Sure enough, it does not take much time since a Miami Marlins trade for the fearmongers of the media to spread rumors of yet another Marlins fire sale less than one season after the big splash that they made in the offseason. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, however, thinks this is a different type of Marlins sale.
Monday’s trade — right-hander Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante to the Tigers for right-hander Jacob Turner, catcher Rob Brantly and left-hander Brian Flynn, along with an exchange of competitive-balance picks — was not the start of a fire sale.
It actually was worse — an admission by the Marlins that they didn’t know what they were doing last winter.
Of course, vice president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest has said in the past that he believed this team was good enough to win, but that they had not yet done so and, when it came to decisions that needed to be made by 2012, the team was too far from contention to play for the immediate future.
"With the talent we have here, we should have won more games than we have, and it hasn’t happened," [Beinfest] said.
"I think we’ve underperformed — underachieved — and the position we’re in, I think it’s normal to hear a lot of things about us, especially [given] how public we were this winter about being all in."
Of course, he also admitted after the trade that the team needed a change.
"The current team really is not in contention. ... In a tenuous spot, at best," Beinfest said. "I think it was time to restructure. We're not winning at the level that we want to be winning at with the current group. So let's change things up, which led us to where we are today."
So the narrative the media (Ken Rosenthal in particular here) is trying to build is that this team needed to change because the plan of the offseason was an abject failure, a mistake that needed to be corrected with a series of deals. But the problem is that, even though Beinfest admitted the need for change, the team's only move at the moment was not one aimed at correcting the mistakes of the past. Indeed, the only move the Marlins have made thus far was a completely logical one that any team that had fallen this far from contention would have done.The Marlins made a simple move in the Anibal Sanchez / Omar Infante trade. They moved a current asset in Sanchez whom they decided they were not going to re-sign and tacked on an additional player in Infante in order to get a top prospect pitcher in Jacob Turner who they could use for the future. At the same time, the team kept their agenda for 2013 mostly intact by acquiring a player who is close to major league ready and one that should open the 2013 year in the rotation. Thus, the Marlins both parlayed an expiring asset and another trade chip lasting through next season for six years of team control of a very good pitcher, while still maintaining a competitive setup for 2013.
What does that say about anything the Marlins are doing? The only thing that trade may signal is that the Fish felt they were out of contention in 2012, and Beinfest said that much in the above interview. A concession of a lost 2012 does not mean that the Marlins are conceding that their 2012 plan was wrong. There is a difference between a plan failing to work and a plan not being viable in the first place.
Indeed, we have gone over this point more than a few times: the Marlins have really underperformed their expectations this season, but it was difficult to see that they would do that before the year began. This kind of loss in terms of performance is really difficult to overcome:
Player ZiPS Preseason Proj wOBA 2012 wOBA Runs Diff John Buck .306 .276 -6.5 Gaby Sanchez .345 .244 -16.4 Omar Infante .310 .330 .+5.5 Hanley Ramirez .360 .329 -10.0 Jose Reyes .362 .314 -16.4 Logan Morrison .354 .321 -8.3 Emilio Bonifacio .306 .332 +4.3 Giancarlo Stanton .385 .392 +1.9
When five of your team's eight hitters underperform, and four of them were not even remotely expected to hit that poorly, you are going to lose more games than you would expect. The fact that these hitters struggled this badly is not only on the shoulders of Beinfest, general manager Michael Hill, and the rest of the Marlins front office. As mentioned last week, the reason why the Marlins had such great expectations is because most analysts looked at the plan and found it sound. Hindsight, as always, is 20/20.
Was the move to acquire Jose Reyes a good thing? Absolutely. Was the move to acquire Mark Buehrle a good move? Yes. What about Heath Bell? We have more than discussed this before, but Bell was a bad signing even before he pitched his worst line of his career. The Carlos Zambrano was a sound move. The Marlins shuffling their lineup to accommodate Reyes by moving Ramirez to third base was a good move given Ramirez's defense. Every move the team made in the offseason was sound, save for the Bell signing. The club expected good results, and much like rolling the dice multiple times, occasionally you get results that don't match the expected.
That being said, the Marlins are considering making further changes, and those further changes may be to clear out some of the less desirable pieces of the original core. The club seems interested in trading Hanley Ramirez despite the difficulties that will entail, and that move seems to stem from a desire to get out of some of Ramirez's remaining contract and receive future parts in return along with providing both parties with a fresh start. Josh Johnson's name raises a brow as a player who is considered a member of the team's core who could nonetheless be traded, however unlikely. But aside from those two, the other names that have been mentioned make sense. Names like Randy Choate, Carlos Lee, and Ricky Nolasco all make sense for the deadline for various reasons.
So are the Marlins really admitting a failure in their 2012 offseason plans by trading two pieces for legitimate future talent in their most recent trade? No, not really. The club still thinks that it can contend in 2013. It acquired a piece in Turner who could help starting next season. It gave up a piece in Sanchez who was headed to free agency anyway. The fact that the Marlins are "listening" on everyone is a formality; while there may be more trades, they will be logical, baseball moves looking to improve upon the team's core heading into 2013.
As Ken Rosenthal said, it is not a fire sale. But unlike Rosenthal's opinion, it is not a admission of mistakes being wrong, either. As was once said in a poem by the Scottish poet Robert Burns:
But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Beinfest's plans may have been the best-laid ones. But even those can leave us with heartache, as they have this season for the Miami Marlins.