In the midest of one of the most memorable seasons in franchise history, the Pittsburgh Pirates potentially made an offer for one of the best sluggers in the game today: Giancarlo Stanton
The 2013 season for the Pirates was magical. It was the first time in 20 years they had reached both a .500+ record, and a postseason appearance. I’m sure you can remember everything from Gerrit Cole’s debut, to the 2013 NL Wild Card ‘Cueto’ game.
In all the excitement, it’s easy to forget small headlines and glanced over them. Today, I want to bring up one that I found while going through MLB Trade Rumors’ archives: The time the Pirates almost acquired Giancarlo Stanton.
The according to the article’s author, Jeff Todd,
“the Pirates’s made a significant offer”
for the then Miami Marlins slugger. At the deadline, Stanton was hitting for a strong .256/.375/.491 line with 13 home runs in 280 plate appearances. While that seems good, it was nothing compared to his 2012 numbers (.290/.361/.608, 37 home runs in 500 plate appearances). Plus, the right fielder was one of the best defensive RF in the game at the time, having 24 DRS from 2010 to 2012. Stanton was a very youthful 23 at the time, and was still controllable through the 2016 season.
At the time, the Pirates were sitting at 64-32, and had a 2 and a half game lead on the Cardinals for the NL Central. Armed with one of the best bullpens, a solid rotation, and a fairly deep line up, the Pirates were only a piece or two away from putting it all together. Right field was one of their few weak spots. Soon to be MVP at the time Andrew McCutchen had centerfield on lockdown, and rookie Starling Marte was doing great over in left field. However, the tandem of Travis Snider and Jose Tabata in right field was producing ok results, but it definitely wasn’t a great pair for a contending team.
The Bucs entered 2013 with 4 top 100 prospects. Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Alen Hanson, and Gregory Polanco. Cole probably would not have been included in a trade at the deadline unless it was for a Mike Trout level player (which Stanton was not).
It’s strange to think now, but Hanson could have been a headliner for Stanton. MLB.com ranked him as the 40th best prospect in all of baseball, and entered the season ranked 54th. He batted .309/.381/.528 in single-A a season prior, while stealing 35 bags and clobbering 16 long balls. While he wasn’t doing as well in High-A in 2013, he was still considered a high-end prospect. Outfielder Gregory Polanco, who was ranked as MLB’s 13th best prospect could have been the headliner as well. At the time, Polanco was doing OK in the minors, but was showing he had both power, speed, and a decent glove. However, I feel the Marlins probably would have demanded Taillon in a deal. He was ranked as the 10th best prospect in all of baseball at the time, higher than some current stars like Jorge Soler, Gary Sanchez, Trevor Bauer, Lucas Giolito, and Marcus Stroman, and was doing well in Triple-A.
Stanton probably would have been a fixture in the Pirates outfield up to 2016. But could you imagine an outfield of prime Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, and Starling Marte? They would have had the best outfield in the MLB. So what stopped them from acquiring Stanton? Well for one, it’s debatable if they even made a bid on Stanton. While it is rumored that they made a push for the right-handed slugger, it later came out that they apparently didn’t even make an offer. The Marlins were understandably hesitant to deal Stanton.
They had a core consisting of Stanton, Jose Fernandez, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi, Steve Cishek, and having 4 top 100 prospects. Those 4 being Jake Marisnick, Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino, and a familiar name of Colin Moran. And before you say it, no, money was not a factor here. This was pre-massive extension Stanton. He was still on his rookie contract, and made $537K in 2013. In comparison, the Pirates paid nearly double that in the trade that acquired them outfielder Marlon Byrd, and catcher John Buck. They also had to take on $2.3 million of first baseman Justin Morenau’s contract during that September deal.
The Pirates may not have even made an offer for the future MVP, but it’s interesting that such a large rumor came up in 2013 and was forgotten. It’s definitely one that could leave you thinking ‘what if?’ How would the Pirates of 2020 looked today if they unloaded a good chunk of their farm for Giancarlo Stanton? Would they still have Taillon, or Polanco? Could they have fleeced the Marlins with Alen Hanson being the headliner? Maybe they could have included Tyler Glasnow in the package, who was at the time dominating batters in West Virginia. How would the butterfly effect playout there with Glasnow being the headliner for Chris Archer years later? The whole rumor of “Pirates acquire Giancarlo Stanton” gives some food for thought.