Giancarlo Stanton is red-hot, trade season isn’t over, MLB free agent power rankings and more

Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton leads the major leagues in home runs, trade season isn’t over, plus MLB free agent power rankings and more.

In November 2014, after he finished as the runner-up in the National League MVP voting as a 24-year-old, and set career highs with 37 home runs and 105 RBI, the Miami Marlins signed Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year, $325 million contract.

It’s a staggering amount of money, and a nearly unheard of commitment in terms of years (though the slugger does have the ability to opt out after six seasons). Stanton agreed to backload the deal in order to help give the Fish payroll flexibility to compete for a postseason spot. He made just $6.5 million in 2015, $9 million in 2016 and is making $14.5 million this year.

Overall, the early years of the contract haven’t worked out as planned. Stanton didn’t put up MVP-caliber numbers in either 2015 or 2016, though injuries limited him to 74 and 119 games, respectively. But, finally healthy, Stanton has hit .277/.370/.615 through 109 games. He is on a career-best pace in both slugging percentage and OPS (.985), and leads the major leagues with 38 home runs.

No. 38, a three-run moon shot Tuesday in Washington, set a new career high.

Stanton has been red-hot at the plate this month. In seven games in August, the slugger has hit .346/.433/1.000 with five home runs and 10 RBI and eight runs scored. He has hit safely in each game, and has homered in four of his last five.

The 27-year-old needs just five more home runs over the final 51 games of the season to break Gary Sheffield’s single-season franchise record. Sheffield hit 42 home runs in 1996. Stanton has also driven in 83 runs and scored 83 – putting him on pace to set new career highs in both categories.

In other words, he’s living up to his contract, and just in time. In 2018, Stanton’s salary jumps to $25 million.

Fortunately, the Marlins are now headed in the right direction thanks to Stanton and a core group of position players including fellow All-Star Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto.

Entering Wednesday 53-58, the Marlins are 13 games behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East and 10 games back in the Wild Card. The postseason is out of reach, but Miami is in second place in the division. The Fish need to finish 29-22 to break .500 for the first time since 2009.

For a franchise is still dealing with the tragic death of Jose Fernandez, Stanton’s performance at the plate in 2017 has given renewed hope to Marlins fans.

Three things we learned this week

1. The trade deadline isn’t officially over

Trade rumors and speculation ran wild during the month of July as we neared the non-waiver trade deadline. Lots of players changed clubs, including big names such as Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray, who are likely to play key roles in upcoming pennant chases.

But trade season isn’t over yet. During the month of August, teams have the opportunity to trade players after placing them on waivers. If another club claims a player on revocable waivers, the two teams can negotiate a trade, or the original team can pull him back. If the player passes through waivers, his club is free to negotiate a deal with all 29 teams.

Among the August trades already made, Sean Rodriguez returned to the Pittsburgh Pirates after a brief stint with the Braves. Rodriguez, who played in Pittsburgh in 2015-16, hit a walk-off home run Sunday in his first game back with the Bucs. Also, All-Star Yonder Alonso, a player often rumored to be on the trading block in July, was sent from Oakland to Seattle.

2. Aaron Judge is human, but he’s still incredible

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge exploded onto the scene this season, and quickly emerged as a heavy favorite to win the American League MVP Award. Of course, Judge has cooled in recent weeks. In 23 games since the All-Star break, he is hitting .175/.337/.363 with five home runs and 12 RBI. He hasn’t had multiple hits in a game since July 18.

Given the timing of his slump, some concerned Yankees fans point to Judge’s performance in the Home Run Derby as a possible cause. But we forget the 6-foot-7 Judge is still a rookie, and players routinely hit a wall late during their first full season in the big leagues.

Nevertheless, Judge still leads the major leagues in Wins Above Replacement (6.0 fWAR) – 0.3 ahead of fellow AL MVP candidate Jose Altuve – and he ranks second in the major leagues and first in the AL in home runs (35). Judge also leads the majors in slugging percentage (.622) and OPS (1.046) and has scored more runs (85) and earned more walks (81) than anyone in the AL.

Simply put, Judge has produced incredible stats at the plate, and he is on pace for one of the greatest rookie seasons in MLB history. He’s still an MVP candidate, and he’s also a big reason why the Yankees are in the hunt for the postseason.

3. Cancer sucks

The baseball world lost two beloved members this week, Darren Daulton and Don Baylor, following long battles with cancer.

