Miami Marlins ship away future and fans with fire sale trades
Good news for Miami Marlins fans with agoraphobia – you should be able to attend games next season without triggering your fear of crowded places.
However, if you’re a Marlins fans with hopes for a stable team and a chance of winning, well, sorry about your luck.
Future was rosy for Marlins in March
It’s hard to believe how much has changed in Miami in less than a year. Heading into Spring Training you couldn’t find rosier predictions than those made for the Marlins.
They had built a beautiful new stadium. They’d hired Ozzie Guillen as manager, a proven winner and someone who would fit in spectacularly with the large Caribbean fan base. They changed their name from Florida Marlins to Miami Marlins.
They’d stunned the baseball world by signing big-name free agents. Heath Bell. Mark Buerhle, Jose Reyes. They almost landed Albert Pujols. They traded for volatile but potential Cy Young candidate Carlos Zambrano.
The Marlins were adding those players to a team that already had near superstars in Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson, budding superstars Giancarlo Stanton (who, like his team, changed his first name prior to the season) and Logan Morrison, and former Rookie of the Year Chris Coughlan and former no-hitter pitcher Anibal Sanchez.
They got to play in a division where Philadelphia was dealing with some key injuries, Atlanta had been scuffling and New York was awful. Their biggest competition looked to be Washington and, well, Washington was Washington, so not much of a threat.
The excitement was so high that the makers of The Franchise documentary series decided to feature them for 2012.
It seemed perfectly reasonable to expect the Marlins to bring another World Series trophy to south Florida.
Season takes a U-turn
Unfortunately, no one handed the trophy to them in March and they actually had to play the season. Things unraveled quicker than a 99 cent Wal-Mart baseball.
Guillen started talking, as he always does, and somehow ended up praising a dictator most south Floridians despised. After recovering from that flap, the Marlins played great baseball. They had a 21-8 record in May, putting them at 29-22 overall and in good position to make a strong run at the top.
But someone pushed the down button on their elevator. Perhaps more accurately, someone cut the cable holding the elevator. The plunge was dramatic.
The Marlins went 8-18 in June, 10-16 in July, 12-17 in August, 8-19 in September. The only other winning month they had was October, at 2-1.
That left them with a 69-93 record for the season. They barely won a third of their games after May (40-71, .360).
Hanley Ramirez never seemed to adjust to the move to third base. Jose Reyes struggled early in the season, although he came on strong later as the rest of the team flopped. Heath Bell pitched like Ma Bell. Josh Johnson and Carlos Zambrano struggled and Mark Buehrle was up and down, as his 13-13 final record indicates. Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison appeared fragile as China dolls and missed big chunks of the season.
Marlins take usual route of trading everyone
In a last-ditch effort to salvage the season the Marlins sent two minor leaguers to Houston for aging slugger Carlos Lee, but he struggled to keep his slugging percentage (.325) above his weight (optimistically reported at 270).
When that failed, Miami began to do what it did in the past after winning the World Series – trade away players with the fervor of a priest casting out demons. Ramirez went to the Dodgers for a minor leaguer and vowel-laden pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. They traded Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers, who already had benefited from previous Miami fire sales, for three players you’ve never heard of and some draft picks.
When the season ended, the Marlins kicked into high gear. They traded Bell to Arizona for a minor leaguer. They granted Zambrano free agency. And now they have almost finalized a deal that will send Reyes, Johnson, Buehrle, catcher John Buck and outfielder-infielder Emilio Bonifacio to Toronto for a bag of broken bats and pop-up toaster.
That last phrase I stole for an old book about baseball cards, but the sentiment from the viewpoint of Marlins’ fans probably isn’t far off. The Blue Jays are parting with shortstop Yunel Escobar, backup catcher Jeff Mathis and four prospects.
So the Marlins, in one fell swoop, traded three of their everyday starters and the top two in their pitching rotation for players that might be good someday. That pop-up toaster doesn’t sound so bad after all.
Cabrera trade for prospects didn't work out well
Maybe it won’t be so bad, if the prospects pan out. But let’s take a look at another blockbuster trade the Marlins made for prospects and see how well that turned out for them.
In December 2007 they traded Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for prospects Dallas Trahern, Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and Mike Rabelo. Not one of them was involved with the Marlins in 2012.
De La Cruz and Rabelo pitched one season for the Marlins, Miller for three and Badenhop for four. Maybin saw limited outfield action in three seasons. Trahern never made it to the majors. As far as I can tell, Trahern, De La Cruz and Rabelo are out of baseball now.
Badenhop was traded to the Rays for Double A player Jake Jeffries. Miller was traded to the Red Sox for Dustin Richardson, who the Marlins let go on waivers. Maybin was traded to San Diego for Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb. They then traded Mujica to the Cardinals for minor league third baseman Zack Cox. Webb pitched 65 games for the Marlins in 2012, mostly in middle relief.
So, out of trade for Cabrera and Willis, the Marlins have ended up with a middle relief pitcher, a top prospect in Cox who struggled at Triple A and was sent back to Double A, and another minor leaguer who isn’t listed among their Top 20 prospects. Along the way they received marginal input from Miller and Badenhop. I’d say that even with dismal performance by Willis, the Tigers came out way, way ahead in this deal.
Marlins owner continues his previous trends
Perhaps this trade will be different. Three of the players coming to the Marlins were Top 20 prospects in the Blue Jays’ system. But given the Marlins’ track record, if any of them prove themselves to be legitimate major leaguers, they’ll send them packing as well for other prospects.
It’s sad that baseball allows the Marlins to act this way. In a year or so owner Jeffrey Loria will be whining about the fact that they don’t draw any fans. He used the same slash-and-burn tactics in Montreal and made a tidy profit when he sold the team to Major League baseball, which moved them to Washington.
Teams like Marlins, not big spenders, ruin baseball for fans
Some writers and fans like to blame the Yankees or Red Sox or Phillies or, lately, the Dodgers, for ruining baseball by spending so much money on their teams. But at least they are trying to give their fans winning teams.
It’s teams like the Marlins, who constantly put an inferior product on the field in order to put more cash in the owners’ pockets, who really wreck the game for fans. What kind of fan turnout can the Marlins expect for 2013? Why should fans show any loyalty to a team that trades away nearly its entire starting lineup and pitching rotation only to replace them with players who probably don’t belong at Triple A yet, let alone the majors?
It seems as if the Marlin not only traded their players, but have traded away any hope of having a fan base as well.
My guess is that highlights from Miami next season will show lots of empty seats. Assuming, of course, that the Marlins offer any highlights at all in 2013.