By Joseph Rini
Maybe prior job experience isn’t such a bad thing.
Over the course of a 20-year career, I can barely remember Derek Jeter ever making an error in a big spot but the Giancarlo Stanton trade looks to be a miscue no one will forget.
Since becoming CEO of the Miami Marlins in September, Jeter has had to endure criticism as his new ownership group has jettisoned some long-time franchise favorites like Mr. Marlin, Jeff Conine (note to future baseball executives: try to find a role for Mr. Fill in the Franchise Name people). It’s not an easy task to let go of people but if the Marlins really did let go of a scout while undergoing cancer treatments, that probably could’ve been handled better.
Operating under a dubious mandate to cut payroll, Jeter was not dealt the best hand in trying to unload Stanton’s potential albatross-like $295 million/no trade 10-year contract. Because the contract dwarfed even the giant 6 foot 5 Stanton, there wasn’t going to be a big market for him, so Jeter’s potential options were limited. However, there were missteps in negotiating potential deals with the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals (such as, not getting Stanton’s agreement to be traded to either place) and suddenly the Yankees became an unlikely landing spot for the Marlins slugger.
If Jeter’s priority was cutting payroll, he accomplished that goal. The Yankees will reportedly pick up $265 million of Stanton’s remaining salary. Because the Yankees are picking up so much of Stanton’s contract, Jeter’s Marlins won’t be receiving any of the top prospects in the Yankees flourishing farm system. They’re receiving low level, far-away-from-the-major-league minor leaguers, so hopefully the Marlins’ Director of Player Development and Scouting Gary Denbo brought along his crystal ball when he left a similar position with the Yankees to follow Jeter to Miami.
Of course, the optics of Jeter trading Stanton to the Yankees doesn’t look good. Fairly or not, at best, it looks like his former team schooled the inexperienced baseball executive and at worst, that Jeter wanted to help the Yankees (which I can’t imagine to be true). Jeter will have to explain to his Marlins customers why in his first major move as a major league CEO, his Marlins were made to resemble an ersatz Triple-A farm team for the Yankees, a latter-day Kansas City Athletics. Back in the 1950s, Arnold Johnson, a former business associate of the Yankees ownership, owned the Athletics and the Athletics frequently traded young talent, including Roger Maris, to the Yankees in exchange for financial relief and veteran players, leading many to grumble about collusion.
The Yankees can’t be blamed for acquiring Stanton and creating a modern day Murderer’s Row in their starting lineup. Despite the Yankees talk about not wanting to pay luxury taxes, winning championships is their constant priority.
Jeter might’ve helped himself if he hadn’t felt pressured to deal Stanton immediately and just let Stanton report to spring training and treated trading Stanton’s contract as a less desperate move. Jeter is definitely experiencing a learning curve in his new position. Whereas in New York sports, he’ll always be a well-deserved legend, to the Marlins fans, he’s an executive who’s on the clock to remake a franchise. Perhaps like Michael Jordan in his post-playing career as a team owner, he’ll find it’s easier to be Derek Jeter than field a team of Derek Jeters.