Daulton hit .245/.357/.427 with 137 home runs in 14 major league seasons. A three-time All-Star catcher with the Philadelphia Phillies, Dutch led the National League with 109 RBI in 1992, and helped the club win the NL pennant the following season. He finished in the top 10 of the NL MVP vote both seasons. Daulton also won a World Series ring with the Florida Marlins in 1997.

Baylor was one of the best designated hitters of all-time, and won the 1979 AL MVP Award with the California Angels. He led the major leagues in runs scored (120) and RBI (139) in ’79, and hit a career high 36 home runs and 33 doubles that season.

A three-time Silver Slugger in 19 seasons in the big leagues as a player, Baylor also served nine years as a big league manager with the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs. Baylor took over the expansion Rockies before the 1993 season. He led the club to the playoffs in 1995, earning NL Manager of the Year honors.

Play of the Week

White Sox center fielder Adam Engel made good use of the chain link on the outfield wall at Guaranteed Rate Field, and used it to reach out and rob Brian McCann of a home run Tuesday night.

Random MLB Power Rankings

Top 10 free agents for 2018

  1. Yu Darvish, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Lorenzo Cain, CF, Kansas City Royals
  3. Jake Arrieta, SP, Chicago Cubs
  4. J.D. Martinez, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
  5. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals
  6. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals
  7. Wade Davis, CP, Chicago Cubs
  8. Logan Morrison, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays
  9. Jarrod Dyson, CF, Seattle Mariners
  10. Yonder Alonso, 1B, Seattle Mariners

Analytical League Leaders

One of the biggest advances in baseball analytics over the past decade has come in quantifying defensive proficiency. Traditional stats like errors and fielding percentage are hugely flawed, and smart baseball minds have developed better ways to measure which fielders provide the most value based on a variety of factors, including how much ground they cover and how effective they are throwing runners out.

Defensive Runs Saved, developed by the Fielding Bible, is one of the best fielding metrics available to us today. It’s a complicated system (you can read more about it here), but simply put, DRS aims to show a complete picture of a player’s effectiveness using a plus/minus system based on the plays they have made.

Defensive Runs Saved

  • Mookie Betts, RF, Boston Red Sox (30)
  • Andrelton Simmons, SS, Los Angeles Angels (20)
  • Byron Buxton, CF, Minnesota Twins (16)
  • Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies (16)
  • Kevin Pillar, CF, Toronto Blue Jays (15)
  • Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs (14)
  • Jedd Gyorko, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals (14)
  • Jose Iglesias, SS, Detroit Tigers (13)
  • Alex Gordon, LF, Kansas City Royals (13)
  • Marcell Ozuna, LF, Miami Marlins (13)

This season, Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts has been the most valuable defensive player in baseball, and it’s not even close.

Andrelton Simmons, Byron Buxton, Nolan Arenado and Kevin Pillar all have sterling defensive reputations (as do many of the players on this top 10 list), so their inclusion isn’t surprising. Jedd Gyorko, though? Didn’t expect to see him here.

Useless Info

Braves infielder Johan Carmago exited the game Tuesday before it even began after he crumpled to the ground with a knee injury while taking the field before the first pitch. Fortunately, an MRI showed no structural damage, but Carmago was sent to the disabled list.

As Ryan M. Spaeder pointed out, Joey Gallo has hit 31 home runs this season, and has 20 singles. Gallo has 38 career homers and 32 career singles.

Only seven players in MLB history reached 1,000 career hits quicker than Mike Trout, who reached the mark when he turned 26 this week: Robin Yount, Cesar Cedeno, Miguel Cabrera, Roberto Alomar, Ken Griffey, Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Renteria.

Trout hit career home run No. 150 when he was 24 years and 295 days old. Bryce Harper hit career home run No. 150 Monday, when he was 24 years and 295 days old. And Kennedy’s secretary’s name was Lincoln.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, when red-hot Cubs catcher Willson Contreras hit career home run No. 33 in his 175th games as a major leaguer Sunday, he passed Miguel Cabrera (32) for most homers by a Venezuelan-born player through 175 MLB games.

Tim Beckham, who has provided a major spark in the Orioles lineup since being traded from Tampa Bay, connected for a home run Saturday. It was the 10,000th home run in Baltimore Orioles franchise history.

As Alex Cheremeteff noted, Jaime Garcia became the first major league pitcher since 1895 to start three consecutive games for three different teams, having done so for the Braves, Twins and Yankees.

Bartolo Colon tossed a complete game against the Rangers Friday in which he allowed four runs on nine hits, including a home run. It was the first homer Colon allowed at Target Field, making it the 43rd MLB stadium in which he has surrendered a long ball. According to Elias Sports, Colon is now tied with Jamie Moyer for the big league record.