Look Both Ways Before You Jump Off The Bandwagon
In the past week, the Miami Marlins have sold off or released six members of their Opening Day roster. Furthermore, Miami has come under increasing scrutiny for their decision to keep Marcell Ozuna down at AAA for reasons that might extend beyond on field performance.
These moves obviously signify that the front office has decided the team can’t compete for a championship in 2015 while saving the club millions of dollars, both this season and next.
What seems to be getting lost in all the name calling and dredging up of past crimes is that the front office reached this decision because….the team was not going to compete for a championship in 2015. This was a team that, despite some appeals to the cliche that “all teams have to deal with injuries”, was beset with horrific injury luck this season.
Here are some examples:
- The last four Marlins to represent the team in an All-Star game all missed time due to injury.
- The last time the Opening Day lineup played a baseball game together was in May.
- Eighty percent of the starting rotation missed time due to injury.
- Seven of the club’s eight Opening Day starting position players either spent time on the DL, played poorly enough to be sent down to AAA, or were released from the team completely.
Now let’s look at this pitching-wise:
- The staff ace, Jose Fernandez, didn’t return to action until July.
- The No. 2 pitcher, Henderson Alvarez, played only four games, hurt for all of them, before having season ending surgery of his own.
- The No. 3 starter, Mat Latos, took two months to find his form and health.- The No. 4 starter Jarred Cosart has been dealing with an unusual but no less debilitating case of vertigo all season long.
- Over the course of the entire season, the Marlins most consistent pitchers have been Dan Haren and Tom Koehler, not the blueprint for postseason glory.
The team had enough talent to get two players voted in as starters to the 2015 All-Star game, but enough abysmal luck to see both of them injured and unable to participate. This much roster instability made it insane to fire Mike Redmond, replacing him with a man holding less managing experience than a dedicated father of little leaguers. That stumbling block certainly does fall on ownership’s shoulders, but the injuries don’t.
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It should also be noted that when healthy, plenty of players were having lousy years and underperforming. Fans are complaining and screaming fire sale because Michael Morse was traded; Michael Morse spent the month of May getting nostalgic about the days he was batting .200, and lost his starting job to Justin Bour.
Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich saved their sophomore slumps for their junior years. Opening Day starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia put up the worst numbers of all, losing his starting job and place in the organization to J.T. Realmuto. And for those quick to blast the team’s front office for jettisoning Morse, they remember eating every cent of Saltalamacchia’s contract in the name of putting the best product on the field back when there was something to play for.
So beyond the Ozuna arbitration situation, which the Cubs also partook in with Kris Bryant (everyone else seems to have forgiven them)- what exactly is anyone upset about?
A few days ago, the Marlins general manager Michael Hill drew some backlash for hoping fans were “educated enough” to understand what the organization was trying to do. Three days in, Mr. Hill might have good reason to wonder. Unless, of course, in the last three days, the Miami Marlins have suddenly received a far more generous television contract, an uptick in attendance, and a change of ownership to a more affluent entrepreneur than Jeffrey Loria.
Fans need to accept that no matter how warm, cuddly, and well intentioned Loria might become, this organization will never be able to spend as much on payroll as the majority of MLB teams. Could they do better? Absolutely they can.
Our owner leaves dents in pennies, let’s make peace with it. But consider that if they were to add forty million in salary, they’d still be outspent by eighteen other teams. Yet despite this, they still extended Stanton to the richest contract in the history of North American sports, and locked up Yelich to the tune of an additional $49.57 million.
In the offseason, we were celebrating the fact that the front office had graduated to the point of paying a premium price for top talent. To be honest, this writer isn’t terribly broken up about the fact that they haven’t graduated to the point of spending money just because it looks good.
Eight million dollars is a lot of money to pay your backup first basemen/fifth outfielder (which is exactly what Morse had become and would have very likely remained next season). Even if Bour is supplanted by a free agent slugger, he’s certainly produced well enough to earn a bench spot, something Morse never did.
Latos had millions left on his deal, and is in line for a substantial raise in free agency. Miami was never going to give him that extension based on health, even if he tossed a pair of perfect games in the season’s final months.
For many though, the biggest gripe with the transactions is not that they happened, but that these salaries weren’t eaten, in order to maximize prospect return. This would be a fair criticism if Miami wasn’t a team unlikely to ever break out of the bottom ten in payroll…and wasn’t a team that already had a core that could allow them to contend as soon as 2016.
This core has two all-star pitchers, two all-star position players, a Gold Glove winner, a shortstop in Adeiny Hechavarria that’s more than capable of earning one, and a center fielder with a cannon that can hit for power (and will likely be affordable for an extra season now). That’s not to mention an emerging talent at catcher, and the fact that a case could be made saying two of the ten best players in baseball are on the roster with Stanton and Fernandez.
This team doesn’t need a top farm system right now, they need the right complimentary pieces. This has been the case since 2014, a year in which fully healthy seasons from their two superstars might well have landed the Marlins a playoff berth. But unfortunately, with the exception of Dee Gordon, the right pieces weren’t added in 2015. That’s all that can really be judged at this point.
Therefore, it only seems fair to wait to judge this trade until the offseason. If the millions saved by the last week of transactions translate into adding Jeff Samardzija or Scott Kazmir to the rotation, or into seeing Chris Davis batting behind Stanton, or even just contract extensions for a couple more of Miami’s young stars, then this will make much more sense, and should draw far less ire.
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