It didn’t have the storybook ending he or Marlins fans wanted.
Giancarlo Stanton walked off the field after taking one last rip at an 86-mile per hour slider from Arodys Vizcaino and coming up short of home run No. 60.
As loud chants of ‘M-V-P’ echoed around Marlins Park, Stanton emerged from the dugout, raised his bat and pounded his chest.
Was it the last time Stanton would play in a Marlins uniform?
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Was it the last time he’d make up one-third of arguably baseball’s best outfield along with Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna?
These questions might not be answered for at least another couple of months as the new ownership group spearheaded by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter begins making choices that will shape the franchise’s future.
"You don’t know what’s going to happen," Stanton said. "You don’t know who’s going to be next to you next year. So those thoughts for sure went by [in the ninth]."
Deciding what to do about Stanton, who just had an MVP-worthy season in which he led the majors in home runs (59) and RBI (132) and just earned himself a special place among the pantheon of South Florida’s greatest athletes, figures to be the toughest decision to make.
"I’ve been through a lot of uncertainty already," Stanton said. "This is a different one...and one I can actually have a little more say in, actually. In terms of the uncertainty with my teammates, it’s a little frustrating. At the same time, you don’t know who you’re going to be with. But it’s also a business, too, and we’ve got to figure out what’s best to win and figure something out."
Stanton has a full no-trade clause, but is set to make $25 million next season – the fourth year of his 13-year contract. He is owed $295 million for the remainder of the deal, but can opt out following the 2020 season.
With the Marlins owing $95 million combined to only eight players on their roster next season and their financial ledger in the red, many are speculating that Stanton may have played his last game for the Marlins.
There’s plenty of speculation Yelich, Ozuna and other key starters could be gone if new ownership shrinks payroll.
Stanton again hinted Sunday he would not want to be part of a major rebuild.
"I wouldn’t want to do that, no," Stanton said.
Stanton, Yelich and Ozuna shared an emotional embrace in the top of the ninth inning Sunday, knowing full well it could be their last moments in the outfield together as teammates.
"We’re a tight-knit group and we’ve been through a lot of stuff together," Yelich said. "We just told each other how much we’ve enjoyed playing with each other. No matter what happens in this offseason whether we’re back or not, we congratulated each other on unbelievable seasons and told them it’s been a pleasure."
The three have started 382 games together according to the Elias Sports Bureau – more than any other active outfield trio in the majors. The Pirates’ trio of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco at 245 games is a distant second, and no other active trio has started more than 200 games together.
Stanton, Yelich and Ozuna all rose through the ranks together in the Marlins’ farm system and developed a bond on and off the field. Yelich and Ozuna each made their debuts in 2013 only three years after Stanton made his in 2010.
"It goes farther back than just this season," Yelich said. "You go through a lot together and we’ll be friends for the rest of our lives."
Yelich just finished the third year of the seven-year, $49.57 million contract he signed in 2015.
Ozuna made $3.5 million this year, is arbitration eligible next season, and is under team control for two more seasons.
But coming off a year in which he posted career-bests in batting average (.313), homers (36) and RBI (122 – third-best in NL), Ozuna figures to be a potentially attractive trade piece.
"That [ninth inning] was emotional because we don’t know what will happen next year," Ozuna said. "We did that because we said thanks to God and thanks for letting us play together. It could be the last time we play together, but we are always going to see each other."