Leading the 2017 ALCS 3-2, the Yankees needed a win in either Game 6 or Game 7 to advance to the World Series for the first time in eight years. Instead, the Yankees lost both games in Houston, scoring just one run over 18 innings and the team’s deepest postseason run since their last championship in 2009 ended.
The 2017 Yankees arrived ahead of schedule. After a disappointing 2016 season led to the dismissal of every tradable asset at the deadline, the team was expected to be a non-factor in the AL East and postseason picture for at least the next two seasons. But the team’s 91 regular-season wins, wild-card win, incredible comeback against the 102-win Indians in the ALDS and seven-game series against the eventual champion Astros in the ALCS changed the perception of the franchise. The so-called “rebuild” took roughly the last two months of 2016 and the Yankees were back to being the Yankees.
I had expected the window of opportunity for these Yankees to begin in 2019 and now they were providing two extra years of unexpected contention. I couldn’t be upset with the way the 2017 ended because all I could think about was 2018 and beyond. I was ecstatic about 2018 and that was with Jacoby Ellsbury, Chase Headley and Starlin Castro set to return to the team.
Meanwhile, the new ownership group in Miami was ready to trade everyone and anyone to cut payroll and hit the reset button on the franchise. Suddenly, NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, who was coming off a 59-home run season, was available. He had reportedly given the Marlins front office a list of four teams he would waive his no-trade clause for and those four teams happened to the final four teams in the 2017 postseason: the Yankees, Astros, Dodgers and Cubs.
On Dec. 11, 2017, the Yankees landed Stanton in a surprise move that sent Castro to Miami. The following day Headley was traded was traded to San Diego. The Yankees had come within one game of the World Series and had essentially just turned Castro and Headley into Giancarlo Stanton and top prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar waiting for their to turn to join the young core full time. The last time I had been this excited about the Yankees was when Mariano Rivera induced a ground ball off the bat of Shane Victorino to clinch the 2009 World Series.
Let’s go back to December 2017 for an oral history of the trade which landed the Yankees the reigning NL MVP with quotes from the prominent people involved in the actual deal.
Derek Jeter, Marlins CEO and minority owner/Yankees legend: This is an organization that’s been losing money for quite some time, so we have to turn it around. How we do that? It’s not clear. It’s easy to point the finger at [Giancarlo Stanton] because he makes the most money, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the move that’s going to be made.
Brian Cashman, Yankees senior vice president and general manager: I put my toe in the water down at the GM meetings. During the Ohtani sweepstakes, we needed to keep the DH spot open for the two-way player in the event that he came our way, but despite that, I did engage the Marlins a little bit in the GM meetings about a month ago.
Derek Jeter: Michael Hill has been in contact with [Stanton]. Michael has spoken with him. That’s Michael’s job. He’s the president of baseball ops, so he has spoken to him. It’s not like it’s radio silence coming from the organization. If you get into the practice of reaching out to every time there is a rumor to every player, you’d be spending 95 percent of your time on the phone trying to dispel rumors.
Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations: The one thing I know, and Giancarlo has said as well, is that there was complete transparency, and if anything, overcommuncation as we went through the process with him. So he was fully aware of what was going on every step of the way. But we knew, ultimately, that it was his call. He had the no-trade and it was said to him face-to-face that ‘We understand that you have a no-trade and you if to choose to not waive it, we are prepared to have you here and you to be a Miami Marlin for the duration of your contract.’
Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees outfielder: We had a meeting, yes. We spoke about the direction of the team. I wanted us to go forward and have an advance with the pitching staff. I thought our lineup was legit and we needed help with our pitchers. We needed to add rather than subtract. The way they wanted to go was subtract, so I let it be known I didn’t want to be part of another rebuild, another losing season, and that’s almost a guaranteed losing season taking away what I thought was a great lineup.
Michael Hill: But at the same time, he understood that there were changes that needed to be made. We didn’t have a deep minor-league system. We weren’t in a position to compete because we just didn’t have enough depth. Changes needed to be made and we were open and honest with him. He was open and honest that he didn’t want to be a part of it.
Giancarlo Stanton: I gave my list of teams prior to and they went to San Francisco and the Cardinals and struck deals with them.
Brian Cashman: With certain parameters needing to be met with the Marlins it didn’t seem like it was something that was viable from their perspective. They had better deals from their assessment elsewhere. I don’t know what those deals were, so that’s how it led to the Giants and the Cardinals having deals in place and then trying to convince Stanton to waive it to go those routes.
Giancarlo Stanton: I didn’t want to be part of a rebuild. I gave my list of teams prior to and they went to San Francisco and the Cardinals and struck deals with them. I was open to listening to them, but those were not my teams and those are great people they were great meetings and great organization and great culture there but it just wasn’t the fit for me.
