More ink has been spilled about Giancarlo Stanton than any other player since the World Series ended. I can't prove this empirically, but it makes sense. First, Stanton won the NL MVP award in a race that was hotly debated before the vote was released. Then he won the vote by a hairbreadth, which led to fresh round of ink-spilling, in addition to the usual pieces that are produced about MVP winners.
On top of that, Stanton has emerged as the darling of a hot stove whisper mill in which absolutely nothing of consequence has happened. Will he be traded? Who can take on that contract? Can the Marlins get both salary relief and quality prospects? Will Stanton accept a trade to the West Coast? It's all great fun. But what seems to be lost in this flurry of rumors and speculations is the fact that as dominant as Stanton was in 2017, and as big a star as he already is, think of what he'd be if he played for the Yankees, or the Dodgers, this past season?
It's not just about an uptick in visibility, either. Stanton has played the past few years in Marlins Park, which over the past three years has been the harshest run-scoring environment in the National League, according to the 2018 Bill James Handbook. It's been exceptionally tough on right-handed power hitters. Stanton doesn't hit many fence-scrapers, but think what his homer total could have been in Yankee Stadium, for instance.
All of this what-if stuff is relevant because it looks likely that Stanton will be changing teams, freshly forged MVP trophy and all. Depending on the situation, Stanton could benefit greatly from the switch, whether it's because of his new park, the contention status of his new team or the size of his new market. This all marks Stanton as not just baseball's premier change-of-scenery candidate this offseason, but one of the great ones of recent years.
There are others. There are always others. Let's look at prime change-of-scenery candidates, each selected by considering the candidacy through the viewpoint of the player. These are all trade candidates -- no free agents included. This is an exercise in perception, of course. It's hard to get in the head of, say, Alex Gordon and weigh how much he'd like to get a shot at the new short porch in Atlanta, for instance.
But from the outside looking in, these players could use a change of scenery. For their own good.
Evan Longoria, Rays
It's tough, because I put a lot of stock in the idea of a player being a one-franchise guy, likely a product of having George Brett as my personal all-time favorite. Longoria is far and away the best player in Rays history. His 50 career WAR (per Baseball-Reference.com) is 13.3 wins more than any other player to don a Tampa Bay uniform. One thing that struck me, however, when diving into the Bill James Handbook was that Longoria has a nonzero shot at the Hall of Fame. In fact, if he has another good five or so years, including at least one or two All-Star-level seasons, he'll be in the conversation.
Right now, Jay Jaffe's JAWS system has Longoria at No. 21 all-time among third baseman. Over the past four seasons, Longoria has averaged about 3.5 WAR per season. Five more seasons of that would put him right at the Hall of Fame average for third basemen. His peak WAR would be about average as well, perhaps a tick below, which is why another big season or two would help his case.
However, in the James book, Longoria so far comes up short in the revised version of the Hall of Fame monitor, with a score of 44. The monitor system tallies up a player's individual accomplishments such as statistical milestones and award recognition. (Longoria's score in the book does not reflect his 2017 Gold Glove, which was announced after publication.) The soft cut-off in the Hall monitor is 100, so Longoria has some work to do. For comparison: If Longoria hits those average-ish Hall benchmarks in the JAWS system, he'll be in the same neighborhood as Scott Rolen. However, Rolen stacked up 82 Hall monitor points, which puts him the general range of candidacy by that system.
There are a couple of reasons why Longoria's Hall candidacy could be helped by a change of venue. They both involve Tropicana Field. First: No one goes there. If Longoria does have a few more big years in him, it would help both his eventual case for the Hall and his chances for individual awards to have them under a brighter spotlight. Second: The Trop is actually a terrible power park for righty hitters.
Kyle Schwarber, Cubs
Schwarber may or may not be improving as an outfielder, but it's hard to see a Gold Glove in his future playing out there. Meanwhile, as he labors with his defense, he's tasked with finishing his development at the plate, in terms of his ability to lay off pitches he can't contact and to improve against left-handed pitching. Forget whether or not he's the best solution for left field for the Cubs, who have to figure out a way to leverage their glut of position players to address starting rotation holes. For Schwarber, it would be a boost to know he's going to be in the lineup every day in a first base-DH situation.
Jurickson Profar, Rangers
Not so long ago, Profar was the darling of the prospect analysts. Now, he's got neither a position nor a clear path to an everyday lineup spot in Texas. Profar is a career .229/.309/.329 hitter in 718 big league plate appearances. Even though he's started only 143 games in his career, he's started at least 13 games at six different positions, including DH. It's time for another organization to have a shot.
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Cabrera doesn't have to do anything to solidify what is already a no-brainer Hall of Fame case -- he ranks No. 11 among first basemen in JAWS and has already collected 189 points on the new Hall of Fame monitor. And after 10 years in Detroit, maybe Miggy is perfectly content to finish out his career in the same place even though the Tigers are just getting started on a rebuild. Still, you'd like to see such an all-time great get a shot at a few more high-stakes games. He turns 35 just after opening day of next season, so he's still at an age where two or three more big years is a possibility.
The rub is that Cabrera is coming off his worst season, one which he labored through with a bad back. The eventual diagnosis was two herniated disks, which is going to scare off about 29 other teams. Cabrera has five years and $154 million left on his contract, plus a couple of option years beyond that, per Cot's Contract. Too much money, too much injury risk.
