The Miami Marlins might have given a job to the wrong guy

Jun 13, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins shortstop JT Riddle (39) at bat against the Oakland Athletics at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins shortstop JT Riddle (39) at bat against the Oakland Athletics at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Marlins have decided to put all of their eggs in the basket of an injury replacement call-up. Was that a mistake?

When JT Riddle started to play well, Miami Marlins fans wasted no time declaring him the future. They weren’t the only ones. As soon as he was off the disabled list and eligible to be traded, the organization moved Adeiny Hechavarria over the course of a weekend.

That was all it took for Riddle to win the job. A few months of solid, impressive play. He was occasionally spectacular. But mostly, and most importantly, he’s cheaper. He’s a lot cheaper.

Now Adeiny is up the road in Tampa Bay, suddenly in the thick of a race for the playoffs. Riddle remains in Miami, trying to get back to the level of play that earned him the job in the first place. It begs an uncomfortable question: did Miami just give the job to the wrong guy?

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It’s a complicated question with no clear answer. But if forced to choose, I’d say no. Hechavarria was making more money than the Marlins needed to pay. Sitting under .500, and with the Diamondbacks and the Rockies holding down the Wild Card, the playoffs seem unlikely.

Riddle was slumping before the team decided to trade Hechvarria in the first place. It appears that the vote of confidence hasn’t helped him come out of it.

Riddle’s average, which at one point soared as high as .277, has taken a huge dip. It now sits at .235.

Hech providing boost for Rays

Meanwhile, Adeiny Hechavarria is looking like the player Miami Marlins always wanted him to be in Tampa Bay. He’s only logged three games in a Rays uniform, but he has Tampa Bay fans giddy with the way he’s been playing.

On top of playing his usual high-caliber defense, Hechavarria has managed a hit in each game, including a multi-hit game in his second appearance, and has hiked his average up to .293. He’s driven in two runs for the Rays already, and drawn a walk.

Riddle was red-hot for a time, which made got everyone around the Miami ball club excited. Understandably so, as this season has occasionally left Marlins fans scraping the barrel for positives. But now he’s cooled off, and it’s getting awkward.

Riddle will still need to go through the growing pains of adjusting to the Major Leagues. JT Riddle isn’t Aaron Judge, for most players, there is a steep learning curve needed to adjust to the level of play at the Major Leagues.

Riddle wasn’t even on Miami’s radar entering the season. He’d received a spring training invitation, but he wasn’t considered a top 20 prospect in the organization. The fact that he has emerged as a suitable Major League ballplayer this season is incredible enough.

The truth is, it might be a couple of season before Riddle is able to stroke the ball at a .280 clip and play gold-glove caliber defense. The potential exists for both of those things to happen, but not right away.

Could it be the pressure?

It’s very possible. Suddenly, Riddle isn’t a guy who is filling in while the real starter works his way back from injury. Now, he’s expected to hold the position down for the rest of the season. The organization expects him to grow, develop, and play well enough to stay in the Major Leagues long-term.

As a 13th round selection out of Kentucky, Riddle couldn’t have expected this would be his fate. The odds were long, but now he’s beaten them. He worked tirelessly towards this goal, never knowing if it might present itself. Now it has, and you’d have to imagine he’s terrified of squandering it.

The butterflies will shake off. The hits will start to fall. There is no reason to think they won’t.

Next: Too many variables muddy Marlins future

In time, giving the job to Riddle will prove to have been a prudent move for the Miami Marlins. He might look lost at the plate as pitchers get a book on him, but that has happened at every level. Riddle put himself in a position to get to the Major Leagues by making adjustments.

There is no reason to jump ship on him yet.