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My Thoughts On the Stanton Deal from “Inside the Empire”

My Thoughts On the Stanton Deal from “Inside the Empire” (by by Bob Klapisch and Paul Solotaroff)

by Owen Hetherington

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Inside the Empire by Bob Klapisch and Paul Solotaroff gives an inside look at what actually happens behind closed doors with the New York Yankees. The book provides insight on the decisions made by General Manager, Brian Cashman heading into the 2018 season by taking readers to a new level, providing a behind the scenes look inside the Yankees clubhouse and front office.

As I was reading along, I came across many interesting details about the Yankees that I was unaware of and oblivious to. The New York Yankees are one of, if not the most historic organization in all of sports. Although the Yankees could be seen from afar as just one well-oiled machine, Inside the Empire exposes the flaws of the Yankees’ decision making process.

I thought it would be a fun idea to share and highlight some of my major findings through a series that breaks down my reactions to what actually happened behind the Yankees closed doors. If you haven’t read the book yet, don’t worry, I won’t spoil the book for you. There is a lot more to the book than what I am sharing.

For the first part of this series, I wanted to analyze and voice my opinions on how the Giancarlo Stanton deal actually went down. Bob Klapisch and Paul Solotaroff did a great job breaking down the truth of the Cashman-Jeter deal. What was a misconception that Jeter handed Stanton to the Yankees to help out his former team, Jeter had a minuscule role in the deal according to Klapisch and Solotaroff.

In Chapter 1 of Inside the Empire, Klapisch and Solotaroff use direct quotes from Brian Cashman and inside sources from both the Yankees and Marlins about how the deal actually went about. After reading, I broke down how the trade happened into three categories: Shohei Ohtani, the Jeter-Sherman’s organizational goals, and Judge’s approval. I’ll provide more depth throughout the post, but I thought these three factors were the most important to highlight.

Shohei OhtaniEmbed from Getty Images

According to Klapisch and Solotaroff, the Stanton trade between the Yankees and Marlins began at the General Manager Meetings when Brian Cashman and Marlins GM, Mike Hill passed each other in the hallway. Based on a quote from Cashman, it was unclear who first brought up the topic of Stanton. Nevertheless, Stanton was coming off an MVP season in 2017 and the Yankees were looking to build upon their already championship-caliber team.

Shohei Ohtani was the deal-breaker in the Stanton-Yankees fantasy trade. According to Kalpisch and Solotaroff, Cashman said in part “Hey, I like your asset if we don’t land Ohtani”. Shohei Ohtani was one of the top targets on the Yankees’ watch list heading into 2018. A once in a lifetime Japanese Babe Ruth caliber type player who could pitch and play DH on his off days would have been a blockbuster signing for the Yankees and Cashman.

Looking back, I think it would have been pretty amazing to get Ohtani on the Yankees roster. Despite him being prone to injury, which we later found out after he joined the Angels, it would have been a blockbuster signing for the pinstripes. Ohtani’s ability to hit the ball is immaculate and breathtaking. Another lefty in the lineup, especially with the Yankee Stadium short porch, would have definitely made an impact on this current Yankees’ team.

The Yankees were projected to be the frontrunner for Ohtani because of the organization’s connection with Hideki Matsui. However, when Ohtani announced that he wouldn’t play anywhere east of Mississippi, any chance of adding him to the roster went immediately off the table.

Getting Ohtani would have changed everything for the Yankees. Since he joined the Angels in 2018, Ohtani has played in just 254 games as a hitter and only 12 as a pitcher. Stanton on the other hand has played in only 199 games. Their numbers have been almost identical over the past three seasons (Ohtani: .269/.340/.503; Stanton: .266/.353/.507).

The main point: the Stanton deal would have never gone down with the Yankees if Cashman was able to get Ohtani.

Jeter-Sherman GoalsEmbed from Getty Images

The goals of the Jeter-Sherman group for the Marlins were quite simple: strip the team of its highest-paid stars and develop young, talented players in the minor leagues, a system that worked for the Steinbrenner family that turned the core-four into stars. However, this strategy was going to upset a lot of Miami Marlins fans, who had been promised success after the Jeter-Sherman group purchased the team.

It’s no secret that the Jeter-Sherman ownership group didn’t get a good reputation by stripping away their existing star talent. Miami fans were outraged. They were hopeful that the new ownership group, led by Derek Jeter, would be able to make an immediate impact, as they had promised. The reality was, Jeter had no previous experience in a baseball front office, which was a recipe for disaster.