Any team that would target Cabrera would do so in hopes that the Tigers would be willing to eat a lot of money, though they are still paying out to ex-players Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander already. In one of the early reports about what will surely be the usual flood of miracle offseason workout stories, Cabrera has reportedly been working out with LeBron James' trainer and has already shed some weight. So he seems determined to at least make the best of what he has left.
From a statistical standpoint, there is the fact that Cabrera has never had a season close to the one he had in 2017, but his OPS+ was still only 8 percent below league average. The projections will invariably see him as a prime bounce-back candidate. Also, according to Statcast, no player saw a bigger disparity between the quality of his balls struck (per expected WOBA) and his results (actual WOBA). In fact, no other player was close.
If I were writing this from the team standpoint, would I recommend a run at Cabrera? Probably not. The money is just too much to swallow. Still, if Cabrera starts fast next season, you can bet there will be trade speculation. And at that point, the Tigers would likely be much less willing to eat money.
Matt Harvey, Mets
Harvey has to rediscover his stuff, and at this point, it feels like a long shot to happen. But if he does start to throw the ball with something close to his former ferocity, there is still a lot of unpleasant history to overcome in New York. You'd like to see Harvey with a fresh start in a place with a dimmer spotlight and fewer temptations.
Ender Inciarte, Braves
I love Inciarte, who made the NL All-Star team in 2017 and won his second Gold Glove for his great work in center field. Next season will be his age-27 season, often the best of a player's career. He's also early into what will be an incredibly team-friendly contract that will pay him an average of $6.7 million over the next four years. However, at some point, perhaps soon, the Braves will be sending for super-prospect Ronald Acuna, who is coming off a .325/.374/.522 age-19 season that had him in Triple-A by the end of the season. He followed that by being named MVP of the Arizona Fall League.
For the Braves, it's a good situation to have, especially given Inciarte's cheap deal. For Inciarte, this is the perfect time in his career for him to become a tipping-point type of performer for a contending team.
Nick Castellanos, Tigers
After he put up minus-64 defensive runs saved in his career as a third baseman, the Tigers finally shifted Castellanos to the outfield last season. Then he cost Detroit seven more runs as an outfielder. He had another good season at the plate, hitting .272/.320/.490 with career bests in homers (26) and RBIs (101), and also led the AL in triples. He'll be 26 by the time the 2018 season starts.
Castellanos has two more years of arbitration eligibility left before he hits free agency. That means his own timeline might not dovetail with that of the Detroit rebuild. On top of that, Castellanos may not be ideally suited to hit in Comerica Park. During his career, he's hit 39 homers on the road and 31 at home, though Comerica has generally been a neutral park for righty power hitters. According to the Bill James Handbook, Castellanos had 17 outs on balls he hit at least 390 feet, the most in baseball.
If Castellanos is eventually going to attract some high-salary offers, he might be most likely to do so somewhere else.
David Price, Red Sox
Beyond last season's injuries, Price's performance struggles in Boston have been overstated. But there has been so much bad press, and so much social-media-fueled fan antipathy. Price's contract is enormous, so trade matches would be hard to find. The Red Sox would badly need another frontline starter if they dealt Price, and those aren't exactly easy to come by. So a trade partner might be virtually impossible to locate. Far-fetched as it may be, Price is another over-30 player who, with a few more big seasons, might have a shot at Cooperstown. Can he have those seasons in Boston?
Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
McCutchen had a nice bounce-back season in 2017, though it was still short of his former MVP standards. With the Pirates unlikely to contend, and Pittsburgh having other younger possibilities for the outfield, it might be best to move McCutchen to a team where he can impact a pennant race. That team would have to convince him that center field is no longer his position. As with Longoria, it's a tough call because he has meant so much to the Pirates organization. Really, if no trade were to take place and Pittsburgh decided to spring for another contract, I'd be kind of happy about that. Still, if McCutchen is again going to impact a title run as an above-average regular, it's probably not going to happen with the Pirates.
Wil Myers, Padres
Myers' career 110 OPS+ is light for a first baseman, and he's got three fully guaranteed seasons worth a total of $67.5 million on his deal plus an option with a modest $1 million buyout for 2023. That's a result of the six-year, $83 million extension Myers inked with San Diego, per Cot's Contracts. The big money doesn't start coming in until 2020, however, so a team that acquires Myers now would basically be on the hook for an average of $13.1 million over six years.
I think there is a lot more to Myers' game than the raw counting numbers he's produced during his career. The Padres obviously agree, or they wouldn't have given him an extension that is based more on potential than production. That said, Myers will enter his age-27 season in 2018 and the Padres' rebuilding timeline is probably at least a couple of years away from turning the corner into contention. Myers is a very good athlete - he's stolen 48 bases over the last two seasons - and also adds value with his glove.
Myers' defensive metrics weren't great when he played the outfield, but given his athleticism, it's within reason to think he could hold down left field in the right ballpark, which would make his bat look a lot more impactful. Then there's this: Myers' power numbers are destroyed by Petco Park. Last season, 22 of his 30 homers came on the road. During his career in San Diego, he's hit 29 homers at home and 37 away. In the right venue, Myers is at an age when he could put up some huge numbers.