This is the latest in a series of posts in which UmpBump breaks down the cagey offseason moves and woeful offseason blunders for all 30 major-league teams

The Marlins only really made one move this offseason, but it was a huge one, shipping Dontrelle Willis AND Miguel Cabrera in the same deal to the Detroit Tigers for prospects Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz, and Dallas Trahern, and Mike Rabelo.

cameronmaybin01.jpgThe deal has been talked about for months as one of the best trades made in years, but of course everyone means from the Tigers’ perspective. From the Marlins’ perspective, this is an abominable trade, so bad you almost feel like Marlins fans should be able to sue the team for some sort of breach of fiduciary duties.

First of all, there is the overwhelming feeling you get that the Marlins would almost certainly have gotten far more in return if they had traded Willis and Cabrera in separate deals, most likely to two separate teams. Both were marquee names, both could have been expected to have a large market, and Miguel Cabrera is probably one of the 5 best players in the entire game right now. The only two words that could adequately describe the feeling around the baseball world when word came down that both players had been traded to a single team in the same deal was, “absolute shock”

Second of all, is the players the Marlins actually got in return. Centerfielder Cameron Maybin and lefty starting pitcher Andrew Miller were supposed to be the centerpieces of this deal, but both players are still extremely raw, and if the Marlins have any sense they will start them both at Double-A this year (note: it is unclear whether the Marlins have any sense). I mean, if these were dominant Triple-A players on the verge of major-league stardom, then that would be one thing, but there is a lot that players have left to learn if they are going to make the show from Double-A, so while Maybin and Miller have upside and projectability, they are as of yet nobody’s idea of “can’t miss.” Meanwhile, the other three pitchers are all C-grade prospects, and catcher Mike Rabelo is nobody’s idea of a prospect at all.

But thirdly, and this is where my own opinion comes in, above and beyond the general consensus that this was a bad deal by the Marlins, I can’t help thinking that what makes this deal so shameful and regrettable is that the Marlins actually had a pretty good shot to contend this year, with just a few moves.

What’s that, I hear you saying. Did he just say that the Marlins could have contended this season?

hanleyramirez01.jpgWell, yeah, actually. I’m sure the Marlins front office probably looked at their 71 wins last year and decided this team had no hope, and that they might as well shave an extra few million bucks off their payroll by dumping Willis and Cabrera. But I submit to you that if they had kept Willis and Cabrera, who are still relatively cheap, the Marlins would really only have been a few players away from being a serious menace in the NL East.

For one thing, the Marlins have a lineup stacked with young players making the major league minimum who are all still on the upswing side of their young careers. Second, the Marlins could have easily improved their defense dramatically, with a few moves. Last year, Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, and Miguel Cabrera were woeful defensively at their respective positions. But if you simply moved Cabrera to first, Uggla to third, Ramirez to second, and found even an average defensive shortstop, you would suddenly have a vastly improved infield defense.

Thirdly, the only real hole in the Marlins’ lineup last season was in centerfield, which was exactly the position with the most free agents to choose from this offseason. The Marlins may not have been too inclined to jump into the Torii Hunter or Aaron Rowand sweepstakes, but with only a $30 million payroll last year, they easily could have afforded to go after Mike Cameron. And an even better idea would have been to make a trade for Boston’s Coco Crisp.

joshwillingham01.JPGWith a powerful young lineup headlined by Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Josh Willingham, and Jeremy Hermida, the Marlins would have put up a ton of runs, and a promising young rotation led by Willis (who was bound to improve on a down year) would have benefited greatly from an improved defense. Meanwhile, the Marlins bullpen is actually a secret source of strength: now that last years disasters Armando Benitez and Jorge Julio have been shown the way to the exit, the pen can be fully turned over to respectable closer Kevin Gregg (3.54, 32 SV), and extremely promising young arms Lee Gardiner (1.94 ERA last year), Henry Owens (1.96), Matt Lindstrom (3.04), Justin Miller (3.65), Renyel Pinto (3.68), and closer-in-training Taylor Tankersley (3.99).

So by my count, all the Marlins would have needed to do this offseason to field a very competitive team this offseason would have been to acquire a centerfielder, a cheap defensive-oriented shortstop (such as Cesar Izturis or Adam Everett), and a reliable 5th starter who could eat innings while Rick Vanden Hurk develops a bit more polish and Anibel Sanchez heals from surgery (Livan Hernandez?). Also, they should have resigned starting catcher Miguel Olivo, who doesn’t walk enough, but is strong defensively and has some good power, and would have only cost a few million at most (he wound up signing a one-year deal with the Royals). That is literally all they would have needed, as the lineup, rotation and bulpen would have been totally set everywhere else, and set with young players who are actually good, and pretty much all have upside left.

Of course, enacting this plan would have required that the Marlins actually care about winning anymore, rather than just whining about having no stadium deal. But clearly, winning is not a priority.

