Fact vs. fan­tasy on Stan­ton & Co.

USA TODAY International Edition - - SPORTS - Bob Night­en­gale Colum­nist

OR­LANDO – The an­nual gen­eral man­agers meet­ings might be in the shad­ows of Dis­ney World, but the Wal­dorf As­to­ria is where true fan­tasies come alive, where teams be­lieve mag­i­cal deals or free agent sign­ings can turn into you into the 2017 Hous­ton Astros.

Cer­tainly, it’s the land of hy­per­bole, too, where agents can mar­ket their clients as the miss­ing piece, with Scott Bo­ras al­ready po­si­tion­ing J.D. Martinez as the Zeus of slug­gers, seek­ing $200 mil­lion.

Oh, yes, let the GM meet­ings be­gin as GMs, top ex­ec­u­tives, agents and me­dia be­gan fill­ing the Wal­dorf lobby Mon­day, a pre­lude to the win­ter meet­ings three weeks down the road.

There will be a plethora of trade talks at these meet­ings, and while it will be an up­set if any of con­se­quence are con­sum­mated, the ori­gins of these win­ter trades will be right on these grounds.

Oh, and there will be plenty of Fake News too. The Chicago Cubs and San Fran­cisco Gi­ants al­ready are deny­ing they had any talks of send­ing Ja­son Hey­ward and his bloated con­tract to the Gi­ants for pitch­ers Jeff Sa­mardz­ija and Mark Me­lan­con, and surely, there will be plenty more ru­mors that will be dashed by week’s end.

The New York Yan­kees and Los An­ge­les Dodgers al­ready are brac­ing them­selves to be ac­cused as po­ten­tial land­ing spots for lu­cra­tive free agents and high-priced trade chips.

Sorry, wrong ad­min­is­tra­tion, wrong era.

The Yan­kees, let them say it loud and clear again, will go un­der the $197 mil­lion lux­ury tax for the 2018 sea­son so they can spend as wildly as they want a year from now. This means no Yu Darvish. No Martinez. No Gian­carlo Stan­ton.

The Dodgers, who spent an MLBlead­ing $244 mil­lion in player salaries last sea­son, ac­cord­ing to their year-end pay­roll re­ports submitted to MLB and ob­tained by USA TO­DAY Sports, also plan to trim their pay­roll. Darvish, last seen hav­ing two atro­cious starts in the World Series, might want to re­turn to the Dodgers, but the Dodgers have lit­tle in­ter­est in him.

The Dodgers, who paid $31.8 mil­lion in taxes a year ago, will again be hit with an­other bill ex­ceed­ing $30 mil­lion. Yet they will owe only $7.4 mil­lion to play­ers no longer with them next year com­pared with $36.1 mil­lion this sea­son.

While the Dodgers plan to keep trim­ming away their pay­roll, the Mar­lins want to slash theirs, un­der new own­ers Bruce Sher­man and Derek Jeter. They have $95.2 mil­lion on their books for the 2018 sea­son, and they can in­stantly wipe off $25 mil­lion next year by trad­ing Stan­ton.

Stan­ton, who hit 59 home runs and had 132 RBI last sea­son, is the envy of every team in base­ball.

Yet he has one blem­ish: $295 mil­lion, the amount of money left on his con­tract the next 10 years.

You will hear plenty of ru­mors linked to Stan­ton this week, but the re­al­ity is there are only a pre­cious few teams in­ter­ested in him.

The Gi­ants, who are flush with money and mere spec­ta­tors in last year’s record home run har­vest, would love to have him. They don’t have prospects, but they have the cash.

The St. Louis Car­di­nals, who missed the play­offs the last two sea­sons, are one of the few teams that has the tan­dem of money and prospects, but they also know if you’re go­ing to take on at least $200 mil­lion, there’s no rea­son to give up prospects too. And no, prized pitcher Alex Reyes isn’t go­ing any­where.

Oh, and let’s stop with the Philadel­phia Phillies ru­mors. Re­mem­ber, Stan­ton has a no-trade clause. If he wants to keep on los­ing, and be part of a re­build­ing club, why not just stay put where he bought a glo­ri­ous pent­house in South Beach than go­ing to Philly?

It’s like the silly no­tion the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs will try to keep Martinez, who pro­vided a lethal punch with MVP can­di­date Paul Gold­schmidt. Sorry, but they are not go­ing to add $25 mil­lion to the bud­get, even for a guy who hit 45 home runs. Now, if some­one traded for Zack Greinke and his $30 mil­lion con­tract, it might be dif­fer­ent, but that’s not hap­pen­ing, ei­ther.

There re­al­is­ti­cally are only four po­ten­tial free agents who will re­ceive in ex­cess of $100 mil­lion this win­ter: start­ing pitch­ers Darvish and Jake Ar­ri­eta, first base­man Eric Hos­mer and pos­si­bly Martinez.

A year from now, those will be bar­gain-base­ment deals with out­fielder Bryce Harper and third base­man Manny Machado seek­ing in ex­cess of $400 mil­lion and three-time Cy Young win­ner Clay­ton Ker­shaw ex­pected to opt out of his Dodgers’ deal and top $300 mil­lion.

The sen­ti­ment all 30 teams share this week is hop­ing they can per­suade their own peers and a lobby full of player agents to come to their way of think­ing.

It’s the time, and place, for ev­ery­one to dream.

The Mar­lins’ Gian­carlo Stan­ton hit 59 home runs and had 132 RBI last sea­son. He’s owed $295 mil­lion over the next 10 years. ERIC HARTLINE/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

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