Marlins braintrust

You can’t fault the Miami Marlins for not trying this winter

After the Miami Marlins signed Giancarlo Stanton to a monstrous 13-year, $325 million contract extension earlier this winter, the team’s braintrust vowed to surround Stanton with a winning team in 2015 and beyond. The days of Miami being the primary farm team for the rest of baseball were over – this was going to be a team that would strive to win championships. At least, that was the sentiment shared by owner Jeffrey Loria, GM Dan Jennings, and president David Samson.

Details of Stanton’s extension began to leak out nearly a month ago. And since that extension was agreed to, the Miami Marlins are sticking to their public statements – they’re trying to build a winning team in 2015 and beyond. I don’t know how successful they’ll be, but at least the team is trying. Here are the significant moves made by the Marlins since inking Stanton long-term.

-Traded Brian Flynn and Reid Redman to Royals for Aaron Crow
-Traded Anthony DeSclafani and Chad Wallach to Reds for Mat Latos
-Traded Austin Barnes, Chris Hatcher, Andrew Heaney, and Kike Hernandez to Dodgers for Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, and Miguel Rojas
-Traded Dan Jennings to White Sox for Andre Rienzo
-Reportedly agreed to a two-year contract with Michael Morse

None of those four trades could be considered a salary dump. In fact, for the mostpart, they’re the opposite – Miami is trading prospects and young talent for veterans. They’re legitimately trying to make themselves better next season.

Now, how much better will they be? That’s debatable.

Crow was worth -0.9 fWAR in 2014 with the Royals, pitching to a career-worst 4.12 ERA in 59 innings. He’ll essentially replace Jennings in Miami’s bullpen after the Rienzo trade two weeks later. Jennings had a sterling 1.34 ERA in 40 1/3 innings, but was worth just 0.1 fWAR thanks to some underwhelming peripherals.

Following the acquisitions of starting pitchers Latos and Haren, Miami suddenly has a wealth of starting pitching with Nate Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, Tom Koehler, and Jarred Cosart all returning from 2014, not to mention Jose Fernandez, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. But Haren might retire instead of pitching with the Marlins next year, robbing Miami of some of their depth in the rotation. The Marlins could also consider flipping Haren to a club on the west coast to placate him and turn him into another asset as opposed to just a write off. If Haren does opt to pitch with the Marlins in 2015, Miami could look to move Cosart to the bullpen or flip one of their other starters – Eovaldi is the most popular name mentioned.

A lot of people weren’t too enamored with Miami’s acquisition of Gordon, given his steep decline in the second half. But remember, the Marlins didn’t exactly get much production from the position all season – the club’s second basemen cumulatively hit .236/.303/.334 in 2014, and turned in some very rough defensive numbers as well. Gordon’s .284/.300/.348 line in the second half doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence, but it’s superior to what the Marlins got from the position all year. When you consider that Miami is also getting the $10 million owed to Haren and the (roughly) $2.5 million owed to Gordon in 2015 from the Dodgers in this trade, they’re making out even better.

And that brings me to Morse, the club’s latest acquisition. His salary over the two year deal is rumored to be just $16 million plus incentives, a more than fair number for him, especially considering that Miami won’t be using him in the outfield at all. In 2014 with the Giants, Morse was just a one win player, but he hit .279/.336/.475 with 16 homers in just 482 plate appearances. He’ll more than likely be taking the spot at first base from Garrett Jones, who hit just .246/.309/.411 a year ago. Going from Jones to Morse improves the Marlins’ starting lineup, even if it’s only by a win or two.

So we’re looking at a Miami team that has upgraded the right side of their infield and strengthened the back-end of their rotation. Fangraphs is pessimistic about the club, projecting them at a total of 28.4 WAR (excluding Morse) – that would be good for second in the NL East, but still in the bottom ten teams in all of baseball. But hey, that’s why preseason predictions are only predictions and not fact – the Chicago White Sox are the team that ranks right above the Marlins in projected 2015 WAR, and they’ve had a fabulous offseason. The Boston Red Sox are projected to generate the most WAR in all of baseball, despite losing 91 games last year. The World Champion Giants lost Morse and Pablo Sandoval, and have a lower projected WAR than the Rockies. Baseball is a crap shoot – a lot can happen.

Quite frankly, I don’t think the Marlins are a playoff team in 2015 – the NL Central is going to be a meat grinder and will probably generate two Wild Cards, while the NL East is a dumpster fire that the Nationals should run away with. But all things considered, the Miami Marlins have stuck by the promises they made a year ago – they’ve tried to improve their team and surround Stanton with a winner. They may not have necessarily succeeded, but that press conference a month ago wasn’t for show. And when it comes to the Marlins, simply sticking to the plan and telling the truth is a step up from what we’ve seen in prior years.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.