Monday, July 23, 2012

Marlins Make Trade

ESPN is reporting that the Marlins have traded Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers for 3 minor league prospects. One of those prospects is Jacob Turner, The top rated prospect in the Tigers system according to Keith Law. Turner is a power pitcher who projects no worse the a number 3 or 4 starter but as recently as last year had top of the rotation stuff. The Marlins also picked up catcher Rob Brantly and left handed pitcher Brian Flynn. Law projects Flynn to be a reliever and Brantly still has some work to do with a plus arm but below average receiving ability.

Here is my take: I love the trade. Anibal was heading into free agency and was going to cost to much for someone with tantalizing talent but a history of injury and a lack of consistency. Wade LeBlanc has pitched fantastically this year and really has deserved to get a spot in the rotation, I don't think the rotation will miss a beat with LeBlanc getting the start. I like Omar Infante but we already have an Omar clone in Donvan Solano. By giving up these guys we got a top 30 prospect in Turner. basically we got Anibal with more upside and much cheaper for next year. I like the fact that Loria and Samson have faced the music that the Marlins have just not been able to play up to their potential this year. I think it is better to try and reload for next year.

What do you guys think?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Buyers or Sellers

The Marlins wrapped up their short road trip on a low note, dropping the finale to the Pirates and finishing the trip 1-5. To be fair the Pirates and the Cubs have been surging lately but the trip just served as a reminder to the Marlins just how far they have to go. A lack of timely hitting has doomed the Marlins this year and the Marlins brass has to be asking themselves what the next step is going to be. At 11.5 games behind the division leading Washington Nationals and 8 games out of the 2 wild card spots, it would take an amazing run over the next couple of months to have a chance at the playoffs. I for one, would be ok with being sellers at this deadline. There are a couple of reasons why I think it would be a good idea to sell right now.

1. There are not enough sellers right now.

With the addition of the second wild card, 15 teams are less then 8 games away from the playoffs currently. this leaves 9 total teams that are possible sellers, much less then in years past.

There was also a change to the rules this year with compensation from players leaving. In years past, if you traded a player in midseason you still received a compensatory draft pick of equal value for that player leaving. With the new collective bargaining agreement, that player must leave via free agency at the end of the year to receive that draft pick. This is causing teams to rethink the wisdom of trading players midseason. This is precisely why I believe we should. It is a simple case of supply and demand. I think there is less options for teams that are buyers, and many more teams are buyers then usual. I think they can get more value.

2. There are some substantial shortcomings that need to be addressed.

With the new park we are learning that in order to be effective on defense you must have speed in the outfield. I think they are fine in right and center fields, but left field is a struggle with Logan Morrison. He really is a converted first baseman but that conversion has not gone smoothly. His hitting really hasn't made up for his defensive ineffectiveness.

The bullpen also needs some work. The struggles of Heath Bell have been well chronicled and is the most obvious need.

With Carlos Lee in the final year of his contract there is some definite uncertainty at first base. If Gaby Sanchez had performed at the same level as last year, he would not be included in this discussion, but right now Gaby is in triple A trying to regain his swing.

3. The minor league system needs some replenishing

In the last couple of years the Marlins have called up the top talent from their farm system. Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez, and Giancarlo Stanton have all made the transition to the big leagues. By acquiring Carlos Lee, the Marlins gave up two of their more ready prospects. As a matter of fact with only 2 real major league prospects in Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez, they could use a talent infusion that could help them out in the next 2 years.

It might not be a bad idea for the Marlins to look at setting themselves up to make a solid run at the playoffs next year. The best way to get there may be to give up some of the more established pieces of their roster now, in exchange for next year's lineup.

An Inning To Forget

The Marlins keep finding new ways to lose.

Undone by a brutal 4th inning which saw 8 consecutive batters come to the plate and 4 runs score without even recording an official at-bat, the Marlins lost 5-1. Through a myriad of walks, sacrifices, and errors, Saturday's 4th inning could be the worst in a long line of disastrous innings the Marlins have experienced this year.

The knee-jerk reaction would be to place blame on Carlos Zambrano for the loss, however, I am firmly entrenched in Big Z's corner right now. Keep in mind that Zambrano came over in the trade for Chris Volstad before the season. Zambrano has certainly performed better then Volstad and also brings more upside to the table. A lot of teams would dream of having a 5th starter in their rotation with as much potential as Carlos. He has gone through a string of rough outings but his play over his first 11 starts has been outstanding for a 5th starter.

The lone run for the Marlins came on a Justin Ruggiano solo homerun in the second. This allows us to talk about one of the few bright spots for the Marlins this year. Ruggiano has been nothing short of spectacular this season. He got his chance to play everyday when Bonifacio was injured and he has made it impossible for Guillen to not play him on a regular basis. Ruggiano has been a journeyman minor league player who has constantly found himself trapped behind entrenched major leaguer's in front of him. To say he has made the most of his first real opportunity would be an understatement. The question remains what will happen when Giancarlo Stanton comes back from knee surgery and resumes his patrol in right field. I would anticipate a righty/lefty platoon in left field with Logan Morrison but with the way Ruggiano is swinging the bat, he might be supplanting Morrison before long. Certainly Ruggiano would provide better defense then Morrison which is imperative considering the size of left field in Marlin's Park. Either way, Ruggiano continues to make his impact felt in a positive way for the Marlins this year.

