One of the large criticisms in the wake of the Hanley Ramirez deal can be why did they make a deal for Carlos Lee that cost them 3B prospect Matt Dominguez?
Dominguez was being primed as the 3B of the future for the Marlins, but his hitting wasn’t amounting to much. Sure, the kid can use the leather and many were comparing him early on to Ryan Zimmerman, but his hitting just never appeared. So the Marlins looked around and grabbed Carlos Lee as a way to bolster their lineup and try and squeeze more runs out of this offense.
Yet, things change. The Marlins didn’t really score runs. They have just 30 runs in the 13 games since the All Star Break. Looking at the depth in the standings, and weighing their payroll and clubhouse situation, a move was not only needed, but justified. Old Marlins fans will be sensitive to this, with the past talks of “fire sales” looming and being drummed up again. There are those who will moan such talk and point to new factors shaping this situation – namely, a new ballpark.
Even the new ballpark can’t save this team. Currently the Marlins are selling only at just above 76% capacity, which puts them at 12th in the league in that stat. They have amassed over 1.4M fans to the new destination so far, averaging 28.5K a night. Considering the fact that even now, the Fish owe $66 million to 8 players next season, a “restructuring” is indeed called for.
You can see the change – Carlos Lee is the barometer. Lee was the last gasp for this team to turn things around and it just didn’t happen. Blame can be pinned on Heath Bell and Hanley’s lack of leadership and maturity, but the fact of the matter is that this team has underperformed. Losing Giancarlo Stanton was no easy thing either, especially considering it took him a while to get started this season.
One of the key things is getting young pitching. Whenever the Marlins “reload” it starts with pitching. See ’97. See 2003. Any great era in Marlins history was built with the foundation of starting pitching. When the 2008 team was coming around, it was very good young throwers that made that team interesting – Scott Olsen, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Dontrelle Willis (the grizzled veteran). Summarizing the motives for the recent deals, Larry Beinfest said, “We wanted to target young starting pitching. We think it is the most coveted thing in the game, the toughest thing to acquire. We’re talking about top-end, young starting pitching.’’
So, with Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Turner, the Marlins feel they were able to do just that. Eovaldi will start Saturday while Turner gets some work with AAA NOLA. Yes, the Fish have done this before (Ryan Dempster, Brad Penny, Josh Beckett, AJ Burnett, Andrew Miller), some more or less successful than others. Now the challenge for this team is not only to reload, but to rise in the standings and to do so much more quickly now than ever before. In the past, the fan base would be a bit more patient considering the franchise’s tight purse strings and economic situation, but that has changed. The Fish can spend money and in dealing away Hanley, Infante, and Sanchez, they have freed up the funds to spend on another key acquisition. They signed Reyes, Buehrle, and Bell this past offseason and generated quite a bit of hype and they will be expected to do so again.
One of the glaring holes, however, is 3B. Dealing Dominguez for the Lee experiment, since Gaby Sanchez’s bat has become suddenly questionable, and dealing away apparent clubhouse “cancer” Hanley Ramirez has left the Marlins with few options at the hot corner. There is talk of dealing Josh Johnson to the Rangers for Mike Olt, their prized 3B of the future, but if Beinfest’s comments are to be taken seriously they can’t afford to deal Johnson at this point because he is their #1 starter on this staff. Adding into the mix Eovaldi and Turner may net the Marlins a 5th starter with Nolasco, Buehrle, and Johnson anchoring the staff.
Moving forward, the Marlins have to find a way to shore up their bullpen, yet again, and look to get production from 1B and 3B. Moving Bonifacio to 2B seems permanent now, which also opens up some holes in CF. Perhaps a revisit of Chris Coghlan could be in the works, but Ruggiano is putting up pretty strong numbers with full time PT in CF right now. The Marlins have no foreseeable option for 3B on the farm, and Christian Yelich is being groomed for the OF. They do have lots of intriguing pitching options but it remains to be seen if they can stick as starters or fill out roles in the bullpen.