The Miami Marlins have a number of problems remaining on their roster now that the ravages of the mega-deal with the Toronto Blue Jays have settled. Gone are shortstop Jose Reyes and starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, along with two other pieces who would have played roles on the 2013 squad. In their place are a number of prospects and three major leaguers who should see playing time on the roster next season as the team rebuilds following a disastrous 2012 campaign and an equally disastrous fire sale trade.
Here at Fish Stripes, we focused a lot last week on what happened to the Marlins in this trade and how their future will be impaired as a result of this move. But the ramifications of the trade from a 2013 baseball perspective have yet to be discussed in detail. The Marlins lost a good number of players, and some of their replacements have already arrived via the trade. So the question as the team faces a dark future ahead of them is what is left of the Marlins' roster as the team moves to an ugly 2013 season?
Catcher was one of the few positions that was left in decent hands heading into 2013. Incumbent Rob Brantly, a savvy acquisition from the Detroit Tigers trade that sent Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers, was all set to take over the job on a full-time basis with a pseudo-platoon with John Buck. Now Buck is out of the picture, as the Marlins traded away his $6 million salary in return for Jeff Mathis's two-year contract worth only $3 million. While Brantly remains the primary starter, there is almost no doubt that the magical allure of Jeff Mathis and his seemingly awful play should cut into Brantly's playing time more than the average backup.
Still, Mathis is coming into 2013 as the obvious backup, and Brantly's future following a good debut in 2012 seems relatively bright. The Marlins are focused enough on the future to feature the youngster Brantly, so even if Mathis cuts into more playing time than a backup should, he should not stink up the joint like he had in years past with the Los Angeles Angels. Catcher may ironically be among the most secure positions on the team in 2013.
After the mass exodus of players, the first base job is now Logan Morrison's to lose. When Morrison arrived in 2010, it seemed like he was going to be an important part of the team's future, but as the years have progressed, his importance has diminished along with his play. The 2013 season is going to be a make-or-break year for Morrison as a result. Rumors have already swirled that he is being shopped in the trade market, but with him having a final pre-arbitration season remaining, it seems more likely that the Marlins will keep him and allow him a season to bounce back before possibly trading him at a better value.
Now that the team is lacking at first base, Morrison will finally get to man his true position. On the positive side, this should help his defense and his health, and hopefully that translates to a better offensive year. If, however, he struggles for a third straight season, you can expect the Marlins to cut ties with him as well by the end of next year.
The Marlins previously had what was perceived as a hole at second base, with Donovan Solano likely to be filling that role in 2013. Solano will still man the position this year, but now it seems like that is a position of stability compared to the madness that occurred with the rest of the team this season. While Solano may be better fit for a utility role, he will be left to prove that his 2012 season was not a fluke and that he can be close to a league average player this year. However, everything in his minor league record shows that that result is not likely.
Unfortunately for the Fish, the trade of Emilio Bonifacio took away any remaining depth the team had in the middle infield, leaving the Fish with only Solano to man second base. In return, the Marlins did acquire two other infielders to fill their other holes, but it still leaves Solano as the stopgap option at second base.
The Marlins traded Emilio Bonifacio, the overwhelming likely candidate to take over third base, but they replaced him with a player who usually mans shortstop. Since the Marlins acquired both Adeiny Hechavarria and Yunel Escobar from the Blue Jays, one of the two were likely going to move to either second or third base, and the Marlins have already made it clear that it will be Escobar who will move to third base if he remains on the roster by Opening Day. Escobar was always a capable shortstop, but the move to a new position is not always an easy one. In addition, there are still questions about whether Escobar's bat can handle being moved from a more scarce position to a more easily replaceable one. Over the last three seasons, Escobar has managed a batting line that is eight percent worse than the league average, and that was with one good season mixed in with two terrible years at the plate.
That presumes that Escobar will even be around by that time. He will be making $5 million in 2013 with club options for $5 million in 2014 and 2015, making him an attractive trade chip even considering his questionable character issues and recent struggles. Teams looking for shortstops may be interested in a player on the cheap with bounce back potential, so the Marlins may forego using him at all in a Fish uniform and instead trade him for more future youth and potential.
The other infielder the Marlins acquired in the trade is Adeiny Hechavarria, and the Fish have mentioned that he will take over the shortstop position in 2013. The team's shortstops have not been as defensively talented as Hechavarria since the days of Alex Gonzalez, but they may also not been as offensively challenged as they were in those times as well. Like Gonzalez before him, Hechavarria has an elite reputation with the glove, but it is the only thing that holds value in his game. He is a career .272/.314/.382 hitter in the minors who has only recently shown flashes on offense, and he still lacks the plate discipline necessary to succeed as a hitter in the majors. For his career, Hechavarria has struck out in 16.1 percent of his plate appearances and walked in only 5.7 percent of them.
Still, he has some promising numbers in his last stop in Triple-A Las Vegas. While his .312/.363/.424 line looks impressive, it was only six percent better than the league average that year. Still, six percent better than average would still be extremely impressive for a glove-heavy shortstop, so if the Marlins get something close to five percent below the league average, they would be more than happy with his performance. But with his plate discipline as shot as it is, it is still a long shot that he becomes a competent major league bat.
The Marlins' infield situation looks scattered at the moment, with the team depending on a prospect and a bounce back candidate to deliver where once an All-Star caliber player played. Still, the Marlins threw out a collection of nobodies at third base last season, and as of right now, they at least have a major leaguer at the position. The situation is considerably worse than before, but it is on the order of two to three wins worse rather than the catastrophe that it initially seemed to be.