Michael Hill: Whenever you’re making a trade when a full no-trade is involved there are going to be challenges.
Brian Cashman: I stayed engaged as of Wednesday of last week. I thought there was no chance of anything happening and actually wished the Marlins luck, Michael hill, specifically, the GM, my counterpart, and (said) ‘Let’s talk about anything else you have on your roster.’
Michael Hill: Ultimately, it happened where one of the teams where he wanted to go, on the third try, we were able to come to an agreement and get him moved.
Brian Cashman: And then he reengaged Thursday of last week about 4 in the afternoon maybe. and then we worked the rest of the evening deep into the night. him rejecting my ideas, me rejecting his until we finally settled. but it was on Thursday by him reengaging me more along the parameters that we had in place to make it fit that I was like ‘Wow this might really have a chance here.’ And that night, Thursday night, we had an agreement.
Hal Steinbrenner, Yankees managing general partner: It happened fairly quickly. I think Cash has been working on this for a week or two, but there’s been ups and downs along the way … really the last three or four days has been pretty hectic.
Michael Hill: I’m very realistic. I understand that when you have a no-trade in place that you’re at the mercy of the player and ultimately I think that was the case because we had two other potential trades in place for him that he didn’t want to go to those two places. So it was incumbent to try to give him where he wanted to go or to welcome him back. It works out where we were able to make a deal with the Yankees.
Brian Cashman: Friday we dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s, got baseball involved, Saturday the physical in Tampa.
The Yankees sent Starlin Castro and minor-league players Jose Devers and Jorge Guzman to the Marlins. The Marlins agreed to pay $30 million ($3 million per years for the 10 years) to the Yankees if Stanton doesn’t opt out of the contract after the 2020 season.
Giancarlo Stanton: This is what I’ve always wanted. This is what I’ve dreamed of. You always want to be in competitive games where they mean something and your performance means something to the team and the city. It’s going to be a fun challenge and I’m looking forward to it.
Brian Cashman: I want to be the New York Yankees again and that’s a team that you can count on competing for a world championship in the upcoming season.
Derek Jeter: This was the best move and the best deal for the organization. It gives us flexibility. We’re going to invest in building this organization the right way.
Michael Hill: The no-trade was a challenge, but it was one where thankfully we were able to work it out and we got good players back in return.
Derek Jeter: We’re not going to turn this organization around overnight. It’s going to take some time.
Brian Cashman: There’s trepidation on every decision I make. It doesn’t matter, even the ones right now we get praised at for working out and stuff. Every move I make, you always get buyer’s remorse. I think it’s a natural part of the process. What you try to do is make the right decisions you think will serve this franchise well in the present and the future and obviously the goal is to win. Ultimately, every effort we try to make is to get as close to the next championship team that we can be proud of.
Giancarlo Stanton: The city has been waiting for another World Series, another playoff run and they got close enough this year, but hopefully with my addition, we’re going to advance and be a better team.
Brian Cashman: You have to credit the Steinbrenner family for taking on the type of commitment because it is a big one and 10 years is a long time, and that’s why we’re getting $30 million on the back end of the contract offsetting the Stanton commitment as well as [the Marlins] taking $22 million on the Castro contract.
Hal Steinbrenner: I don’t think five days ago I really would have imagined this.
Giancarlo Stanton: When I signed up in Miami, I wanted things to work out. I had a good vision there, but sometimes things just spiral out of place and you have to find a new home.
Things didn’t work out as I thought they would in 2018. The Yankees were 61-31 on July 12, but would go just 39-31 the rest of the way. Yes, the team won 100 games, but in a season in which there were seven competitive teams in the AL, it wasn’t much of an accomplishment. The Yankees lost the division by eight games and had to settle for the wild-card game for the third time in four years before getting flat-out embarrassed by the Red Sox in the ALDS thanks to rookie manager Aaron Boone’s irresponsible managing.
As for Stanton, he was just good, not great, and that was because of what he had done in 2017 and the expectations placed on him. When I was sitting in Rogers Centre in Toronto on Opening Day and watched him hit two majestic home runs, I started making plans for the Canyon of Heroes parade for the fall. But that day ended up being one of about four of five great days for the new Yankee. He finished the season with a respectable 38 home runs and 100 RBIs and those very solid numbers only represented a decrease of 21 and 32 from the year before. His .266/.343/.509 line checked in well below his .281/.376/.631 from the previous season. No one expected Stanton to put up 59 again, but I don’t think anyone expected him to swing at every single slider thrown to him either.
There were times when I thought he might hit a ball to Connecticut and there were times when I wasn’t sure if he would ever make contact again. For a player on a new team in a new league learning new pitchers, he had a good season. But for Stanton standards it was just OK. Luckily for him, he has nine more seasons with the Yankees to change the perception of him.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!