Look, I’d be just as happy to kick Jeffrey Loria to the curb as the rest of you. I’m not going to slam him for all of the sliminess involving the Marlins ballpark deal because in those maneuverings, he’s basically just doing everything Bud Selig wants his owners to do. But, yeah, as far as MLB owners go, I think he’s the worst of the bunch.
That said, what should the Marlins be doing differently right now? They went for it, signing Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to big contracts, and they came up way short. Should they have tried to re-sign Anibal Sanchez to a four-year, $48 million deal and gone forward with the same bunch of guys who couldn’t get it done this year? It wouldn’t have made a lot of sense.
I don’t see this as nearly as disgusting as the Marlins’ previous fire sales. They tried their damnedest with Hanley Ramirez and it just didn’t look like it was going to work out. Trading him wasn’t all about saving money — if the reports are correct, they offered to pay $20 million of what he was still owed in order to get better prospects for the A’s — it was also about trying to build a team in which the pieces fit better than they may look on paper.
And it’s not like the Marlins have done any real damage with their spending. None of the contracts they gave out last winter established a new market for players. Six years and $106 million for Reyes? Someone else would have gone that high had the Marlins not moved so quickly. Four years and $58 million for Buehrle? That’s the deal that looked the most out of line at the time, but then, he made $56 million over the previous four years. Three years and $27 million for Bell? Of course, it looks like a bust now, but he had the track record. Maybe no other team would have gone three years at that rate, but he would have received at least $18 million for two years elsewhere.
Honestly, I think the Marlins are going about things the right way now. Given his history of arm problems and his status as one of the top three free agent pitchers available this winter, Sanchez was going to be a very risky signing. And as great as Ramirez was a few years ago, I’m not convinced he ever would have turned it around in Miami.
But with those two gone, the Marlins are facing their toughest decision; whether to trade Josh Johnson. If they keep him, they’re not going to be in bad position going into 2013. A rotation that includes Johnson, Buehrle and the newly acquired Nathan Eovaldi, along with probably either Ricky Nolasco or Carlos Zambrano andwith two premium youngsters on the way in Jacob Turner and Jose Fernandez looks pretty good. One of the Marlins’ biggest issues this year is that neither Giancarlo Stanton nor Logan Morrison has ever been 100 percent. Stanton still has MVP potential, and Morrison could break through offensively and prove more useful defensively at first base. If they use their savings this week to bring in a premium outfielder and a quality third baseman, they could pose a threat in the NL East.
Or they could continue down this path and sell Johnson. As difficult as he’d be to replace in free agency, it’d make a run in 2013 far less likely. On the other hand, they’d have the chance to continue to add to a farm system that entered 2012 as one of the game’s weakest and maybe bolster their chances for 2014 and beyond. I like the idea of retaining Johnson; the NL East should be winnable next year and the Marlins need to try to keep people interested in coming to their new ballpark. Still, if the Rangers are willing to offer a Hanley replacement in Mike Olt and a quality pitching prospect, it might be hard to turn down.