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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Brian Cashman just couldn’t lay off this juicy pitch

Trading for Giancarlo Stanton was too good a deal to pass up.

Giancarlo Stanton stands on the field during a

Giancarlo Stanton stands on the field during a game against the Giants in Miami on Aug. 14, 2017 Photo Credit: AP / Lynne Sladky

Did the Yankees need Giancarlo Stanton? No, not really.

They were pretty much set in the outfield and already possessed a sufficient amount of game-wrecking power from the right side.

But that’s the beauty of Saturday’s agreed-upon-yet-not-official trade for Stanton, obliterator of baseballs and the reigning National League MVP.

Regardless of what offseason boxes they had to check, the Yankees recognized the unique opportunity that stood before them, how the stars were aligning perfectly to pluck a generational talent, a 6-6, 245-pound engine of destruction, from the smoldering ruins of the Marlins’ franchise.

Brian Cashman easily could have passed, said “thanks but no thanks” to old pal Derek Jeter and proceeded to the winter meetings in Orlando with an eye toward bolstering the rotation. That would have been the prudent thing to do.

A year ago, Cashman dismissed a trade for the very gettable Chris Sale, basically stepping aside for the Red Sox, of all teams, to complete the deal without agitation from their ancient rival.

This Stanton gambit, however, was a no-brainer, and played so perfectly into the Yankees’ hands that Cashman couldn’t rationalize walking away. This was a GM’s dream scenario, a situation leveraged so heavily against the other team that Cashman was able to wrap up a deal for a $325-million player in short order, as well as trade another piece in Starlin Castro that he already was prepared to move this offseason.

Once Stanton vetoed the Marlins’ two carefully crafted escape plans to San Francisco and St. Louis — he has a blanket no-trade clause, courtesy of outgoing Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria — and then stated his preference to join the Yankees or Dodgers, that’s all Cashman had to hear. Because the Marlins couldn’t shop around for the best deal and were handcuffed by decaying finances, Stanton was an asset-in-distress, a slugger in foreclosure.

Not only was Stanton there for the taking, but Cashman was able to shed the $24 million left on Castro’s contract while ponying up the minimal cost of two lower-level prospects from his deep farm system. Oh, and pocket another $30 million from the Marlins, leaving the Yankees on the hook for roughly $265 million over the next 10 years for a 28-year-old player who can opt out after three if he prefers.

When this trade went down early Saturday morning, the haters immediately launched into the familiar Evil Empire refrain. Darth Vader gifs, dancing storm troopers. The whole spiel. The Bronx Baddies were back.

But there was nothing sinister about this. It was just smart business. And whether the Yankees had a hole to fill or not, the Marlins were auctioning off a superstar to one bidder, giving Cashman the chance to create the most formidable pinstriped tandem since the M&M Boys in 1961, the year Roger Maris drilled 61 homers and Mickey Mantle hit 54.

Let’s not forget the bottom line here. This is entertainment. The Yankees’ mission is to sell tickets and attract eyeballs to YES.

Was it possible to win a World Series without Stanton flexing alongside Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird? Most would say yes. The Yankees came within one victory of reaching the Fall Classic in October, and they had the roster — backed up by the next crop of Baby Bombers waiting down below — to push deep into the playoffs again.

As we’ve come to learn, however, the only thing better than home runs is more of them. Greater distance, rocketing exit velos, the number of flat-screens shattered in bleacher bars.

Remember the pure spectacle of Judge’s every turn at the plate, beginning with each day’s batting practice? Adding Stanton multiplies the must-see TV factor times two. Now every BP session will be like a rematch of last July’s riveting home run derby, when Stanton and Judge threatened to drill holes through the retractable roof of Marlins Park.

Despite his fixation on the luxury-tax threshold, Hal Steinbrenner realizes the importance of that. He’s still a Steinbrenner, after all, and the Stanton trade conjured up A-Rod echoes from 2004, when his dad couldn’t resist bringing Alex Rodriguez to the Bronx while taking on $113 million of his $252-million contract (that was a lot of money back then).

