The Miami Marlins were one of baseball’s biggest dissapointments in 2012. They had huge expectations for their first season playing in Marlins Park and wearing their new logo. The team’s management, notorious for keeping a low payroll, spent big money on their talented squad. The team vastly under-performed, finishing in last place in the NL East at 69-93. Changes needed to be made, as the Marlins couldn’t financially support this team anymore. In the most heavily scrutinized trade of the off-season, the Marlins sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, and John Buck to the Toronto Blue Jays in return for Yunel Escobar (later traded to the Rays), Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis, and three minor league prospects. Baseball America broke down the trade piece-by-piece in this article.
Instead of analyzing the Marlins’ past moves, and how they told their fans to turn to page 394, I’ll be moving forward with what they can do for the remainder of the off-season to have a successful 2013 campaign and beyond. They filled their hole at 3B today by signing verteran Placido Polanco to a one-year deal. This deal allows the Marlins to keep prospects Zack Cox (acquired from STL for Edward Mujica) and Derek Dietrich (dealt by the Rays for Yunel Escobar) , in the minor leagues for another year with no pressure to be MLB ready.
Batting Order (AVG / OBP / SLG)
1. Juan Pierre LF ( .307 / .351 / .371 )
2. Donovan Solano 2B ( .295 / .342 / .375 )
3. Logan Morrison 1B ( .230 / .308 / .399 )
4. Giancarlo Stanton RF ( .290 / .361 / .608 )
5. Justin Ruggiano CF ( .313 / .374 / .535 )
6. Rob Brantly C ( .290 / .372 / .460 , 31 GP )
7. Placido Polanco 3B ( .257 / .302 / .327 )
8. Adeiny Hechavarria SS ( .254 / .280 / .365 , 41 GP )
I believe that if this Marlins lineup stays healthy, the team can accomplish great things next season. A history of injuries is a concern for the Marlins 2013 lineup, Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton missed some time for the fish last season as the team struggled to produce offense. Newly acquired Placido Polanco also spent time on the DL for the Phillies in 2012. Of this projected starting lineup, only Giancarlo Stanton and Juan Pierre appeared in over 100 games in 2012. In addition, Donovan Solano, Rob Brantly, and Adeiny Hechavarria made their major league debuts just last season. Solano leads the trio in games played with 93, followed by Hechavarria’s 41, and Brantly’s 31. This Marlins team is young and inexperienced, but extremely talented. Justin Ruggiano and Donovan Solano were breakout stars last season, and they will be depended on to remain in that form. Juan Pierre needs to be a reliable lead-off man and continue to be the threat on the base paths that he was for the Marlins’ 2003 World Series team.
Logan Morrison struggled to get going last season, and I believe that placing him ahead of Giancarlo Stanton in the order will help him turn it around. Nobody wants to pitch to Giancarlo, so LoMo will see pitches to hit. To me, Morrison’s position in the order is the most subject to change. If he struggles during the first month of the season, I’d bump him down the 6 hole, and move the 4-6 hitters up a spot. Polanco and Hechavarria’s abilities to get on base will also be crucial for the team. Polanco has career numbers of (.299 / .344 / .403), and the Marlins hope he can return to that. Hechavarria hit (.312 / .363 / .424) in the hitter-friendly AAA Pacific Coast League, but this shows that the tools are there. If they can turn the lineup over effectively and avoid pressuring the black hole that is the pitcher’s spot, it could led to some high scoring innings for Miami.
Pitching Rotation ( W-L , ERA, WHIP, K, BB, IP)
1. Ricky Nolasco ( 12-13 , 4.48 ERA , 1.37 WHIP , 125 K , 47 BB , 191.0 IP )
2. Henderson Alvarez ( 9-14 , 4.85 ERA , 1.44 WHIP , 79 K , 54 BB , 187.1 IP )
3. Nate Eovaldi ( 4-13 , 4.30 ERA , 1.51 WHIP , 78 K , 47 BB , 119.1 IP )
4. Jacob Turner ( 2-5 , 4.42 ERA , 1.20 WHIP , 36 K , 16 BB , 55.0 IP )
5. Wade LeBlanc ( 2-5 , 3.67 ERA , 1.31 WHIP , 43 K , 19 BB , 68.2 IP )
CL Steve Cishek ( 5-2 , 15/19 SV , 2.69 ERA , 1.30 WHIP , 68 K , 29 BB , 63.2 IP )
The Marlins starting rotation took a hit in losing Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and Anibal Sanchez to trades. However these trades, including the Hanley Ramirez trade, brought in Alvarez, Eovaldi, and Turner. These three young pitchers should be centerpieces in the Marlins rotation for years to come. Ricky Nolasco is the only remaining arm from the Marlins’ 2012 Opening Day rotation, and him having the most MLB experience lands him at the #1 spot. The remaining starters are ordered in terms of major league experience. I’m a believer that outside of Opening Day and the playoffs, the order of the rotation is for the most part unimportant. Eovaldi and Turner have had more success in the minor leagues than Alvarez and were more hyped acquisitions, but Alvarez has had a full season of MLB starting experience which puts him at #2 for now. Wade LeBlanc was given a chance to start by the Marlins in 2012 after putting up solid numbers in the bullpen, and comes in as the #5 starter. Other candidates for that spot include Alex Sanabia and Brad Hand among others. Hand has experience starting for the Marlins, and the 22 year old put up a 4.00 ERA in the AAA PCL last year. Sanabia had success with the Marlins in the past, and had a 4.06 ERA in the same AAA league as Hand.
