Miami Marlins Should Stand Pat If Koehler Hurt

Jul 26, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Tom Koehler (34) delivers a pitch during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 26, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Tom Koehler (34) delivers a pitch during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Last night, Tom Koehler was locked in, dominating the Philadelphia Phillies for the second consecutive start, and looking for all the world like a pitcher that had a shot at a complete game.

Then he was lifted after the sixth inning with a reported stiff pectoral muscle.

The article that follows was almost written after the news broke that fellow Marlins starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen would be hitting the 15-day DL, and was scrapped in light of three starts from Jose Urena and Jarred Cosart that were better than anything Chen had done in the last month.

But make no mistake about it.  A Tom Koehler injury leaves the Marlins dead in the water.

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Right now, there’s no indication he’ll miss his next start.  Let me be clear on that before the tears start falling on the way to work this morning.  The guy’s a gamer, and has for better or worse been the among the top two finishers in total innings pitched for the Marlins each of the past three years; he’s on pace to do the same this season.

Of course, Justin Bour and Chen started off as day to day too.

Bour will have missed a month by the time he returns, and Chen is now looking at the same timeline.  Yes, Chen has struggled, but he gave the Marlins innings.  If he gave up 4 ER, you could count on him to spread them out over six frames or so.  The team has been looking to add a fifth starter since early June, and already is making a leap of faith by continuing to do so despite the opening up of a second hole in the rotation. Which is the right call, for a myriad of reasons that range from giving skeptical fans reason to buy in to rewarding a good team for their hard work.

The Marlins can’t survive a Koehler loss though.  The depth isn’t there to realistically plug the hole, and the prospects aren’t in the system to net two reliably plus replacements.  If he’s hurt at all, even if “just” a 15-day DL stint, the Marlins should stand pat and do nothing at the Deadline.

By all means, sign Kyle Lohse, or add a similarly discarded veteran via waivers in August.  Incidentally, signing Lohse wouldn’t be the worst idea either way.  Innings they pitch are innings the overworked bullpen won’t have to throw, and that matters heading into next season.  Just ask Carter Capps.

I hate writing this.  This team is not a bunch of overachievers, but a solid corp that fully healthy with just a slight push could steal a WC spot as soon as this season.  And Marlins fans know better than most what you can make out of a WC spot.  However, things would have to go just right.  And having 50% of the pitchers you liked miss games is not what “just right” looks like.  Honestly, if it was any starter but Chen missing a month, the season would have been written off already.  What’s just as concerning is that multiple reports have surfaced this past week, a couple of which show up in yesterday’s Fish Flash, that teams don’t want to trade with Miami.  The cupboard is that bare.

The only way to fix that is to let some of those guys develop.  Obviously, there’s talent there somewhere.  Say what you like about the Marlins front office- they haven’t signed an entire farm system of players who will never contribute to an MLB team.  Seems to me I just read about a 62nd round draft pick making the MLB Hall of Fame, and Patriots fans love to bore the pants off us every year with what round Tommy “Don’t Hate Because I Deflate” Terrific was selected in.

Personally, I don’t want to see the team dealing with this problem next season. Considering that there’s a special ceremony today to just reveal the logo for the 2017 MLB All-Star Game at Marlins Park, the Marlins Park, owned by the Marlins, which is owned by Jeffrey Loria (okay, done mocking), count on some money being spent.  You won’t see a repeat of 2012, but I’d be shocked if you didn’t see the highest payroll since 2012.  But the winning teams always tinker in July, and I want them to be in a position to do so.

Of course, part of being in that position is 2016 success.  If you have a team that can make it to October, you do everything you can to get it there.  The Royals and Yankees of the world can afford to be philosophical, deciding that it’s not really worth expending resources to make the playoffs if you don’t have a great chance at winning it all.  At least to a point, that’s a luxury the Marlins don’t have.  With six straight losing seasons, twelve out of the postseason, to their name, this team needs to impress and inspire.  To a point, conventional baseball wisdom takes a backseat.

But that point, the way things stand right now, just might be Tom Koehler.