MVP Awards Baseball

Members of the St. Louis Cardinals front office met with representatives for slugger Giancarlo Stantion on Friday night. Stanton has a no-trade clause built into his contract with the Miami Marlins.

Associated Press

Cardinals officials intensified their pursuit of 2017 home-run king Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins by flying to Los Angeles to meet with Stanton’s representation on Friday.

Jon Morosi of MLB Network was the first to report Friday that the Cardinals met with the Wasserman Group, which represents Stanton, just after the San Francisco Giants, believed to be the other leading suitor for the 59-homer slugger, had met with Stanton’s reps Thursday.

Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, returning home along with general manager Michael Girsch from Los Angeles on a flight Friday night, declined to comment on the meeting.

The Marlins, under new ownership, including former New York Yankees star shortstop Derek Jeter, have made it no secret that they need to unload payroll this offseason, with Stanton’s $295 million remaining over 10 years the most likely to go. The hitch is that Stanton, when he signed his $325 million, 13-year deal three years ago, received full no-trade protection, although he could opt out after the 2020 season, when $218 million would remain over the final seven years.

Talent evaluators believe that the Cardinals have a deeper crop of young players than the Giants, which might be more appealing to the Marlins, but there is the issue of how much of Stanton’s remaining salary the team that would acquire him would pick up. And then, of course, Stanton, a Southern California product who reportedly has more interest in going to the Los Angeles Dodgers or, at least someplace in California, has the final say.

The Dodgers already have contract issues, and if they acquired Stanton and took on most of his salary, they would be seriously over the luxury tax ceiling of $197 million. The Cardinals have not been told by Stanton that he wouldn’t play for them, and they are said to be committed to forging ahead with their negotiations until they hear a definite “yes” or “no.”

A Major League Baseball source said that for the Giants and Cardinals to have had their window to talk to Stanton’s representatives, significant movement on an agreement with the Marlins already had to be in place. Stanton was in the Los Angeles area at the time, although he may not actually have been involved in the talks with either the Giants or Cardinals.

It has been reported that hard-throwing righthander Sandy Alcantara, who finished last season in the majors, was one of the prospects the Cardinals had discussed with the Marlins, but righthander Jack Flaherty, who was in the big-league rotation at the end of the season, also may have been discussed. The Cardinals also have extra outfielders who could fill a void if Stanton was dealt.

One Bay Area report had the Giants sending second baseman Joe Panik along with two prospects, suggesting that incumbent Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon might be traded.

The Cardinals and Marlins reportedly have talked about the Cardinals taking on reliever Brad Ziegler and his $9 million contract as part of any potential Stanton deal. The 38-year-old Ziegler, a Missouri State University product out of Odessa, Mo., has 95 saves and a 2.61 earned run average in a 10-season big-league career with four big-league clubs. He would be a set-up man, in all likelihood, here.

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