Look, I know a lot of us are suffering a bit from PTSD when it comes to our team and its roster. We have very little faith in our front office doing the right thing and when a trade is made, it is mostly always perceived to be about the bottom line. Yet, even with long term deals cemented for both Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, this perception still persists. Add to the fact that your GM is actually your manager at the moment, and things get a bit wonky.
There are a lot of bad ideas out there, most of which are the result of the need-to-write-something itch that is a part of the social media world these days. If you aren’t writing something every day, and something substantial, then you are stagnant and like a shark, dead in the water. Take for instance this really far-fetched cry for help that the Marlins need to just shut it down and rebuild. Ridiculous. Yes, the Fish are having a disappointing season. And yes, they haven’t been in the postseason since 2003 – that is a 12 year drought. But one of the worst things that could be done would be an implosion and rebuild. After all, that is one of the reasons why the Marlins haven’t made it back since 2003 – there has not been any consistency.
You have to have a core of players to build around. That core has arrived and has the potential to make deep playoff runs. Stanton and Yelich figure into the plans prominently, but who else also shapes up to be a part of this vision? Let’s read some of the tea leaves.
Jose Fernandez is an obvious component. He has successfully come back from his Tommy John surgery and has demonstrated why he is a rare talent. The Marlins will be faced with trying to lock him into a long term deal. Remember, he is a client of Scott Boras – the same who encouraged Pudge Rodriguez to go explore free agency after his 2003 renaissance with the Marlins. Most likely, the Marlins will have to find a way to beat the market to keep Jose; but that is for another day.
Adeiny Hechavarria is another key piece. It wasn’t known at the time of the infamous deal the the Blue Jays back in 2012, but Hech was a key get in that deal. His gold glove caliber defense helps protect the Marlins pitching and his offense is coming around, despite his “comfort” with hitting in the 8th spot. He has the speed and potential to be a threat on the base paths as his game continues to improve offensively. An extension was discussed and even offered, but Hech was advised to wait it out this season.
Dee Gordon was another targeted part of this team’s future. The Marlins had a rotating door at 2B for a while – dealing away Omar Infante to then go through several other candidates. Gordon gives the Fish the speed they crave as a franchise (see Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo, heck, even Chuck Carr). More importantly, he is under team control for the next few seasons – just as he is starting to enter his prime. Along with Hech, the Fish are set up the middle for some time.
When you look at the outfield, the Marlins are set. Stanton and Yelich anchor both corner spots. Marcell Ozuna looks to be the centerfielder for the future, but his bat has struggled this season and he was sent down to AAA New Orleans in the hope of resurrecting his swing. A lot has been made about Ozuna getting tangled up with his approach – he is normally an aggressive, free swinger, but he was trying to work on getting on base more and working counts more. He may have gotten twisted in his approach and a change may be just what he needs to break out again. Remember, this guy, along with Stanton and Yelich, was being touted as the best OF in baseball. He also did have 20 HRs and 80 RBIs last season. Yet, there are some who attest the Marlins are “open” to dealing him. That may be so, but the Fish would have to be getting a significant player in return. Remember, that Fish also dealt Jake Marisnick, another promising CF with tremendous upside, to the Astros to get Jarred Cosart – who is dealing with vertigo issues. They were banking on Ozuna’s potential over Marisnick.
Behind the plate, JT Realmuto has been dubbed the future and has lived up to that billing. He has seen Rob Brantly, John Buck, and even Jarrod Saltalamacchia leave town and make room for him. It wasn’t a forced issue; Realmuto has earned his spot every step of the way. His potential on both sides of the ball make him a crucial piece moving forward, besides his experience working with up and coming pitchers like Justin Nicolino.
Next we have some players who are not indispensable, but would be great to have around if they pan out.
