Are they really rebuilding? A review of the Miami Marlins’ offseason
The Miami Marlins have been known to the let the walls fall down immediately after putting them up.
Case in point: the team’s last two World Series victories. In the first title run, it was see you later Garry Shefield, Moises Alou, Kevin Brown and Bobby Bonilla. After a second championship, Carlos Delgado, Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett were all asked to pack their bags. During both “fire sales,” Miami did change hands in ownership and looked to rebuild, watching players such as Miguel Cabrera and Dan Uggla also find new homes. As frustrated fans watched the Miami Heat go out and get the likes of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, winning an NBA championship one year after obtaining the superstars, their baseball team was back to their old ways of extreme ups and even more extreme downs.
The seats of the once sold out Sun Life Stadium were empty. The team’s faithful followers simply quit believing. Miami management used its usual solution for this reoccurring problem, though, throwing more money at the troubled franchise. So one multi-million dollar new stadium later and a fresh, new name change, gave us the Miami Marlins. A new start and a new hope was marketed to Fish fans as the front office frivolously spent its newly acquired cash to obtain highly touted free agents like Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle and Heath Bell.
With the addition of three new stars, a snazzy new stadium and a rebranded image, the Marlins had some high hopes for 2012. However, as in the past, the wheels fell off. Players under performed. Newly-hired manager Ozzie Guillen was more of a headache than a leader. The latest fire sale could be seen from miles away. The blazes began with a blockbuster trade that could easily trump the monster move of 1998 that sent Sheffield, Bonilla, Charles Johnson and Jim Eisenreich to the Dodgers for Mike Piazza (traded to the Mets just months laters) and Todd Zeile. Miami showed its former colors, shipping Reyes, Buerhle, Josh Johnson and John Buck to the Toronto Blue Jays for practically peanuts. The trade, which actually followed another deal that landed Bell in Arizona, was Miami’s white flag. They clearly weren’t going to continue down the path that saw them finish dead last in the N.L. East in 2012.
The aftermath of this blockbuster trade could still pay off because Miami did get several of Toronto’s talented prospects. I believe otherwise, however, considering most analysts said Toronto gave up more of its prized pieces to the New York Mets just to obtain the aging R.A. Dickey. This offseason has truly been one to forget if you’re a Marlins fan and it hurts even worse after watching Hanley Ramirez get dealt to the Dodgers during the 2012 season. While it’s obvious that Miami is rebuilding, I seriously question the way they’re going about the tedious process.
Most teams that rebuild will at least keep some cornerstone pieces. It doesn’t appear the Marlins will do that as Giancarlo Stanton’s and Ricky Nolasco’s names have already appeared on the chopping block. If they’re traded before this year’s deadline, which is very likely, it would be safe to say that the Marlins are completely abandoning ship. I honestly believe those players won’t be in Miami for long and if that’s the case, all will be lost for this franchise trying to rebuild itself. It’s like the front office has given up, preparing for the worst.
The ones who suffer won’t be those team executives, but rather the fans, who have to watch this dismantling of the Marlins happen for a third time. One would think that if the franchise is going to disrespect its followers that at least they would make it look like they were trying to put together a winner. General Manager Michael Hill is no Billy Beane. He hasn’t been close to proving that he can make something from nothing. And this offseason was no exception as the Marlins have a whopping 73 players in their Spring Training camp.
From bad to worse
The sole reason I wrote this blog was to air my frustrations with teams that try to sell their opening day roster like like that of a contender’s.
The Miami Marlins’ opening day card is one of the worst I’ve seen in year’s past. To say the least, this team basically did nothing during the offseason and now expects fans to pay to see an, at best, subpar squad. Comparing last year’s opening day team to this year’s is close to sickening. Like last season, there’s plenty of new faces, but none to get excited about. There’s also some potential, but nothing like the anticipation of Stanton’s rise to stardom, which was the hype around Miami’s club just a few years ago. From the blockbuster deal and according to mlbdepthcharts.com, it appears just one player, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, will make the starting lineup. Some of the others could still crack into Miami’s one through nine as well as the team’s rotation, but it would likely take a good showing at Spring Training.
So with prospects aside, let’s take a look at the other newly acquired Marlins:
• Placido Polanco: Normally, I would just call Polanco washed up and move on, but there’s not much to move on to with this Miami team. Polanco is slated to bat second and play third base in what will be his 15th year at the big league level. Polanco used to have some value, winning a couple of gold glove awards and silver slugger honors all within the last five years. However, it’s clear that the 38-year-old should be a part-time infielder at best. Although he’s an above average defender still, Polanco really hasn’t been relevant since 2007, the last time and only time he was named an All-Star. So sure, if you’re the Miami Marlins, why not put him in your starting lineup? After all, it’s not like you’re in it to win it. If Miami is lucky, Polanco might hit .250 with two home runs and 40 RBIs.
• Juan Pierre: Another ex-Phillie that won’t provide much offense, Pierre still has a bit of speed in those old legs. But like Polanco, considering him a starter for any team is a complete joke. The 36-year-old speed specialist should be used for one thing and one thing only: pinch running. Alright, perhaps as a defensive substitution, but that’s it. Pierre is really tough to judge. It seems like his bat has found a little more life in the past few seasons as he has came close to career highs in RBI and home runs. It’s just really hard to believe a guy can become a better hitter with age. I guess we’ll find out during Pierre’s reunion tour with the Marlins this year.
• Chone Figgins: Is it just me or are all of Miami’s free agent pickups the same player? Here’s another guy who could be considered washed up, even more so than the two previously mentioned players. Figgins hasn’t made the team yet, landing just a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training from the Fish this offseason. But if for some wild reason this former hero who turned zero doesn’t make the Marlins’ opening day roster, we can all pretty much wave bye-bye to Figgins’ career. Simply put, Figgins is the definition of what could’ve been. Usually, teams tend to stay away from those types of players.
• Jon Rauch: This intimidating 6-foot-11 reliever was my favorite move of Miami’s offseason. Not only is he a somewhat consistent MLB setup man, he could also close for Miami if the Steven Cishek experiment turns out to be a bust. More or less, Rauch appeared in more games last year (73) than he had since he took the mound 88 times in 2007. Even better news for the Marlins is he had a decent ERA of 3.59, proving he belongs in the majors. It’s not exactly a good thing to claim Rauch as the veteran leader in your bullpen, but there’s been worse. For what it’s worth, I like him.
• Mike Redmond: The former Florida Marlins’ backup catcher is now set to become the team’s new manager, taking over for Guillen. Hey, if it is working in St. Louis with Mike Matheny at the helm, maybe it could in Miami. I predict that’s a pretty fat chance, however. Like some of his colleagues, I just don’t believe Redmond is an MLB-ready manager. The highest level he’s coached at is high class Single A. At second glance, though, both of those gigs were in the Blue Jays’ farm system, so he might be a little familiar with some of the team’s new faces. I hope he exceeds expectations and becomes the best manager to ever coach the game because I actually own an autographed Mike Redmond bat.