In the 9th inning of Friday night’s home game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Miami Marlins star slugger Giancarlo Stanton took a big swing on a 2-0 count and immediately after the pitch started shaking his hand as if he was in great pain. Stanton would go on to strikeout and the Marlins would lose their 45th game dropping their record for the season to 30-45. After the loss the worse news came early Saturday morning; Stanton would be out 4-6 weeks with a broken hamate bone in his left hand that would require surgery. This latest injury is just a microcosm of the Marlins entire, injury-laden season. More so than that, it is the final nail in the coffin of the Marlins 2015 playoff hopes. It is now time for the team to accept this fact and once again go into rebuilding mode at the trade deadline.
Following a victory over the Dodgers on Saturday afternoon, the Miami Marlins now sit at 31-45 which is eleven games back of the division leading Washington Nationals and also find themselves ten games back of the San Francisco Giants who currently hold the second wild card slot. With Stanton the Marlins should be sellers. Without Stanton that rings even more true. There is almost no way a team can make up that kind of deficit without it’s best player, and arguably, one of the best players in all of baseball.
Prior to the season, many baseball analysts, pundits, and critics picked the Miami Marlins to be a playoff team. Many expected them to achieve a Wild Card slot at the least, with some even saying a division crown was possible. Some more gung-ho baseball writers even suggested the Marlins had a chance at getting all the way to the world series; and perhaps even winning it. As March turned into April, expectations were the highest they had been since 2012 for the Marlins to get back to the promised land that they first tasted in 2003 with the franchise’s first Championship. It turns out that this edition of the Marlins is much more like the 2012 variety than the 2003 World Series Champions. What that should mean is some real deadline selling.
This team is losing not for a lack of talent. Dee Gordon has led the league in hitting for almost the entire year. Giancarlo Stanton has been his usual self, mashing 27 home runs prior to his injury Friday night. Despite the all-star play of these two players, the rest of the Marlins team has been riddled up and down with injuries and has been plagued by poor play. Neither Marcell Ozuna nor Christian Yelich (who signed a long extension in the offseason) have lived up to all the pre-season hype and what was supposed to be the best outfield in baseball has once again been mostly a one man show by Giancarlo Stanton. On top of this overall poor performance for the offense, only three months into the season the Marlins have lost a total of eleven players to injuries. This includes four out of their top five starting pitchers all missing time with various minor as well as some more serious injuries. This doesn’t even include ace Jose Fernandez who is due to return soon following Tommy John surgery last year. Even with his return, the injury to Stanton represents a death knell for a team plagued by injuries and not performing at a high level.
It is clear that, injuries or not, this Marlins team is simply not good enough to compete for a Wild Card spot in 2015. The Marlins find themselves 24th in the league in runs scored and 27th in wRC+, 20th in ERA and 13th in FIP, although they do find themselves top ten in team defense by both UZR and total defense. These numbers show that all around the Marlins have struggled and have not been the team most expected. After only 38 games Mike Redmond took the fall and was fired, finishing with a 16-22 record for the year. In his place, the Marlins current General Manager (yes you read that right) was hired to be the new manager. All this proved was the Marlins were trying to be different, all while still failing to be anything more than mediocre. In Redmond’s place, Jennings has had a record of 15-23 so Redmond was clearly not the problem for a team with numerous injury issues and what is a deeply flawed roster.
In terms of the Marlins financial situation they currently have a payroll of only 69 million for 2015 which is still the lowest in the league despite the team’s playoff aspirations for this season. For the 2016 season, the Marlins only have 38 million dollars on the books and will have seven free agents after this season. With such a large amount of payroll flexibility for 2016 and 2017 (only 18 million on the books), the Marlins could put themselves in good position for the next few years by doing same key trade deadline selling. There are seven players that are the most logical to be traded due to their free agent status along with a few other players who could be interesting options for some further selling.
In comparison to year’s past, the Marlins do not have quite the same makeup for as robust of a trade deadline fire sale. As stated above they have a few interesting trade pieces that could certainly fetch some return, although not quite as robust a return as the fire sale from 2012. Included in these players are seven free agents and a few other players that could find themselves on the move. Each one of these players will be looked at in more depth below.
Free Agents Following the Season
1. Dan Haren – Haren is turning 35 near the end of the season and will be a free agent following the season. Haren has an ERA just above 3.00 which is good but a FIP of over 4.00 suggests that the fielding behind him has helped him while his tendency to give up home runs has harmed him. Given his age and his merely decent performance this season, it seems the Marlins cannot expect too much of a return for his services beyond a prospect or two, decent or otherwise.
