Miami Marlins: Is Dan Jennings the Answer?

The baseball world has been set ablaze by a series of moves the Miami Marlins have made over the last couple days. Former manager Mike Redmond was made out to be a scapegoat for the team’s 16-22 start to this season, which is definitely a source of disappointment for an organization that was aiming for the playoffs. 

While Redmond probably wasn’t a good manager, he very most likely wasn’t the problem. His firing is accentuated by the fact that the time signed him to a 2 year extension this past offseason. Considering the fact that nothing has changed about his managing style or ability, his firing doesn’t really make much sense. If he’s the same manager as he was when the team felt confident enough in him to sign him to an extension then firing him isn’t the solution to their problem.

The manager is usually the first to go when a team struggles which doesn’t seem very fair because he does not construct the roster. In some cases, a manager’s mismanagement might be so detrimental it might take away wins from a well constructed roster. However, Redmond wasn’t that bad of a manager and his roster wasn’t that good. At junctures like these, organizations need to take a step back and decide if they are under-performing and should stay the course or if they really are just not a good team. Based off their run differential, they should be an 18-20 team. Based off BaseRuns, which is an expected run differential, the team should be 19-19. They’ve been a little unlucky, but they also haven’t been playing like a playoff team.

So far this season, nothing about this team says it belongs in playoff competition. I don’t think a .421 winning percentage should be the expectation moving forward. I think they can play .500+ the remainder of the season, but the start they have holds some weight. With that being said and with a move like firing a manager, we have to look at the body of work we have.

The Marlins haven’t played well and it’s not Mike Redmond’s fault.

That means the onus has to fall on the man whose job is to assemble the roster. That man is Dan Jennings.

There are two indisputable facts we can take away from this previous offseason. Dan Jennings improved the roster (by how much will always be debatable). He also paid a heavy price in doing so.

To acquire Dee Gordon and Dan Haren, he gave up Andrew Heaney, Austin Barnes, Chris Hatcher, and Enrique Hernandez. To acquire Mat Latos, he gave up Anthony Desclafani and Chad Wallach. To acquire Martin Prado and David Phelps, he gave up Nathan Eovaldi plus others. To acquire Mike Morse, he signed him to a 2 year deal worth $16 million.

The main objection to the moves Jennings made is he used a lot of resources to make a small upgrade. The Marlins claim to be unable to support a low payroll, so those young players who aren’t arbitration eligible yet are very valuable. Also, signing Morse to a deal that is paying him $8 million looked questionable at the time but now looks even worse with his poor play, especially as Justin Bour is potentially playing his way into a starting role.

It’s hard to examine the Latos trade without the benefit of hindsight, since we didn’t have any information regarding his health. I don’t know if the team had anymore information than we did, but the trade now looks very lopsided. There is no question what the Marlins got back was pretty good. What they sent out, however, seems to outweigh what they received in return, especially considering how important cheap, young talent is to an organization like the Marlins.

These kinds of moves are fine when the organization has the ability to run high payrolls, making building through the farm system less necessary (but not less important). The team does not have that financial prowess, nor was it high enough on the win curve to justify a total all-in type offseason. It was hard to justify what the team gave up over the winter to improve their roster, but it’s even harder to do so now that the team is off to a poor start.

Dan Jennings deserves most, if not all, the blame for the team’s poor start. He is the one that put this roster together, so that blame should not fall on Mike Redmond. With that being said, should Dan Jennings be the one to manage this team on the field?

I like the idea of the general manager managing the team: he is building the roster with a certain vision and he is the person most capable of making that vision come alive on the field. But if he wasn’t very good at constructing the roster, why would someone expect him to be good at managing the talent that he accumulated?

Maybe there was a disconnect between Jennings’ vision and Redmond’s application of it. Maybe having Jennings at the helm will help the team play up to its potential for that sole reason. I wasn’t a big fan of Jennings’ offseason so I’m not sure the upside is something of a playoff team. How Jennings manages is definitely going to be a very interesting thing to watch going forward. The one possible problem is the team giving him credit for leading them to a better record when simply they’re just not being subject to bad luck. Evaluating his performance through the rest of the season will probably get a little complicated.

Ultimately, I don’t think Jennings is the answer to the Marlins’ problems. Arguably, he’s one of the problems. The Marlins can make any number of managerial changes but if the front office culture doesn’t change, you’re just treating the symptoms. 

I like the idea of the GM managing but I don’t think Jennings is the right guys anyways. At some point, the organization will have to take a good hard look at the front office and probably make some real changes, rather than restructuring the front office with guys that have been there for years.

Mike Redmond wasn’t the problem and Dan Jennings isn’t the answer. I’m not sure what the solution is but it certainly as simple as moving someone from an office to the dugout.