of baseball.
Crazy to think, what might have been…