Friday, July 20, 2012

So Close, Yet So Far


Hanley Ramirez was a last minute scratch due to the infection from a cut that he sustained when he punched a fan before the all-star break. To be fair, it was that or Ozzie was going to punch him. Hanley has been one of the most disappointing players of the first half. The irony is that coming into the season, everyone was most concerned about his defense at 3rd base. As a lifelong shortstop most thought that there would be a transitional period for him. Hanley hit the ground running and other then being lackadaisical with a few throws, he has fielded quite well. Unfortunately he forgot to take his bat with him and particularly in away games he has struggled. No one thought that his bat would be the downfall of his season but so far it has been atrocious. His numbers with runners in scoring position are among the worst in the league. There are some rumors currently circulating that could have Hanley heading to Boston in exchange for Carl Crawford. The question is, does Hanley need a change of scenery?

The Marlins started out by playing the game the way they had spoken of early in the year. It was great to see Jose Reyes hit a lead off homer but what was even better was watching Emilio Bonifacio get a hit, steal two bases and then score on a groundball out from Carlos Lee. It seemed as if we had hit our stride when Nolasco laid down a beautiful bunt and Omar Infante came racing home to score on the squeeze. Infante always surprises people with his speed, and that combined with his intelligent base running is a definite weapon. This is the way the Marlins are supposed to play!

Miami hung in there and reached the 9th inning down by one. When Omar Infante reached 3rd on an Austin Kearns pinch hit single with only one out, it was looking as if a tie game would be more then likely, particularly with Jose Reyes coming up to hit. After successfully executing a squeeze play with a pitcher who looked about as comfortable bunting as dugout fans around Hanley Ramirez, it seemed a no-brainer to have one of the best bunters on the team drag a bunt, score a run, and move the winning run into scoring position. Who knows, maybe Reyes would even get a hit out of it. Instead Ozzie has Reyes swing away and he goes down with a strikeout. Bonifacio followed that performance up with a strikeout of his own. Game over.

Why not play small ball Ozzie? It had worked for you twice already in the game. That was your big chance to change the mindset of this team and let them know that the little things matter when playing baseball. Instead the end result is another loss.

The Beginning

I was born in 1983 in south Florida. I grew up surrounded by baseball. I would race home and turn on WGN and watch the Cubs every single day after school. Ryne Sandberg was my favorite player but I loved all of them, Mark Grace, Shawn Dunston, Andre The Hawk Dawson. I was hooked from a young age. When the expansion Marlins began in 1993, I finally had a home town team. I still rooted for The Cubbies but I felt like the Marlins were a part of me. Watching Charlie Hough throw knuckleballs and Chuck Carr steal bases I knew that I had found my team. Granted they were no where near as talented as the Cubs at that time, but they were lovable all the same.

Then 1997 happened. After struggling through the first few years, Wayne Huizenga went on a spending spree and purchased a team that brought home a World Series ring. Even though it was players that I had not yet grown to love, it was nevertheless a whirl-wind romance. Just 5 years into existence I had tasted the beginning of many more to come. It all happened so fast. before we could even brag about being champions, the team was gone. It was almost embarrassing to even say "defending World Champs". By the time everything was said and done we had lost seemingly everyone. Even our owner had abandoned us.

The positive from this fire sale was the prospects that we acquired. in 2003, with new owner Jeffrey Lorria at the helm, our prospects made good on their talent. Lead by Josh Beckett we managed to sneak by the Cubs and pull the upset over the heavily favored Yankees. Unfortunately deja-vu reared its ugly head. We found ourselves with to many talented players and not enough money to keep them. We traded away our nucleus for more prospects and once again drifted back to the bottom of the National League East. For years it had been difficult to watch the Marlins in person. Between the oppressive heat and humidity, and the unpredictable thunderstorms, it was a war of attrition to head to Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Park, or whatever they had decided to call it that year.

Everything changed in 2012. The Marlins went through a facelift that would prove them to be unrecognizable. They changed their name, they changed their uniforms, built an incredible new stadium (with retractable roof!) and became big spenders, bringing some of the top names in free agency. Finally excitement about baseball was brewing in South Florida. Not having to worry about extreme weather any longer, the fans came out in droves. It seems like the only people that forgot to show up were the players themselves. After what many would call a disastrous first half of baseball, the Marlins found themselves 3 games under .500 at the all-star break. They were struggling on multiple fronts. Their new high priced closer, Heath Bell, was struggling to get outs. Their all-star's weren't hitting. They were leaving way to many people on base. Manager Ozzie Guillen was beyond frustrated. That is where we will join them today. I will be chronicling the Marlins through the second half of the year and beyond. This will be opinion based, and while I am an optimist at heart, I will also strive to call it like I see it. If nothing else this will be cathartic for me as I watch on a daily basis, my Miami Marlins