Why the Marlins Deal Makes Sense and Who is Really to Blame

Now that the dust has settled (sort of) on the mega-deal which sent half of the Marlins team to Toronto in return for Yunel Escobar, Henderson Alvarez and a few other guys, I'm going to tell you why I think this deal makes absolute perfect sense for the Marlins and tell you who the fans should really be mad at.

Make no mistake, this move was a salary dump for the Marlins.  Sending Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Heath Bell, John Buck and Mark Buehrle north of the American the border sheds $100 million off the Miami payroll this year and frees them of more than $200 million in future commitments.  On the surface, given the circumstances surrounding the new ballpark and the seemingly empty promises that the Marlins were offering their fans (in hopes of filling a new stadium), this deal appears to be fire behind the smoke that owner Jeffrey Loria really couldn't care less about the Marlins winning but I'd argue the contrary - that this move was necessary for the Marlins to be successful and to keep them from falling into a hole that could be very tough to dig out of.

In their 19 years of existence, the Marlins have managed to establish a tradition of success... they haven't operated the same way that the Yankees have but they've won two World Series in their 19 years of existence which is tied with the Giants and Cardinals for the most championships of any National League team over that time frame (you'd have to go back to 1982 to find the last three-time winner from the NL).

In recent years, however, promise and potential have not manifested themselves into wins and championships and a big reason for that, in my opinion, is the culture that has been created by players like Hanley Ramirez.  Some of the culture issues had to do with the leadership entrusted to run the ball club - whoever thought that hiring Ozzie Guillen as manager of the 2012 Miami Marlins was a good idea should have exiled from baseball .  With all of the personalities in that clubhouse, you knew that it was only a matter of time before someone said or did something that would cause the wheels to fall off.

Let's get back to Hanley Ramirez... the first domino to fall.  Han-Ram was the cornerstone of the Marlins franchise for six years.  The only way that the Marlins were going to win anything was with Hanley on board and unfortunately, the 2012 season started off in the wrong direction.  I believe that Hanley and his disdain for being moved to third (and not being "consulted with" prior to signing Jose Reyes) is ultimately what led to the collapse of the Marlins.  When the Marlins lost Hanley, they lost the 2012 season.  Sure, there were glimmers of hope for the Fish in 2012 but the NL East was too competitive for a fractured Marlins ball club to endure success for a full season and the further the Marlins fell behind, the more likely it was that a Hanley trade was eminent.  He wore out his welcome in Miami (the franchise was ready to move on) and a change of scenery was necessary and thus he was traded to the Dodgers.  Even with Hanley for most of the 2012 season, the Marlins lost 93 games - he was one of only five position players on the rosters that contributed more than 1 win-above-replacement in 2012 -  without Hanley and without the flexibility to add payroll (and you could add in Anibal Sanchez / Omar Infante, who were traded to the Tigers last season in a deal that netted them a top pitching prospect in Jacob Turner), the Marlins are realistically a marginal club, at best in 2013.

If we conclude that the Marlins weren't good enough without Hanley and that trading him was necessary, then you have to move on and look this mega-deal in an independent manner... so what did the Marlins really lose and what did they gain?

Josh Johnson - supposed to be an ace, made $14 million last year, pitched in 31 games and had very minimal success... injuries weren't the problem for Johnson in 2012, ineffectiveness was but if you add in those injury concerns - concerns which have plagued Johnson throughout his entire career - it's very clear to me that moving Johnson while he still has value... while he's still regarded as a potential ace and before he becomes a free-agent next season... was the right thing to do.

Jose Reyes - he'll make $10 million this year before his deal starts looking like a potential albatross (escalating to $16 million in 2014 and $22 million for 2015 to 2017).  The light-hitting speedster hit .264 over the first half of last season and underlying defensive metrics suggest that he might be regressing, at least defensively.  He's still capable offensively but Jose Reyes is not someone you hang your franchise on.  Regardless of what you think about Reyes' future projections, Yunel Escobar is a capable replacement and a much cheaper option for a team looking to build on a 93 loss season.

Mark Buehrle - a Gold Glove winner and a gamer, Buehrle is a middle of the rotation guy who had to anchor the Marlins in 2012.  He's scheduled to make $48 million over the next three seasons (after making $6 million in 2012).  I like Buehrle and he's going to help the Blue Jays but he's not worth that kind of money and Henderson Alvarez is a young pitcher under control to whom I would compare to Mark Buehrle - he does not strike a lot of guys out and he fields his position pretty well (led the league in assists as a pitcher in 2012).  He's had some success (made the rare jump from AA to the big leagues in 2011 and did very well) but the book is still out on Henderson Alvarez.  If he can limit his walks and keep the ball down in Miami, the park will keep the ball in the field and he could be a nice asset for them.

Emilio Bonifacio - a speedster, Bonifacio is certainly replaceable.  Adeiny Hechavarria earned his cup of tea with Toronto in 2012, was slated to be the Blue Jays starting second baseman in 2013 and reportedly could be a perennial Gold Glove middle infielder (hitting is not his strength).

John Buck will be replaced immediately by Jeff Mathis who was acquired in the deal... Mathis, a Florida native, will be an immediate upgrade defensively, he's cheaper than Buck and let's face it, no one's going to miss John Buck's $6 million salary and .192 batting average.

Heath Bell was never able to find his mojo in South Beach, losing his status as closer midway through the 2012 season.

Also acquired in the deal, two interesting prospects in Jake Marisnick (BA #67 prospect heading into 2012) and Justin Nicolino (a tall lefty who has showed promise across three levels - boasting a 16-6 professional record and a 2.09 ERA in 185 innings pitched).

In comparison to what the Red Sox received for Adrian Gonzalez (an all-world first baseman), Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto, the Marlins fetch could be considered quite good.  The Red Sox shed comparable payroll (to what the Marlins shed) in return for four prospects, none of which ranked higher than 90 heading into last season.  By comparison, the Marlins got a bona fide major league shortstop, a potential Gold Glove middle infielder, two decent prospects, a starting catcher and a young arm, in Henderson Alvarez, who will be groomed in the back end of their rotation.

I'll admit that it's crazy to suggest that the Marlins will be more competitive this year without the guys they pawned off but they weren't competitive to begin with - they lost 93 games last year and ended up in a corner with regards to payroll flexibility due to some bad gambles.  At least now the Marlins have some flexibility to make a move if they want to as well as a bolstered  farm system.

As for promises made and a new publicly funded ballpark... if the fans are unhappy about not having a winning team to watch at their new ballpark, they shouldn't blame Jeffrey Loria or the Marlins brass, they should blame the elected officials that agreed to fund 80% of the new ballpark in the first place.  Success is hard to come by at the major league level and very few teams have the means/ability to win every year; that's just not feasible.  The people who run the Marlins saw a flawed team with a bad culture and felt that wasn't going to change with minor tinkering.  I commend them for identifying the problem and addressing it before it got worse... the deals made for Reyes, Buehrle, Bell and Buck weren't going to look better two years from now and Josh Johnson's health has to be a real concern moving forward.  In my opinion, this was a trade that had to be made and I wouldn't be surprised if public sentiment changes on this one as time goes on.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with everything you said. They traded everyone off after winning 2 world series and rebuilt. Loria spent a lot of money this this year hoping for a 3 peat. This time it didn't work. Time for a do over.


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