Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE
The Miami Marlins are looking to acquire a power bat to "protect" Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup. The problem is that the team has filled all of its positions with mediocre players and have no easy power options available via free agency or trade.
The Miami Marlins are trying to settle down any potential talk of a trade of star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton from the team. It is only common sense that the team wants to quash any rumors that the Marlins' best player may be on the way out, and it is very likely that the team cannot even trade him fairly anyway. In fact, president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest wants to build around Stanton by adding more power to the team.
The Marlins' No. 1 priority now appears to be to find a hitter to protect Stanton in their re-done lineup, whether that new soothes Stanton or not. Right now, the just-acquired Yunel Escobar looks like their starting third baseman and No. 5 hitter, the man who will hit right behind Stanton. And the longtime shortstop Escobar seems more out of place in the lineup than he does at third.
"We went someone to hit behind him, someone to offer more power," Beinfest said. "Giancarlo represents the power on our team."
It is all fine and dandy to say that the Marlins are looking for power to add to their team, but the problem, as always, is the execution of the plan. The Miami Marlins may want to add power to a team that is clearly lacking in that department, but how will they do this at a time in which the free agent market is at its weakest in years and the organization is at its lowest point, both in buying power and credibility?
Lack of Available Options
The Miami Marlins are looking for a power hitter to slot behind Giancarlo Stanton, but the options that are available to them just are not all that attractive. Considering where the Marlins are in terms of buying and negotiating power, it seems clear that they are not in a position to add a major free agent like Josh Hamilton to a long-term deal. Their options in the free agent market are much closer to names like James Loney and Ryan Raburn rather than halfway decent options like Adam LaRoche or Kevin Youkilis.
On a short-term, cheap deal, who could the Marlins even pick up from one of the weakest free agent pools in recent memory? The list of names is not impressive:
Mark Reynolds: Reynolds has the most power out of all the players likely available in free agency, and he is the one who has the best chance of returning to being a decent player. But Reynolds has always been a flawed player, and his drop in power (.208 ISO in 2012 after a career .240 mark) makes him a riskier bet given his poor defense and very true outcomes-dependent hitting. He can fake a mediocre third base, but his best position is at first base, and the Marlins would likely be decreasing the ability of the team's infield defense by adding him to either corner. In addition, a move to spacious Marlins Park after spending his career mostly in Chase Field and Camden Yards seems like a step in the wrong, or at least more difficult, direction.
Carlos Pena: Pena has been wandering around for the past two years on one-year deals, and deservedly so after two poor seasons in three years. He is old at 34 years of age and offers very little other than walks and power, but at least he still has the power component. Even in the worst season since he joined the Tampa Bay Rays in 2007, he still hit 19 home runs in 600 PA. If the Marlins just wanted power without a strong regard to the remainder of a player's skillset, Pena is also available.
Brandon Inge: Inge is an awful hitter at this stage of his career, but like Pena, he has two skills that he can leverage, and one of them is power. He hit 12 home runs in 331 PA split between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics, and while he is atrocious at every other aspect at the plate, he can still pick it in the field at third base. Inge was the 12th-highest rated third baseman in the Fans Scouting Report this season, and he put up good numbers via the advanced defensive stats this season. If the Marlins move Yunel Escobar, they could insert Inge and likely get a defensive improvement.
Ryan Raburn: Raburn had a terrible year last season (.171/.226/.254, .216 wOBA), leading to his release from the Tigers. He would be an interesting bounce back candidate, especially since he has shown himself to be at least a passable hitter over the course of his career (.256/.311/.430, .322 wOBA). Raburn has averaged 19 home runs per 600 PA in his career and holds a .174 career ISO, and he can also play the infield and outfield. However, he is also a poor infielder at any position and has some pretty clear problems with plate discipline (career 24.2 percent strikeout rate and 6.6 percent walk rate).
Those are just a few examples of the sorts of players who have decent power and are at the Marlins' price range for 2013, as evidenced by their paltry signing of Juan Pierre. As you can see, none of them are long-term solutions nor are they particularly attractive options.
As for the trade market, the Marlins would look silly approaching a team with a deal for a player like Justin Upton when they just decided to shed salary over the long-term. With power at a premium nowadays, teams are likely to have to pay plenty to get it, and the Marlins just stocked up on their farm system for the distinct purpose of helping to build a future contender. Trying to acquire a shorter-term asset like Upton with the newfound depth in the farm would run counter to that point, though this would at least be a better idea than signing a stopgap for this season.
The other issue, though more minor than the one listed above, is that the Marlins already seem to have their positions filled. The organization technically has all of its holes filled for 2013, albeit with significantly worse options than they had in 2012. The club's poor performances at first base are expected to be filled by a returning Logan Morrison. Third base is now occupied by Yunel Escobar. The new holes the Marlins opened up have been filled by acquired players like Pierre and Adeiny Hechavarria.
Of the players slotted into the current starting lineup projection, only Escobar has a significant risk of not returning. If the Marlins trade him, there is a chance the team will either look to acquire a power-hitting prospect for third base in return or open up salary for the team to pursue a player like Mark Reynolds. There is a possibility the Marlins could do the same by trading Logan Morrison, but this is likely less of an improvement of the team's assets given Morrison's cheap status.
But would trading either of these players to acquire a stopgap option really be a smart idea? After all, 2013 is a waste one way or another, and both Escobar and Morrison have a lot more potential for success in future seasons than Reynolds. Why give up on that talent now for the sake of power in 2013 or 2014? Would it not be much smarter simply to allow for the potential development of the still-young Morrison to help in that department?
Finally, it is very obvious that the Marlins have lost credibility with free agents after their mega-trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, and that should also remain a problem for this team. Even if the club wanted to pursue a better name like Hamilton or Youkilis, free agents would not want to tie themselves down to Miami only to see them moved quickly as soon as the slightest hint of struggles was present. Furthermore, higher-end free agents can clearly see that the current situation with the Marlins seems untenable to winning in the near future and likely is not going to change with one signing. Even if their offseason moves all pan out, this club will not be competitive for at least two more seasons.
So the Marlins can, as always, claim that they have an interest in acquiring a certain type of player. But the team has handcuffed itself in its ability to make that acquisition. Trade the minor league depth they just manufactured in the Toronto trade and the move seems to go opposite of their current direction. Look to sign a free agent and face the consequences of ignored pleas and one of the weakest classes in recent memory. The availability of power hitters is too light this season, and the Marlins may be better off just sticking to the poor mass they have synthesized for next year at this point.