2. Mat Latos – Another player that has not worked out for the Marlins the way they hoped is Mat Latos. Latos was acquired in the offseason from the Reds in return for Anthony DeSclafani. Latos is still only 27 years old but he has been disappointing with an ERA over 5.00 while DeSclafani has surpassed many expectations for him and has actually outperformed Latos by quite a margin. Latos is still young and his respectable FIP of 3.62 may convince some deadline buyers of his worth going forward.
3. Jeff Baker – Jeff Baker is 34 years old and is really nothing more than a passable bench option. Theoretically the Marlins could trade him to a contender in need of a bench option against left-handed pitching but he would not garner much in the way of a significant return.
4. Ichiro Suzuki – Ichiro is nearing 42 years old and lacks any real trade value. He still has respectable numbers on the year with a .275/.325/.320 slash line but given his age and the fact that he is nearing the end of his storied career it doesn’t seem likely that he is dealt, or if he is not for much of a return.
5. Jeff Mathis – Mathis is 32 years old and not much of a trade chip at all. He has played in nine games for the Marlins this year and is currently sitting at a batting average below the Mendoza line. Wouldn’t be worth much more than a low-level prospect.
6. David Phelps – Phelps is still only 28 years old and is rather cheap making just over one million in salary for this season. For these two reasons he could be a better trade chip option for the Marlins if they do end up selling off some pieces.
7. Don Kelly – Don Kelly, given his current injury, is not much of a trade chip at all. If he heals properly and comes back healthy he may be able to build up some stock but it seems unlikely that happens and unlikely he is a trade chip of any worth.
8. Martin Prado – Prado is currently on the disabled list but his versatility could drive up his value as the trade deadline nears. He has a bit of a large contract, making eleven million both this year and next year, but could be a likely trade option for a few different teams in contention who are in need of a more versatile bat. It also helps that his former team, the New York Yankees, are paying three million of his salary both this year and next year. Out of all the non-free agents Prado seems like the most likely fit to be traded.
9. Michael Morse – Michael Morse is signed through next year with a contract earning him seven and a half million dollars this year and another eight and a half million next year. His value has diminished quite a bit but the Marlins should still be able to trade him to a contending team in need of some offense for perhaps a few mid-level prospects depending on if the Marlins foot any of the bill.
10. Michael Dunn – This is an intriguing option for the Marlins because of the league wide need for lefty specialists out of the bullpen. Dunn hasn’t had a great year by any stretch but still holds good strikeout numbers (9 strikeouts per nine innings) and has a FIP below 4.00. He may be able to net the Marlins an okay return should they decide he is worth trading.
11. Steve Cishek – This is more of a deal the Marlins would want than something the Marlins could actually make happen. Cishek has had really a terrible year all around and lost his closer role earlier in the season. His salary for this year (over 6 million) is a closer salary for a guy who has found himself out of that role completely. This makes it unlikely that the Marlins could find a fit on the trade market unless they ate a significant portion of the salary Cishek is owed for this year.
12. Marcell Ozuna/Dee Gordon/Adeiny Hechavarria- These are all fringe options should the Marlins go into complete fire sale mode. This seems unlikely, but given the Marlins history these options should not be entirely written off. All are young, talented, and cost-controlled and would go a long way to getting the pieces the Marlins would need for a full rebuild. In years past the Marlins have not shied away from trading young and cost-controlled talent so it is a definite possibility with Jeffrey Loria running the team.
Based on their current pool of tradable talent, the Marlins are in a position quite dissimilar to ones in years past. In years past the Marlins had young, tradable talent and were able to make quick transitions into full on trade deadline selling. This time it seems a little different for the Marlins unless they want to once again go into full fire sale mode. That would involve trading some young, cost-controlled talents as in years past. This would be a hard sell to both a frustrated Marlins fan-base as well as superstar Giancarlo Stanton who was made promises about a contending team when he signed his 13 year 325 million dollar extension last year. It is clear the Marlins should be deadline sellers and should trade all or most of their impending free agents. Beyond that the Marlins should most likely sit tight and use their immediate and long term financial flexibility to go after some impact free agents and try to put a contending team back on the field in 2016 and beyond. Going forward, even with Jeffrey Loria at the helm, the Marlins are in a good financial position to be real contenders in the near future.