Offseason Grade: F

Additions: Luis Gonzalez, Mark Hendrickson, Dallas McPherson, Mike Rabelo, Andrew Miller, Cameron Maybin

Losses: Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Olivo, Armando Benitez, Aaron Boone, Byung-Hyun Kim, Joe Borchard, Wes Obermueller

Projected Lineup, Rotation, and Closer:

SS Hanley Ramirez – .332/.386/.562, 51 SB

2B Dan Uggla – .245/.326/.479, 31 HR

RF Jeremy Hermida – .296/.369/.501, 18 HR

LF Josh Willingham – .265/.364/.463, 21 HR

1B Mike Jacobs – .265/.317/.458, 17 HR

3B Dallas McPherson – .261/.298/.478

CF Alfredo Amezaga – .263/.324/.358

C Mike Rabelo – .256/.300/.357

LHP Scott Olson – 10-14, 5.81

RHP Sergio Mitre – 5-8, 4.65

RHP Ricky Nolasco – 1-2, 5.48

LHP Andrew Miller – 5-5, 5.63

LHP Mark Hendrickson – 4-8, 5.21

CL Kevin Gregg – 3.54, 32 SV

Hot Offseason Action Index

13 Responses to “Hot Offseason Action: Florida Marlins”

  1. Sarah Green says:

    I’m not surprised Wade “Look Ma, I hit another single!” Boggs is way down at the bottom of the list.

    Stupid Boggs.

  2. Sarah Green says:

    Nick, your conclusions raise more questions about whether the Marlins are actually using the funds they receive in revenue sharing to “improve performance on the field.” Obviously, they can be profitable even without winning, so they feel no need to even try. LAME.

  3. I wonder if the Marlins would have had the starting pitching to contend this season. I look at that rotation and see a guy with a 5.00 ERA at the top and … well … I’m sure Dontrell Willis would have helped, but not that much.

    The Marlins set franchise records for hits, runs and home runs last season, but still finished 71-91. So the problem was and remains pitching.

  4. I agree with the above poster. I\’m not sure they had enough starting pitching to contend but they could have be in the 70-80 win window. Now they look to be in the 50 game window.

  5. Nick Kapur says:

    That’s a good point, Coley. I agree that pitching, and especially the starters, as you point out, would still be the weak spot.

    But I really do think the Marlins could have contended. And by contend, I mean, be a good bet to win 85 games, with a chance to win more games if some balls bounced the right way.

    Part of my reasoning is that although the Marlins pen was bad overall last year, once they got it figured out it was quite awesome at the end, and going this year they already have a full 7-man bullpen of the young guns that I mentioned, who can all be reasonable expected to post an ERA in the 3’s or maybe even better. And having a great bullpen is key to winning the one-run games which can help a team beat its pythagorean record.

    But I also don’t think the rotation would have been that bad, if the Marlins had kept Dontrelle Willis (who certainly is not going to have an ERA over 5 again this year). Especially if they added an extra pitcher as I suggested, and playing in front of the vastly improved defense that I proposed.

  6. D-Train ran off the tracks last year. Why are there expectations for him to recover significantly? I didn’t think he was a ground ball pitcher, so even with the woeful defense, he should’ve been alright.

    I agree that the Marlins made out poorly in that trade. They probably could’ve gotten all those prospects just with Miggy.

  7. Nick Kapur says:

    Rich, the reason people expect Dontrelle Willis to rebound this season is because his peripherals would have predicted an ERA much lower than the 5.17 ERA he actually had. All the defense-independent ERA stats I’ve seen had his “actual” ERA somewhere in the high 3’s. For what it’s worth, all the projections have his ERA for this upcoming season in the low to mid 4’s…

    ZiPS – 4.34

    PECOTA – 4.55

    Bill James – 4.22

    CHONE – 4.50

    Marcel – 4.43

  8. Sarah Green says:

    Nick, I think the one weakness with your improved-defense plan is that it has so many guys learning new positions all at once. To have most of the infield adjusting to new roles might have been a real defensive challenge, at least over the first half of the season. But of course, we will never know, because the Marlins FO is so lame.

  9. Surprised no one here has stated the obvious: The Marlins have one of the greediest, rich slimeball owners in baseball. Jeffrey Loria is the guy who fired Joe Girardi the year after he won NL Magaer of the year.

    This is the guy who had a fire sale right after their World Series win. He personally designed the world Series rings for the players, which turned out to be the gaudiest, most expensive championship rings of all time.

    This is the guy who thought he could make baseball a roaring success in Montreal and then when he realized that Les Expos could never garner enough support for a new stadium, went whining to Bud selig and the other 29 owners to bail him out. (Which they did – Loria effectively traded les Expos for the Marlins plus $38M due over time in the form of a no-interest loan from MLB.) Instead of moving the Expos himself, he stuck MLB with the team and they moved them.

    Now this is the same guy who is again threatening to move if he doesn’t get a new stadium. He’s a whiney brat; an art dealer/owner instead of a baseball guy. If they ever compete it won’t because of any contribution of that he makes.

  10. Sarah Green says:

    It looks like Peter Angelos may have a rival after all…

  11. If they ever compete? Danny? Really? They\\\’ve won TWO World Series championships since the last O\\\’s championship (and the last time the O\\\’s won a championship was years before the Marlins got started). I\\\’m not going to defend Loria, but let\\\’s not pretend he hasn\\\’t had any success.

  12. Coley, should have worded that last sentence differently. Loria has proved that he is capable of buying a championship every now and then, and then sticking it to the fans by selling off the team. I just think his conduct is that of a greedy slimeball.

    Also, their first championship was under the ownership of Wayne Huizenga.

  13. I mean to say that I should have worded the last sentence of my first comment differently.

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