Finding themselves bereft of a major league-ready third basemen, the Marlins signed Placido Polanco to man the hot corner. Of course, they weren’t always bereft of ready third basemen. In fact, as recently as this summer, they had both Hanley Ramirez and Matt Dominguez under control for 2013 and beyond. Then the Fish lost to the Brewers on July 3rd to fall four games under .500 and nine back of the Nationals and it all came apart.
Hey, plans must change when situations change; I get that. After all, I was planning to be in Arizona yesterday before a massive winter storm dumped two feet of snow on us and my flight was cancelled. Instead of flying south, I was scrambling to find flight alternatives while also struggling not to become trapped by the burgeoning pile of snow at the end of our driveway. The reality of my situation changed, so I had to adapt.
After an offseason splurge that raised expectations, Jeffrey Loria wouldn’t throw in the towel on 2012, and they dealt Dominguez, a defensive whiz hitting just .234/.291/.357 at Triple-A New Orleans, for the rotting corpse of Carlos Lee. Given Domiguez’s struggles, and the club’s desire to be competitive in their first year in their new park, you can see where the club was coming from and understand what they were trying to do. Yet, between July 3rd and July 4th, nothing of consequence changed for the Marlins that prompted their first move. The team was not performing up to expectations, but that was hardly the fault of the players as much as it was a result of puffed up expectations. Certainly, no reasonable person could have expected Carlos Lee to transform a team at that point in his career.
As they lost 11 of their next 18, however, Lee hitting .204/.338/.278 during that stretch, Miami fell further and further back in both the division and the wild card races. They continued to demonstrate they were a sub-.500 team, to the point that even Loria and his henchmen had to acknowledge the reality on the ground. Three weeks after they traded a prospect to bolster them for a playoff run, Loria and his henchmen gave up and dealt Hanley for prospects.
It was a completely defensible baseball move. Hanley was overpaid relative to his likely production going forward, was considered a poor teammate, seemed to be legitimately unenthused to be playing in Miami, and the Marlins got a good prospect back in Nate Eovaldi. Unfortunately, though, all this whipping back and forth between "contender" and "rebuilder" had left the club without a third baseman going forward.
This is the quintessential problem of a rudderless, reactionary club that’s subject to the whims of a meddling doof like Loria. Nothing had changed within the organization except that a half- formulated plan (1 new ballpark + 3 new players = playoffs) didn’t work out right away, and because the leadership was unwilling to commit either to trying to win or rebuilding (until it was too late), Loria and Beinfest left the club without a cheap alternative who could have been a potential building block for the next six years in Dominguez.
Is Dominguez a potential superstar? Probably not, despite a promising start in Houston. He’s unlikely to be worth more than three wins above replacement on a seasonal basis, but he’s likely to provide decent value at bargain basement prices for the Astros. As for Polanco, what could the Marlins possibly get from him next year? He’ll be 37 and has been in offensive decline since 2008. His once-excellent defense finally begun to fade, and that was before he suffered back injuries all through the second half of last season that are likely going to be chronic. Yet, Polanco is actually a far better option than their fallback positions of, I kid you not, Brandon Inge and Miguel Tejada.
This is not a failure of imagination. This is a failure of leadership. The Marlins had a cheap and acceptable option in their grasp, but because of their fickleness and unwillingness to build a sustainable, stable club, they lost him. They had an expensive and acceptable option on their roster, and they lost him too. So, enjoy Placido Polanco, Fish fans (if there are any of you left), just as you "enjoyed" Greg Dobbs. Enjoy the myriad of Polanco and Dobbs-like players the Marlins will bring in in the future as ugly stopgap solutions to holes they opened through their own incompetence, for that matter. There will be a lot of them as long as this regime remains.