Yesterday night, Mike Stanton made his major league debut and had a decent night, picking up three singles in five PA. None of the singles were all that impressive, as two of them were of the infield variety, while the third was an opposite field line drive.
Just as important as how Stanton did is how much time will Stanton be afforded to do his business. In addition, who is going to be the odd man out in the new Marlins outfield alignment. There are a few options to consider, and Eric Seidman of Baseball Prospectus covered them last week. They are all worthy options, but which one will the Marlins ultimately settle on?
The Current Plan
When Stanton was brought up, the Marlins sent Brett Carroll down to the minors. This allowed the team to have Cameron Maybin remain in the big leagues on the bench. Right now, that does seem to be the best option for the immediate short term (the next three weeks). After this series versus the Philadelphia Phillies, the Marlins will head to Tampa for a three-game set versus the Tampa Bay Rays. The Marlins will also have an additional road interleague series versus the Baltimore Orioles later on, meaning the team will have two series in which it can use the DH.
In previous years, the Marlins employed Jorge Cantu as the DH, knowing that Cantu was the most defensively challenged regular on their team. In this setup, it is likely the Marlins will go with all four outfielders in the lineup for those road games. The odds are on Stanton manning the DH position during these games, though my preference would be to have Chris Coghlan play DH. Of the four outfielders, Coghlan is the least experienced in the outfield and probably not the most athletic of the four.
The Season Plan
Once we get past this part of the season, however, it is unlikely the Marlins will retain Maybin on the bench. If Maybin is still valued by the Fish as a prospect with a future in the organization, wasting his development and service time on the major league bench is a huge mistake to the team. It seems the Marlins still believe Maybin will be a contributor, but the team may also feel that he is not ready for the big leagues and could use more minor league time. Either way, it would be detrimental for the team to leave him on the bench without significant playing time.
As much as the Marlins have jerked around Maybin’s playing time, the team has been just as patient with Coghlan’s PT. The 2009 Rookie of the Year had been slumping for much of the season, but the Marlins have kept him at the top of the lineup throughout the year. While Maybin was quickly shuffled to the bottom of the lineup when he struggled (and perhaps rightfully so), Coghlan was kept either at leadoff or second in the lineup even though his struggles lasted longer. Coghlan has led off or batted second in 51 games this season. All of this, combined with Coghlan’s recent improved performance at the plate (he’s hitting .414/.460/.621 since May 25th) is likely to keep Coghlan in the starting lineup. If the Marlins are looking for the best chance to compete this season, sending Maybin to the minors once more will be the best option.
However, the other option is to wave the white flag for the 2010 season by trading Cody Ross. Ross is not long for the Marlins future anyway. Next season, he will be in his third year of arbitration and make around $8M in salary. If the Marlins allow Dan Uggla to walk as expected, it would mean a move to the infield for Coghlan, opening up an outfield spot for Ross. However, if the team decides it can get enough from Ross to allow him to be dealt, it would open up a spot for Maybin to get regular big league playing time, something that could help him improve in his problem areas.
The only questions are whether the Marlins would be willing to give up on the season by the end of July and what the team could receive for Ross. The Marlins ownership, led by everyone’s least favorite guy Jeffrey Loria, have been reluctant to give up on seasons past. Last year, Loria almost fired Fredi Gonzalez for failing to make the playoffs on a team that probably didn’t deserve a playoff berth. Trading Ross would mean giving up a 2+ WAR/season player and passing the outfield torch to unproven commodities who have struggled in the majors.
In addition to that, the Marlins would be unlikely to get much from Ross. If the Fish decide to eat Ross’ second-half salary in a trade, they may be able to provide 1 surplus WAR, worth almost $4M in the open market. But next year, Ross will make about what he is worth, meaning the team will have at best a $5M surplus commodity to trade. If the team does not eat his salary for this season, he essentially will be paid his worth, being worth maybe $2M surplus. Either way, this will not net a significant prospect according to the research done on prospect evaluation. If we take on Ross’ salary, a B-ranked hitter is the best we could expect (ranks done by John Sickels).
The Likely Scenario
Given Ross’ lack of value in the trade market, it is unlikely that the team will look to trade him by the deadline. The more likely result is that the Marlins will once again bury Maybin in Triple-A, where he will undoubtedly do well enough to earn himself a return in September.