Justin Bour has put together some nice moments for the Fish at 1B, a problem spot since Derek Lee left. The Marlins have tried patching over the problem by finding a bat to fill in the immediate, hoping to find cheap sources of power while not being exposed at 1B as a defensive liability. Garrett Jones, Michael Morse, none of which have been able to stick. Casey McGehee has returned and could provide some backup at both corner spots; Jeff Baker has filled in nicely as well. Yet, it is Bour’s big lefty bat that could be the answer long term. He was picked up from the Cubs in the minor league phase of the Rule V draft and has outproduced his cost. If not Bour, the Marlins do have a couple of interesting power bats in the minors with KJ Woods and top draft pick Josh Naylor (see our recent interview with Naylor here).
Derek Dietrich seems to be a polarizing figure. Is he the lefty power bat/middle infielder scouts hoped for? Or another dead end? Indications seem to point to him being the 3B of the future for the Marlins, which says a lot because they dealt Matt Dominguez away to the Astros, then moved Hanley Ramirez to 3B to make room for Jose Reyes back in 2012. That failed, and they then drafted Colin Moran who the Fish quickly reassessed and shipped off to the Astros. That leaves us with Dietrich, acquired from the Rays for Blue Jays throw-in Yunel Escobar. The Marlins also have tried patching up 3B over the years with Placido Polanco, Casey McGehee, and now Martin Prado. Although there has been in-season stability, a longer term plan may start with Dietrich.
Henderson Alvarez, Tom Koehler, and Jarred Cosart are all players you want to see stick for the long term, but various issues could force the Fish to look elsewhere. Right now, Alvarez is getting his shoulder reassessed; he has been very productive for the Marlins but has seemingly been made of glass. Who knows when his return will be and what condition that will be. If he can get right, he could be a great complement not only in terms of skill but in temperament to Jose Fernandez.
Speaking of, Jarred Cosart is a fiery competitor with strong upside. He has a plus fastball, but sometimes it can get a little too straight. The Marlins dealt away Nathan Eovaldi for partially the same reason, the difference is that Cosart has other pitches he can rely on. Right now he is dealing with probably the worst case of vertigo in human history. If he can get right, then it will remain to be seen if he is the mid-rotation arm the Marlins envision, or the bust the Astros felt necessary to deal.
Tom Koehler is a guy who is often counted out but finds a way to get back in. Over and over he has proven his doubters wrong. He has found a way to be a consistent starter, despite coming into Spring Training without a spot in the rotation guaranteed. Next to Dan Haren, one could argue that Koehler has been the Marlins most dependable starter. Yet, he does have a ceiling; the question is, will the Marlins be able to get maximum value out of his production or will, like Steve Cishek’s contract, begin to exceed his value?
AJ Ramos is quickly becoming an integral piece as the closer on this staff. Then again, the Marlins, like most teams, do not tend to spend their money on closers but find one to fill the role. Carter Capps has been sensational and could also fill that role someday. For this reason, the bullpen is always going to be a committee that gets filled year to year.
Not in the Cards
These players are not integral to the Marlins long term plans and could be dealt this season, as it continues to be a disappointment in the standings.
Mat Latos – he was brought on ideally to help push the Marlins over the top to the post season. His injuries have been well documented and so were his early season struggles. Apparently, he’s healthy and his numbers over his last 7 starts are looking very good. Expect him to be dealt for some lower level prospects to help fortify the bankrupted farm system.
Dan Haren – another great arm brought in to eat up innings and provide stability to the rotation. He has done both exceedingly well and as a result, has the Dodgers thinking about bringing him back. Like Latos, he is a free agent at the end of the season and not a part of the long term vision of the club. He also should be dealt.
Michael Morse is a bust, flat out. He is barely hitting over the Mendoza line and his loopy, caveman swing expose him to be a strikeout machine. Occasionally his club meets a ball and smashes it, but there is just not enough contact potential there to try and honor the two year deal. If the Fish can find a taker for him, they should do it but it may come at a price in that they will have to package him.
So, expect players who are just not in the future plans of the franchise to be off loaded. There is no reason to keep them for this season and they were short term solutions anyway. The next tier, those on “the fringe” are not integral for the long term vision of this team. That said, they could offer value and could be used to help move players (like Morse) who may have a harder time being moved.
Just keep it in perspective, folks. That said, don’t expect the Marlins to make any big acquisitions to build up their roster either.