Marlins Dynasty: What Could Have Been?

miggy2007As I go around town lately, everyone is donning Miami Heat paraphernalia. It’s good to see endless speculation about your Heat, too – the praise is finally nice to see. History has been rewritten. Lebron James has transitioned from villain to good guy as the result of winning.

And I can’t help but wonder is this will happen for the Miami Marlins, too.

Can Jeffrey Loria migrate from sourpuss villain to civic hero? If he is going to go through a Lebron James-like reformation, it, too, will take winning.

The Heat opened up the wallets and went and got their targeted players. Pat Riley knew what he was doing – if he could endure a short term loss for a long term gain, he did so after getting the #2 pick and turning that into a windfall in the 2010 free agent season, landing James and Chris Bosh to go along with a returning Dwyane Wade. 3 of the top 5 picks in the 2003 draft class are on the Heat and have now made 3 straight Finals appearances, winning two of them. The dynasty is being established as this team looks to the future to try to prolong the winning over the next several years.

Yet it all came from the mind of Riley who maintained a plan. Are the Marlins doing the same thing? All indicators show perhaps, but there has been some mixed signals along the way.

The 2007 trade of Miguel Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers may just be one of the most lopsided in MLB history (read a great write-up by Greg Stoda from the Palm Beach Post). “Miggy” continues to produce after his triple-crown season last year and is looking like the best player in the game today. He was recently interviewed on Sportscenter for their Sunday Conversation. He’s come a long way but it was notable to see the lack of mentioning the Marlins’ involvement at all in his career. Even the mention of his debut 10 years ago, in winning a World Series, no mention of “Marlins” was made.

Imagine what this lineup would look like today with Cabrera hitting with Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup? What would it have looked like with Hanley Ramirez and Cabrera in the same lineup? Would that have driven folks out to games?

As you look at the “Big Three” of the Miami Heat, it is clear that fans are driven to the games here in South Florida because of the potential for winning. They want to be a part of the hype. Fans here in South Florida are fickle – they want to be seen in the trendiest places. Aside from clubs, getting down to the AAA is another hot spot “to be seen”. Pat Riley’s blue-collar mid 90’s model was a winning machine, but they didn’t have the sizzle.

The Marlins could have had that if they stuck with Cabrera. Yeah, he was getting bloated (literally and figuratively) but he turned it around. It just took the right environment. The same path of destruction lays before Hanley Ramirez, but is he in the right place to turn that around? Regardless the Marlins had a chance and they blew it.

Which is why it is critical that they approach this situation with a new attitude. It is apparent that this team is a different animal with Stanton in the lineup. Add Logan Morrison back to the mix and the offense suddenly looks dynamic. They are not all the way back but there are key pieces in place – Marcell Ozuna, Derek Dietrich. Adeiny Hechavarria is starting to become a very solid hitter and has electric speed to go with his glove to man SS for years. There is still Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick waiting in the wings at AA Jacksonville. They have some very strong power arms in the rotation with Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi (is back from injury) and even Jacob Turner is starting to show he belongs. There are other arms down in the minors that could also bring big upside (Brian Flynn, Justin Nicolino, Andrew Heaney).

The Marlins have to make a splash though. Not the kind of splash they tried last offseason as a nouveau-riche team but instead as an established program looking to build a dynasty. They need to re-sign Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison to long term deals. They need to continue to develop the core they have. And, one final thing that may help this team arrive for years to come – go after Miguel Cabrera the second he becomes a free agent after the 2015 season. Bring Miggy back home to wrap up his career – and hopefully, win another title with the Fish.

That said, a plan has to be put into place and it seems it has. Sure, trading Matt Dominguez for Carlos Lee last season looks like another schizo deal to go along with so many others in this regime’s run. But, if like Pat Riley, they maintain the course they are one they will surely get the payoff in the end. Getting Cabrera back in Miami would be about as big as landing Lebron James was for the Miami Heat, too.