The dollar amount of the long-term contract Giancarlo Stanton will sign, according to industry expectations, is growing with every home run, every RBI, every piece of confirmation that Stanton is going to be a franchise anchor for years to come.
But the question lingers: For which franchise?
Stanton is only 21 months older than Mike Trout, and whether he wins the National League's Most Valuable Player Award or not, he has established this summer that he can stay on the field without repeated trips to the disabled list and that his production is monstrous in an era when offensive numbers are in decline, which only increases his value. On Wednesday, he homered for the third straight game.
He has 36 homers, tied for the most in the majors. His 102 RBIs are the most in the majors. His .968 OPS is the highest in the National League and the second-best in baseball. He has 90 walks. His defense has improved.
But Stanton is not signed to a long-term deal yet, and with his free agency just two winters away, some evaluators believe that his next deal will be something in the range of $250 million to $300 million.
It's possible the Marlins will be open to a massive investment for a homegrown slugger such as Stanton, whose outsized power still translates in their cavernous ballpark. They have almost no payroll obligations and could afford him as their franchise centerpiece.
But a lot of rival officials believe Stanton won't sign long term with the Marlins, that it's inevitable he will depart. They believe the Marlins soon will have to face the reality that they need to trade him, or lose him to free agency, the same quandary that forced the Tampa Bay Rays to deal David Price on July 31.
And the looming cost of what it will take to trade for Stanton and then sign him will effectively allow him to dictate exactly where he wants to go, rival executives say.
All Stanton needs to do is stick to the same line, said one official: That he doesn't intend to sign until he reaches free agency. So if Stanton, a California native, really wants to play for the Dodgers (or whatever team, for that matter), he could simply respond to any trade proposal to any other team by saying he won't commit to a long-term deal.