On top of that, Jeter was not the same person that the media had portrayed in his playing days. According to Klapisch and Solotaroff, Jeter had no direct communication with Stanton after purchasing the team. He never reached out to Stanton’s agent to see his desired playing location when trading him became obvious.

The issue for Jeter was that Stanton held all the cards in the negotiation with a no-trade clause in his pocket. A source close to Klapisch and Solotaroff said that Jeter actually threatened Stanton to take a deal with either the St. Louis Cardinals or San Francisco Giants. The sources said that if Stanton didn’t take the deal, he would trade everyone around Stanton and hold him in Miami forever. This was not exactly the Derek Jeter that the world had been accustomed to in New York. Jeter always managed to avoid bad publicity as a Yankee. I guess Derek Jeter the owner picked up similar tendencies to the Boss, George Steinbrenner, and didn’t care about player relations. It was disappointing to read about Jeter’s immaturity at the ownership level in Miami during the Stanton trade period. In Klapisch and Solotaroff’s words, Jeter’s ownership style “is to dictate terms and expect you to glumly accept them.” This was not exactly the Jeter we saw throughout his playing days.

Despite his lack of contact with Stanton, Jeter’s disrespect when negotiating didn’t stop there. Jeter had no contact with anyone on the Yankees in further negotiations for Stanton. Brian Cashman told Klapisch and Solotaroff in part, that Jeter “Wasn’t interested in speaking”.

As I previously stated, Jeter was very immature and out of place when trying to negotiate a contract for Stanton. He didn’t have any involvement in the deal and was actually more of a problem than a solution. Could it have been because this was Jeter’s first big trade and he didn’t know how to handle it? Probably. Would Jeter have done things differently today? I would like to think so. Nevertheless, his ignorance got the best of him in his early days in the front office for the Marlins. As we saw this past season when his Marlins made the playoffs, maybe he knew what he was doing. The way he went about it is what I have an issue with.

The Judge’s Stamp of Approval

It was public information at the time that Brian Cashman reached out to Aaron Judge about his thoughts on the Yankees acquiring Stanton. What made it even more strange was Judge was coming off his rookie season in the Bronx. I find it unlikely that Cashman ever reached out to Jeter to get his thoughts on signing another star, such as Alex Rodriguez, but I could be wrong. Calling Judge to get his approval is definitely something out of the ordinary, especially to a guy with just over one season of service time. However, the call to Judge existed and was just a confirmation to Cashman to trade for the 2017 NL MVP.

Here’s my biggest issue with reaching out to Judge: Why should a GM who should be concerned with payroll reach out to a player coming off a rookie season about whether or not they should trade for a player? I understand the point that can be made of keeping star players happy and maintaining positive relationships with them (unlike what Jeter did with Stanton and other stars when purchasing the Marlins), but I don’t think a GM’s decision should be based on that.

If you were Aaron Judge, what would you have said? In my opinion, there isn’t a player in baseball who would turn down the opportunity to play with the previous year’s NL MVP. I thought the move by Cashman made him look a bit soft as a General Manager trying to assemble a championship team. Judge obviously wasn’t concerned with payroll, but what player would be. They want to play with the best and be in the best position to win a ring.

All in all, I just don’t think directly reaching out to a player is a strategy that Cashman should continue with in the future. After all, Aaron Judge is not the Lebron James of the Yankees, meaning a player shouldn’t be in the ear of the GM for decision making. I don’t really see Cashman doing this in the future, but I found it odd that he asked Judge in this example. I really don’t know if the Stanton situation would be any different in New York, had Judge not have told Cashman to make the trade. Hopefully, it doesn’t come back to haunt Judge if the Yankees cannot afford his contract come free agency in 2023 when he is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Only time will tell.

Conclusion

The trade for Stanton wasn’t exactly as simple as I had thought it was back in 2017 when the Yankees made the transaction. Between Ohtani’s desire to play out west, Jeter’s lack of respect for Stanton, and the need for Judge’s stamp of approval, a lot went into getting the former MVP in pinstripes.Embed from Getty Images

I’m not ready to say whether or not the trade for Stanton was beneficial to the Yankees because he’ll be a Yankee until 2029. Injuries have hindered his ability to reach his full potential.

(Maybe Cashman should reach out to Judge about his thoughts about bringing DJ LeMahieu back so we can get him locked up for 2021 and beyond to win number 28.)

I look forward to sharing more thoughts and reactions from this excellent book.

#BrianCashman #DerekJeter #GiancarloStanton

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