The Boss would be proud of this Stanton swap, aside from maybe feeling a slight twinge of emotion caused by taking advantage of Jeter, one of his favorite players.

While the conspiracy theorists inevitably will shout that Jeter did the Yankees a huge favor by shipping Stanton up north — the way Kevin McHale sent Kevin Garnett to the Celtics — we’d argue that it was just the opposite.

The Yankees did Jeter a solid by throwing him a $265-million life raft for his sinking Miami franchise, a franchise reportedly drowning in $400 million of debt. And if his former team didn’t float him the cash, where was it going to come from?

Stanton expressed a preference for the Dodgers as well, but L.A. didn’t want to significantly add to its payroll after spending $244 million last season. The Astros? No shot. The Cubs? Doubtful.

Just this past week, during new manager Aaron Boone’s introduction at Yankee Stadium, Steinbrenner pledged to pump more money into the team, even after shedding roughly $50 million in the expiring long-term contracts of A-Rod and CC Sabathia alone.

“One thing my family has always done, when money is coming off payroll, wherever humanly possible, we’re going to put it back into the club — not into our pockets,” Steinbrenner said. “We will leave no stone unturned.”

The Yankees didn’t have to do much searching for Stanton. He basically dropped into their lap. But credit Cashman & Co. for seizing the moment of the offseason, if not the year.

And also doing what the Yankees have always done better than anyone else: stir up equal measures of fear, respect and revulsion throughout the league.

PINSTRIPLE LEGENDS

Comparing the potential 2018 Yankees lineup with two epic teams:

1927 MURDERERS ROW

158 HRs in 155 games

1.CF Earle Combs - .356, 6 HR, 64 RBI

2.SS Mark Koenig - .285, 3 HR, 62 RBI

3.RF Babe Ruth - .356, 60 HR, 165 RBI

4.1B Lou Gehrig - .373, 47 HR, 173 RBI

5.LF Bob Meusel - .337, 8 HR, 103 RBI

6.2B Tony Lazzeri - .309, 18 HR, 102 RBI

7.3B Joe Dugan - .269, 2 HR, 43 RBI

8.C Pat Collins - .275, 7 HR, 36 RBI

1961 BRONX BOMBERS

240 HRs in 163 games

1.2B Bobby Richardson - .261, 3 HR, 49 RBI

2.LF Yogi Berra - .271, 22 HR, 61 RBI

3.CF Mickey Mantle - .317, 54 HR, 128 RBI

4.RF Roger Maris - .269, 61 HR, 141 RBI

5.C Elston Howard - .348, 21 HR, 77 HR

6.1B Bill Skowron - .267, 28 HR, 89 RBI

7.SS Tony Kubek - .276, 8 HR, 46 RBI

8.3B Clete Boyer - .224/.308/.347, 11 HR, 55 RBI

2018 BABY BOMBERS

Based on 2017 stats

1. LF Brett Gardner - .264, 21 HR, 63 RBI

2. RF/DH Aaron Judge - .284, 52 HR, 114 RBI

3. DH/RF Giancarlo Stanton - .281, 59 HR, 132 RBI

4. 1B Greg Bird - .190, 9 HR, 28 RBI

5. C Gary Sanchez - .278, 33 HR, 90 RBI

6. SS Didi Gregorius - .287, 25 HR, 87 RBI

7. CF Aaron Hicks - .266, 15 HR, 52 RBI

8. 3B Chase Headley - .273, 12 HR, 61 RBI

9. 2B* Ronald Torreyes - .292, 3 HR, 36 RBI

Note: Gleyber Torres (.287/.383/.480, 7 HR, 34 RBI in 55 minor league games) who is returning from Tommy John surgery, should be ready for an early-season call-up.

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