Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It wasn't that long ago that the Miami Marlins were the laughingstock of baseball.
In fact, the Marlins were such a mess that a certain baseball writer actually stated that Commissioner Bud Selig should step in and do something about owner Jeffrey Loria.
Now in my defense, the vitriol toward Loria was based more on the fact that he duped taxpayers into paying over a billion dollars for a new stadium more than the fact that he dismantled his team just one year after spending nearly $200 million in the winter of 2012.
But, here we are, nearly three years later and they might be set up as well as any team in baseball.
Way to read the tea leaves Mr. Ruddick.
If Mike Trout is the best young player in the game, Miami's Giancarlo Stanton is a close second. And he's now going to be in a Marlins uniform for a very long time after agreeing to the largest contract in American sports, as he officially signed his 13-year, $325 million deal with the Marlins on Wednesday.
I can't imagine anyone would have thought this day would happen back in November of 2012 when the Marlins sent shortstop Jose Reyes, righty Josh Johnson, lefty Mark Buehrle, catcher John Buck and utilityman Emilio Bonifacio to Toronto for a seven-player package highlighted by shortstop Yunel Escobar, lefty Henderson Alvarez, and a few prospects, including highly regarded Adeiny Hechavarria.
After seemingly going all-in the previous winter, Loria and the Marlins were going to tear it all apart.
It was no secret that Stanton was unhappy with the direction the team was taking. Heck, he even stated as late as this summer that he basically had no intentions of signing a long-term deal.
Looking back the deal isn't as lopsided as it first seemed. In fact, it may be lopsided toward the Marlins. Alvarez and Hechavarria may wind up being better than anyone that left Miami in that deal.
So, when did it change for Stanton?
Well it's easy to say he had 325 million reasons to change his mind, but he could have gotten paid anywhere. The Marlins had to prove to him they were committed to winning and it must have worked.
Loria probably used those same Jedi mind tricks that he used to convince the people of Miami Dade County to pay for Marlins Park.
Regardless of how it happened, this was a no-brainer from the Marlins standpoint.
A two-time All-Star, Stanton, who turned 25 earlier this month, is one of just four active players in the majors to record three 30-plus home run seasons prior to turning 25, joining Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez.
This past season Stanton led the National League in home runs (37), slugging percentage (.555) and total bases (299), and went on to garner a second-place finish in National League Most Valuable Player balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
And Stanton gave the Marlins plenty of payroll flexibility over the first three years of the deal to help make the team better.
The deal reportedly breaks down like this. Stanton will make $6.5 million next season (well below the $13 million he likely would have made in arbitration), $9 million in 2016 and $14.5 million in 2017.
In seasons four through six of the deal, Stanton will pocket $25 million, $26 million and $26 million. Stanton then has an opt-out clause, after 2020.
The next six years of the contract, after the opt-out, include salaries of $29 million, $32 million in years 8, 9 and 10, $29 million in year 11 and $25 million in year 12. In year 13, the Marlins can pay Stanton $25 million or exercise a $10 million buyout.
Yes it is crazy money and the Marlins will probably regret it at some point. Is there any team in any sport that doesn't eventually regret a deal like this?
So, if he opts out after year six, so be it.
Trout signed a six-year, $144.5 million deal with the Angels at the start of this season. Stanton will have made $107 million through the first six years of his deal.
If Trout progresses as expected, what kind of deal will he sign at the end of his extension? It's not all that crazy to think he might get that same type of deal at 29!
Cabrera agreed to a 10-year, $292 million extension at the start of this season. And he's 31.
Stanton won't be 26 until next November.
And as ESPN's Jayson Stark pointed out the top-5 finishers in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting were all older than Stanton.
Now the Marlins have to hold up their other end of the deal and make this team a winner. They've already gone hard after first baseman Adam LaRoche and are expected to be active this winter.
With a returning Jose Fernandez leading the way on the mound and Stanton in the fold for a long time, Miami may actually start to become a fun place to play.
Who'd of thunk it?