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If St. Louis Cardinals aren’t in the lead in Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes, why isn’t this already over?

I wrote this week that, despite the naysaying, I believe the St. Louis Cardinals are still very much in the race for National League most valuable player Giancarlo Stanton.

The longer this draws out, the more I believe it.

While West Coast fans and some elements of the media there are pushing the agenda that the Stanton holds all the power to engineer a deal to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Francisco Giants, a report on the MLB Trade Rumors website pumps the brakes on that theory. It cites a Miami Herald report that the Marlins are playing hardball with their superstar:

“Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that the Marlins told Stanton back in October that if he declined to ultimately approve a deal, the Marlins would have to explore other ways to shed salary, which could leave him as the lone star on a roster devoid of other top-tier talent.”

We’re told Stanton would eagerly waive his no-trade rights to accept a deal to a West Coast team. Reports out of Boston indicate the Red Sox are lukewarm on making a deal for Stanton, so they’re probably not the high bidder in the Stanton sweepstakes. It’s entirely plausible, at this point, that it’s the Cardinals who the Marlins prefer to deal with. Unless there is a mystery team involved in the negotiations — and I doubt the young and talented New York Yankees are eager to take on a right fielder when Aaron Judge just won the Rookie of the Year Award and he plays that position — I don’t know who else that club could be.

Miami needs to shed at least $50 million in payroll and it could get more than half way there by ridding itself of Stanton’s contract. With Stanton on board, earning nearly $30 million a year for the next 10 seasons, it’s pretty hard to make the math work to support a competitive club.

Ultimately, the Marlins could blink and give into Stanton’s supposed wish to play for a California team. But, at this point it would seem that would require the fish to take mediocre prospects in return and eat a sizable portion of the remaining contract. Or, Miami could tell Stanton that he didn’t accept a trade to St. Louis to anchor a lineup that includes Dexter Fowler, Matt Carpenter, Tommy Pham, Paul DeJong and Jedd Gyorko that it’s going to trade both Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich to St. Louis and he can stay in Florida to play for a team that wins about 65 games next year.

Another positive factor on the Stanton quest balance sheet is that word has filtered out that the slugging outfielder wants to hear from his prospective future club what its plans are for the near future. I don’t think that question has to be asked of the Dodgers, Red Sox or Yankees. The Giants and Cardinals are the teams in the Stanton market that have the most work to do — although the Redbirds need to find 10-12 more wins to be a division contender and the Giants finished 40 games behind the Dodgers last season in the National League West.

So, it seems this all adds up to the Stanton situation hinging on Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak being able to convince a $295 million player that he’s not going to put the Birds in a spot where they can’t afford to surround him with a winning cast. Hopefully, Mo looks Stanton right in the eye and says that he’s going to add a top starting pitcher, a closer and a set-up man and then the Cardinals are going to spend October knocking the Dodgers out of the playoffs (again.)

Whether or not the deal comes through, it appears that the ball is in the court of the Cardinals. If the club is as serious as has been reported, it ought to be in reach to get a deal done if Stanton is serious about playing for a team that has a chance to win.

If Stanton wants to dictate where he will play, he can simply exercise his opt out after three years and sign with the Dodgers or whomever else he’d like to play for. In the meantime, maybe he should be a little more willing to help out the team that did him the favor of signing him to a contract that guarantees him nearly a third of a billion bucks.

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