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A reminder why the Giants feel like they can afford Giancarlo Stanton

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They’ve come a long way from Candlestick Park.

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In theory, Giancarlo Stanton makes a lot of sense for the Giants. He’s a young, marketable player who excels at hitting home runs, which is exactly what the team is lacking. The attendance is sagging, probably because the team was dreadfully boring last year. As far as quick fixes go, this is one of the best ones I’ve ever seen.

And yet that $295 million contract sure pokes a couple holes in that theory. We’re talking $295 million. That’s a lotta smackeroos. It’s so very easy to imagine the Giants limping into 2023 after a sixth consecutive losing season, surveying the free agent landscape, and sighing loudly while staring at a ledger. The Giants might owe more than $140 million to just eight players in 2020, which is wild. There’s no way they can afford this.

Except, hold on. Maybe they can. And I’m not just talking about Charles Johnson being one of the richest owners in sports. He’s so rich that he can give more money to Donald Trump than any other owner, which should fill us all with patriotic pride, really. But that’s not what I’m talking about. The master, Peter Gammons, had to remind me of what the Giants have cooking right now:

The project involves four 24 floor towers off what used to be a parking lot. It will be multi-use, with 1.5-2M square feet of office space, retail, condominiums, apartments, parking garages, two large parks with considerable outdoor space on the waterfront. Essentially, they are building a high rent, mixed usage neighborhood where the ballpark meets San Francisco Bay. Down the street, the new home of the Golden State Warriors.

This would be the Mission Rock development, and I’m constantly forgetting about it because my brain is more tuned to Cory Gearrin’s slider than a multimillion-dollar real estate transaction. But this is something that can make a huge difference in the Giants’ ability to be financial bullies. From a September article:

“I would say this is less about getting the resources to compete with the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers and more about us being prudent business people,’’ Baer said, “to be able to grow the Giants.’’

If you read between the lines, you can parse this as a statement that’s missing “... but, yeah, it’ll probably allow us to at least catch up to the Yankees and Dodgers a little bit.”

I grew up with the Giants toward the bottom of the pack in payroll, year after year. They were never huge players in free agency. That is, until they got the greatest player in free agent history, but even then, they were rarely financial monsters. It’s why the Giants had to choose between Matt Williams and Barry Bonds, when a rich team would have kept both and added two more free agent stars. Even when the Giants won the World Series three times, they didn’t get into the top-five payrolls until 2016, and they stayed there for only one season. It was the only time they’ve been a top-five payroll in franchise history.

(Well, modern franchise history. I don’t know if they paid Willie Mays and Willie McCovey $5,000 more than other teams paid their stars.)

While it would be silly to think that the Mission Rock development is going to be a way to funnel profits directly into the team — it turns out that the investors of the project might want some of those profits — there is going to be a huge incentive to keeping the Giants hip and relevant. The success of the team will be directly linked with the cachet of the surrounding area. A perennial loser would be bad for business.

Which means investing in the team.

Which means investing more money into payroll.

Which means Stanton won’t be a big deal. Or, at least, he would be just a regular deal, the kind of big contract that a team can navigate around if they need to.

The larger point is this: Stop thinking about the Giants as the rich team with limits that they already are. They’re about to become landlords that will make them an even richer team with limits. No, they won’t be the Yankees or Dodgers, but they’ll be able to splurge every now and again. Like, say, on a superstar slugger with a distinct chance to set milestones and make the Hall of Fame one day.

I’m still skeptical, but only because I’m trying to avoid more pain and disappointment. Still, if you were wondering how in the heck the Giants could afford to even think about Giancarlo Stanton, don’t forget about Mission Rock. They own their own ballpark now, and they’ve started using the money they’re saving on the debt service to start a new venture. That new venture will do a lot better if the Giants are still trendy and fun.

You know what’s trendy and fun? Baseball teams that win baseball games. The Giants will need to invest in one of those, and by all accounts, they’re going to do just that.