There seems to be a few different phases in running an MLB organization. First there is stockpiling, where teams build up talent to help create a foundation to build a sustainable identity from that will set the team up for years of winning. At least, that is the plan. There are usually many holes to fill at the big league level which also means there is a need for a wide net to be cast across all levels of player development.
Once that is achieved, teams will shift into a new phase which is acquisition. At this point, the core players have been identified and the team begins a promising trend of winning games. This is characterized through more refined moves to shore up positions of need as the team identity congeals around these core players. The focus is more on the top end of the pyramid meaning, the parent club gets the focus as assets are targeted less and less for positions of need and more towards positions of want.
The final phase, as Charlie Sheen may have once stated, is winning. This is when the core players are in place and are proven commodities and the ancillary players are also in place. Any holes in the roster are more due to positions of want instead of need. The team has matured to the point that there is sustainable winning for the foreseeable future.
Back in 2012, the Marlins organization tried to leap from acquisition to winning with an influx of free agents. All it did was tie them up in a net of mediocrity with overvalued assets and poor contracts. The Fish did what they thought was best; hit the reset button and go right back to the stockpiling phases. Thankfully, they had a few core players in their system that were ready to make the jump to sustainability in the immediate future. The Marlins projected correctly on players like Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich as players who would not only make the franchise sustainable, but would also put the team in a position for winning due to their unique talents.
The Fish were also able to add to their talent pool via that trade with the Blue Jays back in 2012. Anthony DeSclafani, Jake Marisnick, Adeiny Hechavarria were all assets used to build what would be the future Marlins into a potentially winning team. DeSclafani was traded to the Reds, along with Chad Wallach, to obtain big right handed power arm starter Mat Latos. Even if only for a year, the Marlins have a legit front end starter to hold the fort until Jose Fernandez gets back from TJ surgery around mid-2015.
The Marlins made their most notable trade in dealing Andrew Heaney to the Dodgers for Dee Gordon. The trade also netted Dan Haren, a solid and proven veteran starter (if he chooses not to retire) and also cost the Marlins Enrique Hernandez, Austin Barnes, and reliever Chris Hatcher.
Both deals illustrate a significant shift for the Marlins who have now moved from the acquisition phase of 2014 towards the winning phase for 2015. Sure, the moves depleted their minor league assets, but the Marlins made the shrewd moves to supplement the big league level which, after all, is the point of owning an MLB franchise. You want to win and win in October (unlike the Braves who seem to historically just want to win the regular season and check out for the playoffs).
Going back to the Blue Jays deal from 2012, most of the pieces of that deal are no longer with the team. Jake Marisnick, along with Colin Moran, were dealt to land Kiki Hernandez and Jarred Cosart. Cosart is shaping up like a legit staff #2 starter and has an electricity about him that shows he is an upgrade over anything the Marlins had among their touted prospects. Hernandez was later flipped to help land Gordon and Haren from the Dodgers. Essentially the Marlins upgraded their 2B position with Gordon, where Hernandez was going to compete with Donovan Solano for the starting gig.
Another part of that deal was Justin Nicolino, who continues to shine in the Marlins farm system as a potential starter down the line for the Fish. Looking back at that deal, which is only 2 years old, one can see the Marlins were able to make a significant leap due to the talent acquired in that deal. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are still trying to spend their way into the winning phase from the acquisition phase.
The point being that refilling your tub with your own water is much less costly than using someone else’s water. With these recent moves, we will also begin to look at the Marlins farm system with new eyes as the philosophy has changed from one of stockpiling, to acquisition, and now towards winning. The focus will be on getting the parent club bridged to sustainable winning.
Which brings us to the final phase and it is a phase only for elite franchises – saturation. This is when there is talent at all levels that not only creates a strong, sustainable winning team at the big league level, but the talent is so rich that there is talent waiting to get into the big show that could start for other franchises. Believe it or not, the Marlins are trending that way with some of the assets they have in their farm system. Nicolino, for example, is not even the Marlins top pitching prospect – that would go to the big Texan fireballer, Tyler Kolek who, at all of 19, has one of the most impressive fastballs ever recorded. With Stanton locked in with the Marlins for the next 13 years, free agents are going to be very attracted to south Florida for baseball which also means the Marlins will have less of a need to spend their farm assets on filing positions of need and want. The future is certainly bright for the Marlins.