Calling Them Out: Marlins Brass Claim Trade Was Smart Baseball Move, But It is Not Enough

Ok, so you think you made a good baseball move and improved your team. Normally, gutting $160M from your payroll is a step in the wrong direction, but the team did only amass 69 wins this past season. To put that in perspective, the first ever expansion team in 1993 won 64 games.

The latest PR from the Marlins, via David Samson, is that the Marlins want to improve their win total from last season first. It seems they want to get back to competing gradually, and this also suggests they are not in any real rush to win. This is the core of the problem: you can’t cry out for being too poor because you don’t have any revenue (like other major markets) unless you get a new stadium. Then, once you get the new stadium, you go all in once and barely a year later, nuke it and go right back to playing small market ball. The point is, the fans want a competitive team and they want it now. That is how you earn the trust of your fans and customers. As Samson says, you win games. So let’s try and walk down Samson lane and see what’s what.

First, can the Marlins actually win more than 69 games next season with this current lineup? Not likely. Assuming Ricky Nolasco is not traded, the rest of the Marlins starters are unproven at best. What is the over-under on starters Nathan Eovaldi, Jacob Turner, and Henderson Alvarez winning more than 28 games? The expansion team had starters Chris Hammond, Jack Armstrong, and Ryan Bowen do just that behind ace Charlie Hough. (Thanks Greg Stoda for the research.)

Dave Samson is optimistic: “You may not know the name Jacob Turner or Henderson Alvarez or Nathan Eovaldi, but the fact of the matter is we think we’re in better position to win more games.” But isn’t Dave Samson’s, and by extension his scouts’, picker off? In reference to the starters they just dealt, they had a pretty good feeling about them a year ago, too. And if money is any indicator, there was a general consensus that those guys could get it done. “If we had all those starters pitching to where we thought they would pitch, then I don’t think we’re losing 93 games.” They didn’t. That’s why their fish bait.

What about the scouting and talent assessment for the Marlins? Spending all of that money they just spent a year ago, only to get a 93 loss season means there is a massive disconnect here. They also fired their skipper, the guy they felt was a perfect fit a year ago to manage this team to the next level. What insight can we glean from Samson?

“Basically, the decision was made when we sat down after the season and talked about the team and said we cannot keep finishing in last place. It just doesn’t make sense. We lost 93 games and we trusted all of our scouts and development people and upper level baseball people and said ‘What we can do to possibly start this to turnaround? What needs to happen? How can it work?’ And all sorts of different plans were possible.”

If you’ve finished in last place the past two seasons, and tried two completely different approaches, what makes you think this will work at all? What makes this team think its fans should trust its ability to assess talent?

“Trust in the fact we chose the right players. No, I will give you the fact we haven’t been choosing the right players recently. But the faith we have in our scouts and our upper baseball management to come to our fans with names of players who can win more games, we still have that faith. We’ve been with them a long time. They were a big part of how we got a World Series ring in 2003. We have to trust them. If we move in a new group of pitchers and lose the same 93 games, that’s not great.”

Really? You chose the right players? And you are still serving us this 2003 spiel? That was 10 years ago and the Marlins track record on trades has not been great. They gave up Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell and got back Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez. Even though they got talent back, it had to take time to develop and once it did, how many championships did they win? Where are they now? Lowell and Beckett have rings to show for their time in Boston, too.

And what about Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis? They traded them both to the Tigers for two major prospects in Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, to name a few of the prospects the Fish got back, and in 2007 most felt this was an even(isn) baseball trade. Many were concerned with the direction Cabrera was heading in – immaturity, putting on weight, developing a bad attitude (sound familiar?) and this excused the trade. At the time, it wasn’t about the money so much as it was a baseball decision as concerns about Willis and Cabrera grew internally. Looks like those concerns were only half right. The guy who benefitted the most? GM Dave Dombrowski, who engineered the post-’97 fire sale that eventually grew into the 2003 championship team. Not to mention it was the Tigers who made it back to the World Series, led by their Triple Crown hitting Miguel Cabrera.

Seems the only teams that benefit from these trades are the other guys, and not the Marlins themselves. Make a trade with the Marlins – fool them with your prospects, and take their best talent and go to the World Series.

Samson wants to give his baseball intelligentsia the credit for the 2003 accomplishment, but that is not nearly accurate as most of the staff came over from the Expos, which was excellent at getting young talent and churning out winning teams despite small revenue. There has to be some accountability here and this is another reason why baseball fans in Miami should be upset. It shouldn’t be about the money because, truth be told, Samson is right. Be a slave to results. The names weren’t producing and as much as Marlin fans loved JJ, he was not the same pitcher ever since his injury.

So, the minds in charge here have to do a better job. They have to draft better and develop a deeper system. Yet, that is only half of the job. The other half is to allocate assets that, via free agency, can expedite your timeline for success. Acquiring players from the Blue Jays with relatively no experience and a 3-4 year timeline is not good news for a Marlins fan base that has a new jewel of a stadium to see games in, but doesn’t want to fight the traffic and horrific parking to see a AAA team develop. For that, they would be better served to head up to Jacksonville.

No, where Samson is getting it desperately wrong, and so is his handler Jeffrey Loria, is this idea that they don’t have to spend money. The Marlins must spend money on free agents to compliment a game plan that is built up from within with a strong foundation. You want to say, we made a mistake, that is fine, send the bums out. But don’t replace them with empty jerseys, unproven talent. Go out and allocate assets that fans can recognize and other clubs can stand by and admit that the Marlins are trying to improve. Standing pat or giving up is a plan for failure. Loria deserves all of the heat, venom, and poison lobbed his way for the simple fact that actions speak louder than words. If you want to shut everyone up, show them that YOU get it. By not trying and getting assets to speed up your timeline for success, aka trying to win NOW, then you are just simply lying through your teeth and the Marlins fans have every right to boycott and push for new ownership. Establishing a ceiling of 70 wins is not the route to a championship.

Both Loria and Samson are right – this town only supports a winner. So go act like one and get some in here.