Before the season started, I did a bit or two of answering questions posted up on MLB.com for beat writer Joe Frisaro, and I figured it was a fun enough post that I could try it again for some parts of the offseason, when the questions posed on Frisaro’s inbox get interesting. I think I can bring a different perspective on those questions than Frisaro can; he is, after all, tightly attached to the team as their official MLB.com beat writer. While that affords him more information about the club, it also has its downsides in terms of what he can say about the ball club and how much opinion he can insert. That and I bring a fan’s perspective along with a sabermetric view.
With that, let’s take a look at a few questions from this week’s inbox and see if we can’t come up with some answers that will satiate the readers of this blog.
As a big Marlins fan, I am disappointed to see Dan Uggla go. He is a fan favorite, just like they let Cody Ross go. Why did they have to trade him?
— Beth S., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Beth, I know it’s tough to see a popular player go, but with Uggla, it had to be done. The Marlins did their due diligence by going to the negotiating table with Uggla, but a deal could not be agreed upon despite both sides putting up fairly reasonable offers. If the two sides saw a difference of $8M in their negotiations, would you expect them to back down? This is one of those rare times when the Marlins really did try to give a player his fair share of money, but the other guy thought he deserved a little more and the Marlins couldn’t bridge the gap. I am OK with that.
As for the trade, here’s what Frisaro had to say:
Was the deal with Atlanta — Uggla for Omar Infante and Mike Dunn — a good trade? From the reaction and letters I’ve read and heard from fans, many Marlins supporters think this was a bad deal. To scouts I’ve spoken with, however, this is viewed as a very good baseball trade. The Braves got a middle-of-the-order power bat, while the Marlins addressed left-handed relief in Dunn. Infante, meanwhile, is coming off an All-Star season in which he batted .321.
I am a little more lukewarm about the deal than I was at its announcement, partly because I ran the numbers/projections and felt that the Marlins came fairly close in terms of getting value for Uggla. It’s still a bad trade in my eyes, mostly because we could have done better, but it is defensible if you consider the money the Marlins saved in the deal as well, I suppose. But I will mention that anytime you defend a deal by saying “they got a middle-of-the-order bat, we got a lefty reliever,” you aren’t off to a good start. And Frisaro used the “All-Star” season of Infante as part of selling him to fans, which is misleading given the fact that he didn’t really deserve the nod. For example, I’d think we would all agree that Joey Votto (reigning NL MVP as of today) had a better year than Infante, and he couldn’t claim that he was an All-Star this year. That honor means less and less as the years go by.
Now that the Marlins have signed John Buck, what does that mean for Ronny Paulino?
— Andrew L., Boca Raton, Fla.
Andrew, this just means that Ronny Paulino won’t be back with the team next year, as well he shouldn’t be. After a mediocre year at the plate (which was still worth above 1.0 WAR, let’s not shortchange it), the Marlins decided an upgrade was in order and went with John Buck. Buck is a better offensive player but a worse defender, though the degree to which he is better or worse than Paulino is questionable. I projected him as -5 runs per season, and Paulino is solidly a +1 run catcher probably, so the difference is six runs there. I don’t think Paulino is worth more than a win less than Buck, which makes Buck’s signing defensible but a little strange. I still think the Marlins paid extra for a career year and didn’t follow through with what they said, which was that they were looking for a defense-first catcher.
Now that Cameron Maybin has been traded, what are the plans for center field?
— Carlos D., Sunrise, Fla.
Carlos, the options in center are (in order of likelihood): Chris Coghlan, Scott Cousins, Emilio Bonfiacio, and Bryan Petersen. Of the four, Coghlan is actually the most puzzling. I’m not sure what the Marlins are seeing in Coghlan’s outfield capabilities, but it doesn’t follow that after two mediocre (and in some views poor) seasons in left field, the Marlins would shift him to a more difficult position that he has played less in his professional career. Now, I can see the logic in the move if the Marlins figured to fill the gap at second or third base with a stopgap free agent option, but right now the plan is to go to Bonifacio in the infield. After Bonifacio showed at least decent play in center as a defensive replacement last season, why not leave him there and see if he can’t be a plus defender in the outfield? Coghlan has a more important future with the organization, and it’s imperative that the Marlins find one position for him to play and get used to. Despite his insistence and the Marlins’ brass’ confidence, he should not be moved perennially to different positions depending on the team’s current need. Let him play his natural infield position.
What is the latest on John Baker’s recovery from surgery? Is there a chance he will be ready for Spring Training?
— Mario M., Hialeah, Fla.
Mario, I think Joe did a good job covering this bit of news. John Baker is unlikely to be ready by the regular season, but that’s why the Marlins have acquired John Buck to be the team’s starting catcher. This way, Baker only has to be the backup and occasional spot starter versus right handers in 2011. Let’s hope the catching defense doesn’t fall apart though.
The trades the Marlins have already made have brought in some relief pitchers. Can you tell us who these pitchers are and can they help this year?
— Christian B., Miami
Christian, how about we start with some projections? Here’s what CHONE thought of these relievers as of August 28th:
Mike Dunn: 4.17 context-neutral ERA (ERA)
Ryan Webb: 4.22 ERA
Edward Mujica: 4.09 ERA
Dustin Richardson: 4.42 ERA
Those are fairly up-to-date, so I’d be willing to go with them. Of the four, Dunn and Webb are the most intriguing given their live, power arms. Dunn is extra impressive due to his left-handedness. The other two are a bit less exciting. Mujica posted an absurd 2.2% BB% (!) last year while upping his strikeouts to a career high 26.9% K%, but he is also a fly ball pitcher who let 14 pitches leave the park last season despite playing a decent amount of games in Petco Park. Richardson is a wild lefty with middling stuff who otherwise picked up plenty of K’s in the minors.
The other two arms still need some work. Webb has a career strikeout rate of 17.0% despite a mid-90’s fastball with supposedly good movement. Dunn, on the other hand, has never been quite able to put the ball in the strike zone consistently (career 10.6% BB% in the minors). So they all come with question marks, which is why I am so hesitant as to how the Marlins have approached this offseason’s plan of improving the bullpen.
I have seen talk that Matt Dominguez could be playing third base next year. Do you think he is ready, and what happens if he isn’t?
— Alex B., Miami Lakes, Fla.
I’m sure John Herold would agree with me in saying that Matt Dominguez would not be ready this season to be the team’s starting third baseman in 2011. He at least needs another year, probably at Triple-A, to assure the organization that his bat is ready to compete. He was basically a league average hitter this season in Double-A (wRC+ of 102 with an average of 100), meaning his bat wasn’t major league ready last season. He needs seasoning, but all accounts say that at least his defense is prepped and ready to debut in the majors. If he ever develops into an average or above average hitter for the Marlins, that +10 run glove at third base will look mighty valuable. We just need to be patient.