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Law: How Yankees' no-brainer deal became Marlins' lost opportunity

Giancarlo Stanton is one of the top Marlins in the franchise's history, but they missed a chance to make the most of his value in a trade with the Yankees. Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees didn't need Giancarlo Stanton, but they will get him for very little, just taking on the bulk of his contract, which is something they and very few other clubs have the financial wherewithal to do. If the deal is approved, there's almost no downside for the Yankees in this, because as big as the contract is -- the Yankees will cover $260 million of it over the 10 years remaining -- Stanton doesn't have to be an MVP-caliber player to justify it.

The Yankees are at the point where the value of another win to them is probably as high as it would be worth to any club in baseball: They're a high-revenue team in a huge market, and they're coming off a 91-win season with a likely projection (pre-Stanton) of something in the mid-80s for 2018. Adding Stanton makes them a probable playoff team, with a much improved chance of winning the AL East, and that should be a huge boost to the team's bottom line, making it easier to handle the $26 million average annual value on his deal even if he's not a seven-to-eight-win player again.

He might not be, at least not on the regular, since he has had trouble staying healthy, missing 131 games over the previous two years due to injuries and underperforming when he was able to play in 2016. His 2017 season was a high-water mark for him in power -- obviously, he has always had 80 raw power, but this marked the first season he reached 40 homers.

He has also shown improved patience when healthy the last few years, with his two most recent full seasons boasting his best OBPs and walk totals. You can certainly hope you get 150-plus games out of Stanton with an OBP near .400 and 50 homers, and he'll probably do that a couple of times before the deal is up. His history says he's also likely to miss a lot of games over the course of the deal, and that's before we consider what might happen from 2020 and beyond when he's in his 30s and, at some point, begins to decline on offense.

We just don't have good historical comparisons for players like Stanton; there have been very few big leaguers his size, including, Aaron Judge, and the ones who've had any sort of career of length -- Frank Howard, Corey Hart, Adam Dunn -- have all faded out in their early 30s.

I do believe this deal will work out for the Yankees, and the price in prospects made it a no-brainer for the Bombers, but there is some risk here of volatile future output from Stanton that isn't evident if you just consider his most recent season.

There's already speculation that the deal would take the Yankees out of the running for Bryce Harper, who's scheduled to hit free agency after 2018, which seems premature anyway but also may not matter because they can go after next winter's other elite free agent, Manny Machado. Adding Machado's bat and his superlative defense at third base would help the team more than just adding the pure power of Stanton's bat, potentially helping some of the young arms the Yankees have been developing over the last few years, including Luis Severino, Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu. Harper may still fit for the Yanks -- I think he could play center field, at least in the short term -- or he'll find another home. Both he and the Yankees will come out of this OK. I promise.

This is a lost opportunity of historic proportions for the Marlins, trading away the NL MVP, the most valuable player the team has drafted in the last 17 years (and the third-most valuable in their history, behind Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett), in exchange for two fringe prospects and two years of a reasonably priced second baseman. When teams trade marquee players coming off peak years, the goal is to get talent in return, the kind that can save you tens of millions of dollars down the road when those players are productive big leaguers while they're still paid the league minimum.

The White Sox have done this several times in the last two years with the trades of Chris Sale, Adam Eaton, and Jose Quintana. The Yankees themselves did it with their trades in 2016. The Astros traded everybody who wasn't nailed down for three years, and in every trade, they sought talent, not cost savings, in return. That is how you rebuild a team, and you only get a few shots to do this when you take over a club with a few good major league players. Every trade you make that doesn't bring back good young talent, even if they're still low-minors prospects, wastes one of those shots and sets the rebuild further and further back.

It's worse for the Marlins because they have done such a poor job of acquiring amateur talent in the last five years. Their system was the worst in baseball coming out of 2017 and may still be there even with the Stanton and Gordon trades. They have repeatedly punted on the top end of the international free agent (July 2) market; the $1.9 million they gave Miguel Cabrera in 1999 remains the highest bonus given to an IFA in team history. They broke the $1 million mark this summer for the first time this decade, signing Dominican shortstop Ynmanol Marinez for $1.5 million. The only two international players signed by the Marlins to play for the team in 2017 who generated at least 1 WAR were Marcell Ozuna and Jose Urena, signed in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Their draft results haven't been any better. The Marlins' drafts haven't produced a major leaguer at all since the 2013 class, which produced Colin Moran, Trevor Williams, and J.T. Riddle the first two of whom are already out of the organization, with Williams leading the trio with 1.3 WAR. Their last 3-WAR player from any draft was the late Jose Fernandez, taken 14th overall in 2011; the same draft produced Austin Barnes, now at 2.5 WAR, but all as a Dodger. Their last four first-round picks have all been busts so far: Tyler Kolek (2014) blew out his elbow and developed the yips on his return last year; Josh Naylor (2015) stabbed a teammate and was traded to San Diego, where he's put on quite a bit of weight; Braxton Garrett (2016) blew out his elbow before throwing a professional pitch; Trevor Rogers (2017) didn't pitch all summer due to injury, so he hasn't thrown a professional pitch yet either even though the high school product turned 20 in November.

Which leads us to the return for the reigning NL MVP: two lesser prospects from the Yankees' system and second baseman Starlin Castro, who will probably spend less time in a Marlins' uniform than Mike Piazza did. Jorge Guzman throws hard, 98-100 mph even as a starter, with fringy to below-average everything else and no deception; he turns 22 in January and has yet to pitch in full-season ball, and despite all of that, is top five in the Miami system now. Jose Devers is Rafael Devers' cousin, but they aren't similar as players; Jose is leaner and may still play in the middle of the field, more likely at second than short, with some speed, but doesn't flash or project to any above-average abilities at the plate, certainly not his cousin's huge raw power. He's just young, having turned 18 last week, but that's his best attribute.

Castro has been worth about three wins for the Yankees over the last two years, and is owed about $23.71 million guaranteed over the next two seasons, including the buyout of a 2020 option. If he holds his value at the plate, that's a reasonable salary for him, one the Marlins should be able to move for prospects ... and at some point, they really need to stop dumping salary and start adding talent, or their next five years is going to bring comparisons to the 1962-67 Mets.