It’s becoming hard to be a fan of the Miami Marlins. Once again it would appear that fans of the Marlins were duped into believing that things had changed. Once again fans of the Marlins are left to wonder why they support their team. What’s amazing is how drastic public opinion has changed in just twelve short months.
Last offseason the Marlins were the talk of baseball. They team was undergoing a complete makeover – new uniforms and logo, a new stadium, new manager, new shortstop, new closer, and new starter. There was hope and optimism. How quickly it all disappears after a 69-93 season, as word first came out Tuesday evening that the team had agreed to a blockbuster 12-player deal with the Toronto Blue Jays – drastically altering both team’s rosters.
Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, two of the team’s biggest signings a year ago, will head to Toronto in the deal, along with Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, and John Buck, plus $4 Million in cash. Gone are the team’s top two starting pitchers. Gone are the team’s top threats to get on base in front of Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton, in fact, is the only player to appear in Miami’s lineup on Opening Day this past season that remains on the roster.
Returning to the Marlins are seven players: shortstops Adeiny Hechavarria and Yunel Escobar, outfielder Jake Marisnick, catcher Jeff Mathis, right-handers Henderson Alvarez and Anthony DeSclafani, and left-hander Justin Nicolino.
Hechavarria and Escobar are the two players who’ll likely have the most immediate impact on Miami, at least in terms of playing time. Hechavarria, a 23 year old Cuban defector who signed with Toronto prior to the 2010 season, is likely the favorite to take over at shortstop for Reyes, though the two are far different players. Hechavarria is known for being a standout defensive player, but his bat has yet to develop and what type of offensive player he will be is far from certain. He made his MLB Debut for the Blue Jays towards the end of the 2012 season, hitting .254/.280/.365 in 137 plate appearances over 41 games. Over three minor league seasons preceding his callup he batted .272/.314/.381 with a high strikeout tendency.
Escobar will probably have to switch positions, presuming he isn’t moved in another deal sometime this winter, as Hechavarria is the better option at shortstop. Escobar has spent nearly his whole career at shortstop but did appear at a few games at both second and third base early on in his career. He hit just .253/.300/.344 in 608 plate appearances this past season. It’s unlikely he’d offer more than Donovan Solano at second, so Escobar may have to fight for playing time at third or in a utility role.
DeSclafani posted a strong showing in his first professional season this year, but is still considered too far off the radar to find himself in any discussions about Toronto’s top pitching prospects. Mathis will likely share duties behind the plate, depending on how quickly Rob Brantly seizes the starting role. Alvarez made 31 starts for the Blue Jays this past season, posting a 9-14 record and 4.85 ERA over 187.1 innings. He’ll surely slide into an opening in Miami’s starting rotation, though it’s unclear where he’d fit in a projected rotation. Some estimates put him second behind only Ricky Nolasco, though again it’s unclear what other moves (i.e. will Nolasco be next to go?) the Marlins intend to make this offseason.
Marisnick and Nicolino are the two clear prizes in the deal, as I discussed earlier today at our minor league/prospect site Seedlings to Stars, pending how Hechavarria develops, but neither prospect is going to be near-MLB ready before the 2014 season at the earliest. Marisnick just reached Double-A this past season but profiles as a solid defensive option who should be able to stick in center field and could develop some power numbers, meaning he should be a nice addition alongside Christian Yelich in the organization’s future outfield. Nicolino is a little futher away but could someday be a #2 or #3 starter for this team behind Jose Fernandez. Marisnick and Nicolino should both find themselves ranked among the organization’s top prospects as rankings are released in the coming weeks.