Some people seem to be very upset at the Marlins with their current fire sale, which has seen them ship off Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, and Hanley Ramirez. I can definitely see why-for a team that has a history of money-saving fire sales, this season looks like a return to form, especially after they spent all winter spending money to shed that image.
The thing is: I think they might have the right idea this time. Well, almost. First off, I think the Marlins absolutely misread their position this winter when they went on a spending spree. As I pointed out before the season, the Marlins had to make up 17 games on second place in their division from 2011. For all their additions, it didn’t quite add up to a 17-game jump. If they really wanted to make up that gap and sustain their performance into the future, getting one or two solid long-term building blocks would have helped.
That’s why the Sanchez trade is a perfect rebuilding move. The team gave up a pitcher who may or may not leave at the end of the year (and, even now, there’s nothing to stop the team from trying to resign him in the winter to help the team into the future) and a nice but not all-star middle infielder. Good parts, but nothing that’s going to get them into the playoffs this season. In return, they get a top-20 prospect with ace potential in Jacob Turner.
Those are exactly the types of moves that Miami should be making-2012 is lost, start building towards 2013. The NL East is now home to the Nationals and Braves, teams that look ready to make a several-year run, as well as the big-money Phillies. Getting an 85-win season just won’t cut it; you need to go for upside.
However, I did say it “might” be the right idea. The Hanley Ramirez trade looks less inspiring right now. The team appears to have given up on a former MVP-type player at an all-time low. There wasn’t even a huge rush to deal him, as he’s under contract through 2014. In the end, I can’t really say it looks awful, though. Maybe the team felt they had to deal Ramirez for attitude issues, or nagging injuries. Maybe they have some reason to believe that Ramirez will never again return to his peak performance, and that Nate Eovaldi is the most they would ever get out of him.
Eovaldi is by no means bad. He seems to be unanimously ranked as a top-100 prospect (usually in the 80-100 range, although he could improve). He may surpass expectations. Again, maybe the Marlins see something in him. There are many ways this could become a Marlins-win. Eovaldi could develop into a good pitcher while Ramirez continues to play at his current level. Even if Eovaldi never becomes great, if Ramirez only gets worse, at least the team freed up money.* But, if Hanley pulls it together in L.A. and rediscovers his all-star form, it calls into question the team’s thinking.
*Assuming, of course, that owner Jeffrey Loria will use this money on the team, which is a very fair question.
All in all, I’m not sure what to think of this team’s fire sale yet. The Anibal Sanchez trade is a classic smart move-trade the guy who may leave at the end of the year for someone who can likely help you down the road. The Hanley trade, though? I don’t know. I would have recommended waiting. There were still many solid parts on this team. If the guy isn’t a free agent after the year, why not wait and see if the bidding increases any? It’s not like they were risking not getting anything for him just yet.
The larger point is, it looks like the team is finally having a warranted fire-sale, and they’re getting criticized for it. They have absolutely brought that upon themselves with their past actions. Loria is possibly the worst owner in sports (and I only say maybe because I'm not sure if the other major sports leagues count any serial killers or drug kingpins or the like among their ownerships). It’s fair for the fans to question their motives. However, this is a little different than the past sell-offs. This may be the first time that the Marlins are actually rebuilding correctly.