Marlins not trading a shortsighted move?


Supposedly the Marlins are not all that interested in trading pieces like Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco because, as Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated puts it:

"The Marlins want to head into their new stadium next year a viable contender, and couldn’t do so without those pitchers."

The trade deadline is always an exciting time for fans of potential buyers and a scary time for fans of potential sellers. The organization’s willingness to maintain the team through 2012 may seem like a positive sign, but there are some negatives to it as well, especially given the reasoning provided here. Essentially, the reasoning that is being used here is that the Marlins are going to keep this “core” because of their chances to compete in 2012, with seemingly no thought to the team’s future beyond that.

Really, that sounds exactly like something Jeffrey Loria would think of doing. This is a man who thought Fredi Gonzalez was holding the Marlins back from making the playoffs in 2009, and that hiring another manager would be the cure-all to the problem of the Fish not making the playoffs. Not only is Loria not necessarily baseball-competent, but he is impatient and quick with his trigger finger to make impulse decisions. This particular idea of eschewing possible moves in favor of possibly competing in 2012 sounds like a classic shortsighted Loria decision. Rather than perhaps doing what is best for the Marlins in the short- and long-term, Loria and the front office is potentially sacrificing the benefits of a trade for the short-term gain in marketing possibilities heading into the new stadium.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not believe the Marlins need to trade Sanchez or Nolasco or Hanley Ramirez or anyone else. And it seems president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest did not necessarily commit to forgoing moves this offseason.

"“We never really consider ourselves sellers,” Beinfest said. “I think you’re always buying something. It just may be something different. I know that sounds like a corny answer, but it’s really the way we feel about it.”"

However, the idea that the Marlins are leaning towards keeping players like Sanchez really relies on them having a long-term plan for such players, and in the particular case of Sanchez, this is still up for debate.

Remember the Core

Remember the players that I mentioned would be the core for the Florida Marlins? Here’s a quick reminder in case you forgot.

PlayerYears$ mil remaining
Logan Morrison4
Gaby Sanchez4
Mike Stanton4
Josh Johnson226.5

It is my belief that these are the only truly untradeable players the Marlins have, with all other players still movable, albeit in varying degrees (with the exception of John Buck and his contract). Of the relevant still-movable players, only Leo Nunez seems to be a guarantee (H/T Call to the Pen) while only Anibal Sanchez would net a significant return. It is understandable why both of these players are the most available; both guys have only one season left with the Marlins. If an amicable deal can be made involving either player, the Marlins should be interested in making the move, since neither has a long-term future with the team and the odds of competing next season are going to be similar with or without the addition of either player.

Extension changes everything

Of course, this does not mean that the Fish should trade Sanchez instead of considering an extension. If the Marlins can find a way to extend Sanchez through some of his free agent seasons for an affordable price, then the team should go ahead and do it and avoid trading Sanchez. Given this quote, Beinfest seems to be in agreement with the philosophy presented here:

"“In terms of huge moves, and looking more in a big-picture view, there are a lot of pieces on this team that we think are going to be big parts of this team for years to come,” Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said on Wednesday."

If this statement means that a player like Sanchez is likely to receive some sort of extension either soon or at the end of the 2011 season, then by all means, the Marlins should keep him. But if the goal is to keep Sanchez for a possible difficult run at the Wild Card in 2012 and allow him to walk afterwards, then the Marlins should bolt with his value at its highest now. Who knows whether baseball will continue to have the draft pick compensation system by the time he becomes a free agent at the end of 2012? If this system disappears, so goes any chance that the Marlins receive something in return for the tremendous asset the team currently has. With Sanchez, no matter how good he is for the Marlins, an extension is critical for keeping him around past this season, as his value will never be higher to other teams.

What is the goal?

Ultimately, I would like to see the Marlins have a solid long-term goal that goes beyond the stadium opening in 2012. It is totally understandable that they would want to be competitive in 2012 given the debut of the new stadium, but this goal is a short-term goal that should be weighed alongside the long-term benefit of the Marlins organization. Sanchez is not an untradeable chip like Morrison or Stanton; the Fish should consider the available plays, even if they are leaning against making a move. I am not asking for a change in what the Marlins are doing so much as a consideration of the alternatives to maximizing competing in 2012.