Steve Cishek took over the closer role last season, and is the leading candidate to take the spot heading into next season. He shows a different look with his low-sidearm release point, and was one of the few bright spots of the 2012 Marlins season. An inefficient closer put the Marlins out of the race from the beginning last year and the team couldn’t recover. Cishek’s performance will be crucial to starting the Marlins’ season on the right foot.
Verdict: The Marlins have talent. However that talent is young and mostly undeveloped. The majority of the Marlins’ question marks lie with the arms. Will Nolasco pitch like a #1 starter? How will Turner, Eovaldi, and Alvarez pitch? Who takes the #5 starting spot? How does the bullpen hold up? Does Steve Cishek have what it takes to be an MLB closer? If the rotation can put up solid numbers, and the batting lineup can stay healthy, the Marlins can surprise many people in 2013. If that happens, they might be able to win back their fan base which feels alienated by the trade with Toronto.
The Marlins hopes all lie on their young players’ shoulders. None of the starters aren’t big league ready, they’re just unproven. It’s hard to find one major hole on the team that can be fixed with a trade, so I’m looking at players who are expendable, and going from there.
1. Trade Ricky Nolasco
I feel awful for the Marlins’ PR department. They had to deal with Ozzie Guillen’s pro-Castro comments in the beginning of the season and saw fans turning against their newly branded franchise. Then with the Toronto trade, the fans and city of Miami felt duped by the Marlin’s management due to unfulfilled promises which allowed public funding for Marlins Park. So, the team has nothing to worry about from a PR standpoint about trading Nolasco. The fanbases’ current numbness to trades is beneficial for this move.
Nolasco is set to make $11.5 MM in 2013 for the last year of his contract, which makes up a large chunk of the Marlins’s newly lowered payroll. His career ERA is 4.49, and his only stellar year was when he went 15-8 with a 3.52 ERA in 2008. I feel that with the current state of the pitching rotation, and the Marlins’ AAA starters who are ready to make the jump to the big leagues, Nolasco is expendable. With the salary dump that the Marlins have made, Nolasco’s contract seems like a waste of money. The Marlins need to shop him around to teams looking for a middle to bottom of the rotation starter. Nolasco reportedly wants out of Miami, but the Marlins are against it.
I believe that Nolasco would have to be packaged with another player in order to get a considerable return. Logan Morrison attracted teams last off-season, but his value is too low at the moment. See the next section for my thoughts about Stanton. In order to get maximum value, the Marlins should hold off until the trading deadline to make a trade involving Nolasco. Unexpected contenders, or teams who are lost pitchers to injury will pay a premium value for Nolasco. For the time being, throw his name around, and if a great offer presents itself, take it. It just seems silly that the Marlins dumped so many veterans, but claim that Nolasco wont be traded.
2. DO NOT GET RID OF GIANCARLO STANTON
In case I wasn’t clear, I don’t think the Marlins should even listen to offers involving him. Just no. No no no no no. No trading Stanton. Ever. No. Bad Marlins management, bad. Sit, stay, no trading Giancarlo. Don’t make me spray you with water. Good boy, here’s a treat. He will be a major MVP candidate year after year. He’s already a legend with his monster home runs and immense power. He makes Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton get all excited during TV broadcasts. Do not trade ever. I don’t need any fancy stats to prove that. Just keep him happy, and keep him a Marlin. Unfortunately, trade with the Blue Jays didn’t sit well with him.
3. Trust the rookies, and fill the bench with veterans
The 2013 Marlins will rise and fall with their young talent. It will be a growing process for them and first-year manager Mike Redmond. The Marlins need to go out to find cheap veterans and good clubhouse guys to help the newly acquired players adjust and stay focused. Also, the Marlins are in need of a utility man due to the loss of Emilio Bonifacio.
4. Let the Minor Leaguers develop
The Marlins have reloaded their minor league system through the draft and trades. First round picks Christian Yelich, Jose Fernandez, and Andrew Heaney are integral pieces for the future in Miami. Some articles I’ve read have called for Fernandez ( 1.59 ERA – low A , 1.96 ERA – adv A ) to get a shot, but in my opinion, he shouldn’t see the majors until possibly being a 2014 September call-up at the earliest. The Marlins are waiting for Yelich to develop, so he can soon play with Giancarlo Stanton in an outfield that can swing the bats. Heaney, the Marlins’ most recent first round pick has only thrown 27 minor league innings in Rk-A. However, unlike Fernandez and Yelich, Heaney played for 3 years in college at Oklahoma State. He was 16th in the NCAA for ERA, second in WHIP, and led the nation with 140 Ks. These three are integral to the Marlins’ future, and they can’t be rushed through the system. The aura around Fernandez and Yelich resembles two former top prospects for the Marlins. Their names are Jeremy Hermida and Chris Volstad. Both were drafted out of high school in the first round, and had fans begging for their call-up to the majors. Hermida and Volstad struggled under the expectations, and never grew into their potential. Avoid a repeat of history. Give these guys time, no matter how phenomenal Jose Fernandez‘s minor league numbers look.
If the stars and planets align correctly, the Marlins can be a dark horse team in 2013. They have talented players, who need experience before they can become reliable contributors. The pitching rotation has more uncertainty than the batting order, but you can’t help but think about their potential for success. There is no reason for the Marlins to keep Nolasco around for a whole season with his salary. He is an expendable piece that can be used to fill whatever holes arise for Mike Redmond’s team. Stanton needs to stay put, and the top prospects need their time to develop.
Any questions regarding the Marlins line-up during the season should be addressed by: Wait. See. Adjust. Repeat.