The Miami Marlins have been left barren following their mega-trade with the Toronto Blue Jays that cleared a lot of salary and sent away Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle among others. The Fish had a number of problems before the roster was depleted by the trade, and these issues were clearly further escalated by the trade. The Marlins' infield was discussed earlier, and the major overhaul left the roster down two to three wins overall from last season's setup. But in the outfield, the Marlins remain relatively similar, with a free agent signing replacing one of the gaps that was created in dealing a versatile player from the team.
The Marlins had a definite hole in either center or left field heading into 2013, with Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Ruggiano likely holding down the fort at the other two outfield positions. Heading into this year, I figured the Marlins would fill that gap with a quality free agent signing, and the team did just that. Unfortunately, the team did so with a low-rent, low-upside pickup in Juan Pierre instead of a higher profile player like Michael Bourn or Angel Pagan. Pierre signed a one-year contract with the Fish, looking to rekindle some of the magic he had last year with the Philadelphia Phillies by coming to his former home of three seasons. Recall that Pierre played a major role in the competitive Marlins teams of the mid-2000's, including the 2003 World Series championship team.
Of course, Pierre is not the player he was back then, nor is he even the player he was in Philadelphia last season. In his last three seasons, Pierre hit .289/.339/.333 and was worth between one and four Wins Above Replacement, depending on what system you ask. In other words, despite his decent play last season, there is a very good chance that he is not even an average left fielder at this stage of his career. He is a reasonable stopgap, and it is clear the Marlins selected him based on his price and his historical connection to the team, but do not expect an encore of his old Marlins self or his 2012 season.
With the addition of Pierre, this signals that the Marlins will be moving Justin Ruggiano to a full-time role in center field. Last season, he burst out in a big way and did plenty of work to shed his Quad-A status that he established with the Tampa Bay Rays organization over the last five seasons. But this is still a player who, despite a .313/.374/.535 (.390 wOBA) season in 2012, still has major question marks. Ruggiano hit .401 on balls in play and posted a 26.3 percent strikeout rate last season, both numbers that portend doom and gloom for fans looking for a repeat campaign. The odds are heavily in favor of Ruggiano regressing significantly to the mean, meaning he will not be close to as good as last season.
That does not, however, mean that Ruggiano will be a failure this year. Before the season ended, this blog projected Ruggiano to be a league average player in 2013. If he could provide such a performance, the Marlins would have only their third likely average producer on the 2013 roster, which bodes poorly for the team but at least gives them another solid contributor on an otherwise terrible starting lineup.
Giancarlo Stanton has been left alone to rot on this roster without much assistance from the rest of the Fish. The Marlins are thoroughly lacking in the talent department, and this problem only got worse after trading away the rest of the team. The only bright side remaining is Stanton, who could yet take his talents to another level with another monster campaign. He was a 4.5-win player in 2011, and his work while missing more than a month of playing time ended up being worth between 5.5 and six wins in 2012, and the crazy development may have just begun for him. The Marlins may yet see a jump to an MVP-level season from Stanton, on the order of seven or eight wins, especially if his power continues to fly higher after a 37-homer season on shortened playing time.
The only problem is that Stanton can do all of that and still fail to carry the rest of the team's miserable roster. With the likelihood that his offensive chances will decrease with an increase in intentional walks, Marlins fans may not get to see as much of Stanton mashing as they would like. While lineup protection is essentially a myth, the intentional walk may still rob Marlins fans of 50 relatively high-leverage plate appearances of Stanton next season.
The status of the Marlins' outfield beyond the three starters remains the same as last season, with Gorkys Hernandez and Bryan Petersen playing backup roles. While the Fish may have filled in their starting outfield spots, the team's talent at the position only looks marginally better at best than last year, meaning the club outside of Stanton is still going to struggle.
However, as a unit offensively, this team is not a whole lot worse than the roster the Marlins were throwing out at the latter stages of last year. The problem, as we will discuss tomorrow, will be the team's pitching staff.