Fish Bites: As Trade Deadline Approaches, Marlins Still Seeking Consistency

July 19, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen (13) makes a pitching change in the seventh inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Chicago Cubs defeated the Miami Marlins 4-2. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-US PRESSWIRE

It seems as if every July, every player on the Marlins' roster is "available." At this point, the Marlins might be willing to deal some players that they clearly had high hopes for.

At the start of the season, if somebody told Jeffery Loria and company that they might be considered "sellers" come the end of July, they most likely would have laughed. As the July 31 trade deadline approaches, the Miami Marlins' front office clearly has some decisions to make. After a 4-2 loss in Chicago on Thursday afternoon, Miami has a 44-48 record (.478 winning percentage), and is ten games behind the division-leading Washington Nationals. Despite being four games under .500, the Marlins are only 6.5 games back in the most recent wild card standings. The reason the decision for Loria and other owners around baseball to buy or sell becomes even tougher? Two wild card spots are up for grabs, and multiple teams can still be considered "in contention" at this point.

Miami made several moves that, to this point, have improved the team. In May, the Marlins traded a minor league catcher to the Houston Astros for journeyman outfielder Justin Ruggiano. Ruggiano continues to be not just the Marlins' hottest hitter, but one of baseball's hottest hitters since the start of June. The organization went on to trade for first baseman Carlos Lee, in order to improve a streaky offense. Lee, when given an opportunity with a runner in scoring position, has gotten the job done, just as he did on Tuesday night with a grand slam against the Cubs.

Aside from an injured Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins can no longer blame their struggles on the lack of healthy impact players. Emilio Bonifacio is healthy and is getting on and stealing bases, and setup man Edward Mujica was recently activated from the disabled list. The starters, though inconsistent like the team is at times, continue to do their job by pitching every five days. The Marlins are only one of two major league teams (the other being the Reds) to use only five starting pitchers.

The Marlins were unable to take the series against the Cubs after winning game one, and time is running out. The upcoming three game series against a hot Pittsburgh team may help the front office make up their mind. Rumors are already spreading, and several involve players such as Hanley Ramirez, Heath Bell, and Omar Infante. Winning may be the only thing that can make the front office consider keeping the roster the same.

-According to several sources, the Marlins have spoken to the Boston Red Sox about trading for Carl Crawford. Reports indicate that while a deal is not imminent, the Marlins would be willing to send Heath Bell and Hanley Ramirez to the Sox in exchange for Crawford. The Marlins are nowhere close to such a deal, reports claim.

-President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest remains unsure of the team's trade deadline plans. Miami did not collect a hit with a runner in scoring position in the final two games against the Cubs, and the team remains to be inconsistent. Beinfest is confident the team can still turn things around. "In terms of decision-making, I don't know how that's going to go," Beinfest said. "I really don't. We need to win games here just to make sure we're on the periphery of getting into things. ... The reality is every game is now magnified.

-Now that his knee does not require much "down time", Logan Morrison hopes to be in the lineup against lefties as the season progresses. Against left-handed pitchers this season, Ozzie Guillen tends to give the lefty batters a day off and give an Austin Kearns or a Donovan Solano a spot start. "Obviously I want to play and I haven't complained about [pain]," Morrison said. "I feel like I'm a good hitter against lefties. It's all about opportunity. If he wants to put somebody else in there, he's the manager and you have to respect it."

-Jose Reyes' home run on Wednesday night, which was the only run that the Marlins were able to score in a rain-shortened game, hit a Wrigley Field employee directly on the back.

-In addition to their first round draft pick next June, the Miami Marlins will have the sixth pick in round A, which follows the first round, through the Competitive Balance Lottery. The six teams picking in round A are the Royals, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Orioles, Reds, and Marlins.

-Heath Bell made several comments after his most recent blown save in St.Louis that suggested he and his catcher (whether it be Brett Hayes or John Buck) may not always be on the same page. Bell might have been a bit too critical of the Marlins' catchers, but John Buck immediately addressed the issue. "It ended up being absolutely nothing, just a misunderstanding," Buck said. "He said, ‘I went over spring and my weight and all the things that have gone wrong.' He seemed pretty sincere."

-Despite several reports that said the Marlins and first-round pick Andrew Heaney would not reach an agreement prior to the deadline, the Marlins were able to come to terms and sign the lefty out of Oklahoma State. Heaney is currently ranked as the third best prospect in the Marlins' system.

-Third baseman Hanley Ramirez is not bothered by the trade rumors that involve him and several other Marlins. Hanley was said to be a piece a deal that was discussed that would send Ramirez and Bell to the Red Sox for Carl Crawford. "I don't think about it," Ramirez said. "I just heard about it. I just come and play the game hard and try to win games."

-Ricky Nolasco will look to keep the Pirates in the ballpark, as the hot-hitting Bucs have homered in nine straight games. Led by Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates have a consistent offense and a good pitching staff. The Marlins, who have won four of their past 13 road games, look to bounce back after a disappointing series in Chicago.

-Three Gulf Coast League Marlin pitchers combined to pitch a perfect game on Thursday. Justin Jackson, Dane Stone, and Patrick Merkling were the three to do it. "You know about the first pick in the Draft. You see him on the field every day," GCL Marlins reliever -- and 25th-round draftee -- Dane Stone said. "You don't get intimidated by it. You want to bring your best stuff. Fortunately for us, we all had our best stuff."

-Emilio Bonifacio, who is now healthy and in the lineup after ending the first half on the disabled list, is clearly a difference maker and adds spark to the Marlins' lineup. Bonifacio has many "tools" that can help the Marlins win a game. "I think Boni back, I don't know, but the team feels a little bit different with Boni," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I don't know why. I think, maybe it's because everybody loves this kid. The way he plays the game. The way he goes about his job. For some reason, he makes this ballclub more interesting and fun."

-Hitting coach Eduardo Perez says that the reason the Marlins are in the basement of the National League East is because of their inability to get hits with runners in scoring position. "It's been frustrating," Perez said Thrusday before the Marlins closed out their series with the Cubs at Wrigley Field. "We would be better, obviously, if we produced with runners in scoring position. I don't think we would be in this situation. We wouldn't be where we're at right now."

Around The League

-David Wright had a big day at the plate, as R.A. Dickey beat Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals to earn his 13th win of the season. David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays earned win number 13 on Thursday as well.

-Washington National's general manager Mike Rizzo initially said Steven Strausburg will be shut down after pitching 160-170 innings. Rizzo has most recently said that those numbers might be off, and the decision is his to make.

-The Phillies have reportedly offered Cole Hamels, who several believe might be traded, a six year contract.

-Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter is expected to pitch in 2013 after he had season-ending surgery on Thursday to repair a nerve injury in his right shoulder.

-Even if it is not with the Marlins, several major league sources have suggested that the Boston Red Sox could use Carl Crawford as a key piece of a blockbuster trade.

At Fish Stripes

-Mark Buehrle is not known to be a strikeout pitcher, but has recently been a strikeout machine, striking out a significant number of batters in his last few starts.

-To make room for Edward Mujica, the Marlins sent reliever Ryan Webb to New Orleans.

-Even if the Marlins become sellers, they may not look to turn the roster upside down.


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