Stanton, 28, has spent all of his eight-year career so far with the Marlins, with a losing record every season and eight managers over all. When he signed his 13-year, $325 million contract, in 2014, he insisted on a full no-trade clause and the ability to opt out after the sixth season. Stanton predicted he would be traded before then, and he was.
“With the history of everything, yeah, of course,” he said. “It was in my mind and I knew I had to be prepared.”
The vision of Jeter and the principal owner, Bruce Sherman — who paid $1.2 billion for the franchise and is already seeking investors — did not persuade Stanton to trust the new Marlins leadership.
“I thought our lineup was legit and we needed help with our pitchers, and we needed to add rather than subtract,” Stanton said. “The way they wanted to go was to subtract, so I let that be known that I didn’t want to be part of another rebuild.”
Stanton told the Marlins he would accept deals to the four teams in the 2017 league championship series: the Yankees, the Houston Astros, the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Like a baseball version of Kevin Durant, Stanton preferred to join a winner, not be the piece to turn a team around.
Even so, the Marlins arranged trades with the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals, recent champions that have faded. He met with both — mainly “to learn what another organization is like,” he said — but had no intention of letting Jeter dictate his future. The Marlins warned Stanton that if he stayed, the team would be torn down around him. He called their bluff.
“You can’t say that and expect me to jump at what’s there, if that’s not the right situation for me,” Stanton said. “So it doesn’t matter what the dynamic was. You’re not going to force me to do anything.”
Jeter is not at the winter meetings even though, as a new executive, he presumably could have learned more about the business side of the industry. He said he stayed away because attending the winter meetings is the job of Michael Hill, the Marlins’ president of baseball operations.
In a conference call with reporters, Jeter stressed that he had no regrets about the process and that there was no miscommunication with Stanton. He said he told Stanton, “We can build with you or without you,” and promised to present him with the best offers the Marlins had for him, even from teams he did not prefer.
Jeter emphasized that he had initially expected to build around Stanton, because he could not assume that a player with a no-trade clause would ever be willing to leave. He also stressed that the Marlins had not reached the playoffs since 2003, leaving him no choice but to tear down the roster and replenish a barren farm system.
“What has been in place hasn’t been working, and we need to fix that,” Jeter said. “We can’t just continue to dig a bigger hole.”
In exchange for Stanton and $30 million, the Marlins acquired second baseman Starlin Castro and two prospects in the low minors: shortstop Jose Devers and pitcher Jorge Guzman, who was ranked as the Yankees’ ninth-best prospect by milb.com. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said he dealt only with Hill, and Jeter dismissed the idea that trading his franchise player to his old team might have felt strange for him.
“I had no feeling about trading him to the Yankees,” Jeter said. “We wanted to get the best deal. Contrary to what people believe, we were not stuck with this deal. This was the best deal out of the three for us. My feeling was to try to make the Miami Marlins organization better, and that was the No. 1 priority.”
Dealing from their low minors appealed to the Yankees, whose ascendance last season has restored their image as free-spending favorites. Even so, the principal owner, Hal Steinbrenner, said the Yankees’ payroll would not exceed the $197 million luxury-tax threshold.
“That’s the plan, even with him added,” Steinbrenner said. “We’re comfortably under the threshold with some more money to spend, whenever we deem we want to spend it.”
As the Yankees ponder other moves, including a possible trade for the Pittsburgh right-hander Gerrit Cole, Manager Aaron Boone named part of his coaching staff: Josh Bard as the bench coach, Phil Nevin as the third base coach and Reggie Willits as the first base coach, to join the returning pitching coach, Larry Rothschild. They could have worse decisions than when to alternate Stanton and Judge between the right field and designated hitter spots, with some left field mixed in.
“I do feel like it’s a really good problem that we have,” Boone said. “The one thing that makes it workable, too, is both Giancarlo and Aaron, the two guys that obviously play the same position, are great people, and I think are open to doing what we need to do to make this the best we can.”
When the Stanton deal came into focus late last week, Cashman called Judge and explained how the playing time might work. Judge — who has used Stanton as a role model as a baseball player with a football player’s body — did not even know who the Yankees would give up. He was sold.
“Hey, I’m pumped,” Judge said, according to Cashman. “This is exciting. If could you pull that off, that would be amazing.”
The Yankees pulled it off, raiding their old captain’s new team for a centerpiece ready for a change.