LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It wasn’t a case of Brian Cashman being presented an offer he couldn’t refuse.
No, it was more an opportunity that the Yankees’ general manager simply couldn’t pass up.
As a result, reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton is in pinstripes.
“When Cash came to me and told me that there was at least a possibility, we were all over it,” managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said after Stanton was officially introduced at a news conference Monday on the first day of the winter meetings.
Stanton, 28, who led the major leagues in homers (59), RBIs (132) and slugging percentage (.631) last season and will be paired in some order with American League MVP runner-up Aaron Judge (52 homers) in what should be the majors’ most potent lineup, beamed throughout Monday’s news conference.
The reason for that smile? “The team, the dynamic of they strike from everywhere, and they’re well balanced, and they’re hungry,” Stanton said.
New manager Aaron Boone’s smile also was ever-present Monday. His new club already was a championship contender — the Yankees lost to the eventual World Series champion Astros in Game 7 of the ALCS last season — before bringing Stanton aboard.
“You add the National League MVP to what we feel like is already a very strong lineup, the possibilities start to run through your head of what that could look like,” Boone said.
Stanton had a full no-trade clause in the 13-year, $325-million contract he signed three years ago and was willing to OK a deal to only a handful of teams. He said no to trades to the Cardinals and Giants before green-lighting the Yankees.
“They’re winners,” Stanton said. “They’re young and they’re in a good position to win for a long time, and I lost for a long time. So I want to change that dynamic and be a winner.”
Under the Marlins’ new ownership group, fronted by CEO Derek Jeter, the priority is dumping payroll and building the farm system. Stanton said that in talking with Jeter, he made it clear that he had no interest in being part of “a rebuild.”
“It’s going to be a great new chapter in my life,” Stanton said. “Sometimes things spiral out of place and you have to find a new home.”
That was a reference to the dysfunctional characteristic of the franchise under previous owner Jeffrey Loria, who signed Stanton to the 13-year contract, an image the new ownership group is trying to shed.
It is not off to a good start. During a Monday conference call, Jeter seemed defensive about the suggestion that the Marlins, who are off the hook for $265 million of the $295 million left on Stanton’s contract, didn’t get as much in return as they could have.
“So little in return? You mean in terms of quantity?” Jeter said on the conference call, according to ESPN. “We have people in place whose job is to know about talent, and I think they would disagree with you. We think we got some good prospects in return, and now it is up to us as an organization to help develop them. You are right. It is the National League Most Valuable Player. I don’t care what prospects you get back; they won’t be household names for our fan base.”
The Marlins received second baseman Starlin Castro, a candidate to be dealt again, and two low-level prospects: righthander Jorge Guzman, whom opposing team scouts love, and shortstop Jose Devers, whom scouts are more split on.
“We are going to invest in building this organization the right way so we can, year in and year out, be able to compete,” Jeter said. “We are trying to fix something that is broken.”
Stanton’s availability to the Yankees came out of nowhere. Cashman didn’t enter the offseason with Stanton on his radar; the two-way star from Japan, Shohei Ohtani, was his top priority. But when new Angel Ohtani quickly eliminated the Yankees as an option, Stanton suddenly was in play.
Cashman said that as of last Wednesday, he thought the Yankees were out on that sweepstakes as well. But Marlins president Michael Hill reengaged Cashman on Thursday and the parameters of the trade were agreed to late that night.
“It was an opportunity that when it presented itself, if we could find a way to thread the needle with Michael Hill and the Marlins,” Cashman said, “[I] obviously made the decision that it would be in our best interests. And here we are.”