Trading for Lowell to replace…Cantu?

By Editorial Staff

It’s no secret the Marlins have interest in Mike Lowell.  And the assumption would be that he would usurp Gaby Sanchez.  This isn’t all to surprising, as they both have around the same expected offensive output but Lowell should be a vastly superior defender even with his regression.  If Lowell is healthy, the Marlins would be better in 2010 with him in the starting line up instead of Gaby.

Yet going by this entry at MLB Trade Rumors, it sounds like Lowell would instead replace Jorge Cantu.  Without knowing who the source is, we can’t put too much stock into the actual report.  But it at least gives us something to talk about, no?

Offensively, Cantu is also around the same level as Lowell and Gaby.  All of their expected level of offensive output is around a 105-110 wRC+.  Defensively, Cantu’s issues are well known, and he’s around Gaby’s level.  So if all parties are healthy, you can easily except for Lowell > Cantu=Gaby.

But there are two main differences between Cantu and Gaby.  One is that Cantu is a proven product whereas Gaby is rookie.  All other things being equal, you choose to start Cantu.  But all other things are not equal.  The other main difference is that Cantu is making 6 million in 2010, whereas Gaby is making the minimum.  If we assume the Red Soxs would eat all but the same 3 million that they had in agreement with the Rangers, that would give  the Fish about 3 million to address other needs.  As of now, it appears the holes on the team will be the starting rotation and the back of the bullpen.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many options left to sign.  Jarrod Washburn is available, but he has a career 4.60 FIP and projections call for even worse.  The chances of him being better than our other options are slim.  Pedro Martinez is out there as well, and it would not be surprising for him to repeat or best his 4.23 FIP from last season.  But projections on him call for an upper 4 FIP, and considering his age that’s more of where your expected level of performance likely is.  His value is also hurt because he only averages 5 IP a start, which really puts a tax on the bullpen.  That leaves John Smoltz.  Projections love Smoltz, with CHONE being the worst at a 4.00 FIP, he eats innings, and he also could help the bullpen if that ends up being a larger need.  But Smoltz has major health concerns, and spending 3 million on a player to sit on the disabled list is a poor use of resources.  He’s also seems to be going down the path of retirement, having signed a contract with TBS.

At this point in the year, we’re at a point where the options to sign players have dwindled massively.  If the Marlins are to obtain a player making around 3 million, it would likely be in a trade.  And at that point, there’s so many avenues the Fish could go down.  And having Lowell replace Gaby instead of Cantu only makes sense if you’re then using the freed up resources in other areas.  But trading Cantu, trading for Lowell, and then using the extra money elsewhere could be a very wise move.  Michael has already used a lot of words to describe why it’s questionable that the Marlins kept Cantu, less because of his talent and more because of the vast amount of resources that needed to be spent in order to retain him.  But we’ve also reached the point where obtaining a player from the net gain would require more than just money, but other resources as well (Players). We’d also need to find a trade partner who would take Jorge Cantu and his 6 million salary, which would likely be a difficult path.

Lowell is also not without his own problems.  His injury issues have gotten a lot of publicity and they’ve already nixed one trade.  This entire post has been with the caveat “if healthy” in regards to him.  Cantu has played in a whopping 72 more games than Lowell has these past two seasons.  And while Cantu does have his own injury concerns effecting his power, he at least can still play the game.  If the Marlins were trade for him, they would need to be absolutely confident that Lowell could stay on the field the majority of the season.  And scouting reports so far this spring have not been positive in that regard.  So in the end, it’s very unlikely something like this would happen.  But if we are to believe the source, it seems likely the Marlins brass are at least thinking of going down a similar path.