The Winter Meetings have come and gone and one of the teams generating a buzz from the event is the Marlins. They had a shopping list and almost got it completely crossed off by the time the planes left San Diego. Yet, most didn’t actually believe the Marlins would pull anything off. The Twitter-sphere was rampant with agitation and anxiety from fans just hoping for the Fish to do something, anything. But the Marlins made their move when they felt they had what they wanted. It shouldn’t come as a shock anymore, but it seems to continue to amaze and confound those around the game.
This is the same team that shocked the world with a 13 year, $325M contract for their young slugger Giancarlo Stanton. The same team that upset that very promising young RFer when they dealt most of the team to the Blue Jays back in the offseason of 2012. The very same team that made big moves to get that team in the first place (Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Ozzie Guillen, Mark Buerhle – you know) during the offseason of 2011. The very same franchise that beat the Yankees in 2003 for the World Series – after beating the Cubs in their deep playoff run that same year. And the very same franchise that signed a bunch of free agents back in ’96 that led to the ’97 fulfillment of their first ever World Series – only 4 years after they said ‘play ball’ for the first time.
The Marlins, throughout their history, have done things their way.
So why would this offseason be any different? And are the Marlins really that unconventional, or are people so wrapped up in anti-Loria sentiment that they can’t see the truth of the matter?
Let’s recap the most recent moves and take stock of where things are.
To start things off, the Marlins dealt Brian Flynn and Reid Redman to the Royals for Aaron Crow. This is a guy who was touted as one of the best young arms in the game but after being selected 9th overall by the Nationals, he ended up taking his talents elsewhere until he was drafted by the Royals a year later. He as an all-star in 2011. He is a winner and has pitched on winning teams and has pretty good tools. The Marlins also are looking at him as a potential starter.
The Marlins dealt their top pitching prospect, Andrew Heaney, along with reliever Chris Hatcher, Austin Barnes, and Enrique Hernandez to land Dee Gordon and Dan Haren from the Dodgers. A lot of this was overblown – fans tend to put more value on their own prospects than reality has any measure of doing. Heaney was (and is) a strong candidate to be a starter and help anchor a rotation someday – but for the Marlins, they do not feel he is necessarily an upgrade over what they currently have or could acquire. Barry Jackson has the scoop on what some suspect, “His confidence and mound presence were not there in the big leagues; he kind of looked like a deer in the headlights,” one Marlins official said. We’ll come back to this later in a future article. The point is, the Marlins shed prospects to get two proven veteran big leaguers, thus crossing off two positions of need on their list. And they got the Dodgers to pay for it.
They dealt Anthony DeSclafani, a young and promising starter to get Mat Latos from the Reds. Latos has had some injuries but he is a legit front-end starter when healthy. That would be an upgrade.
They traded reliever Dan Jennings for Andre Rienzo from the White Sox. Most saw this as a time to make a joke about Dan Jennings trading Dan Jennings, as if the deal was only made to clarify who was running the team. After all, people in the media were still referring to Giancarlo as “Mike”. What the Marlins did though was get a reliever to replace Jennings at a lower cost and with some pretty solid numbers, too. Rienzo has the ability to start as well, and has big league experience.
The Marlins picked up Andrew McKirihan from the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft, while letting Mark Canha get picked up (letting a corner IF leave who has shown power raises an eyebrow, though). That said, they basically traded a minor league hitter for a reliever with good metrics.
If we looked at this holistically, the Marlins made shrewd moves to upgrade their big league roster. Yes, they depleted their minor league assets a bit, but that is the reason you build them up. No franchise wins anything while having the deepest farm system. It is when those talents transition into everyday players that help you win that it becomes a success. The Marlins identified talent around the league that would help them and paid using their young arms. Losing Flynn, DeSclafani, and Heaney means that their future rotation will not have those players in it. That said, having Dan Haren (if he doesn’t retire) and Matt Latos added to your rotation is a pretty strong move.
If these moves had been made by any other franchise, they would be hailed. Yet, as always, the Marlins seem to find questioning and doubt pointed their way. Such is the “unconventional” moves the Marlins make. Right now, they are shedding young talent to supplement their big league club. This is what any and every team should be doing. Maybe it seems unconventional for this franchise because they have not really been in a position to do this. They are now trying to build what has been described as a “sustainable” winning franchise. They are on their way.