John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus wrote an On the Beat piece (subscription required) that discussed the Miami Marlins' latest trade moves and the need for vice president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest to make the moves necessary to restructure the ball club for 2013 and beyond. As we have mentioned quite a few times this past week, the Marlins simply did what any deadline seller would do, and the only unfortunate thing is that it came during the Miami Marlins' debut season in their new park.
But the most interesting thing about Perrotto's piece was what came at the end.
That was the last straw for owner Jeffrey Loria, team president David Samson, and Beinfest. They put Ramirez on the trade market and struck a quick deal with the Dodgers. Many inside the game wonder if the Marlins shouldn't continue their purge and include Beinfest and Guillen.
"They've got the perfect guy to get that thing turned around right in their organization in Dan Jennings," an American League scout said, referring to the Marlins' assistant GM. "He should be the GM there. They really need new leadership there badly."
This is a very interesting point regarding Beinfest. He has been the Marlins' front office front man since 2002, and his work has helped to build a competitive ball club that once won a World Series. However, that was in 2003, and it is now 2012 and a number of Beinfest's moves have been met with mixed reactions and yielded mixed end results. At the same time, many of his moves seemed reasonable when they were made.
A few years ago, I tried to evaluate Beinfest's various moves in a two-part series of hits and misses over at Marlin Maniac, you can check the old linked articles and see my thoughts about his first four seasons at the helm. Since then, Beinfest has made a couple of other moves, and their results have been mixed as well. Let's take a look at a few of these before considering the need to evict the best personnel man the team has ever known.
A long time ago, this felt like an easy win for the Marlins in terms of trades, but looking at the status of the players coming back to the Fish, the return actually made some sense. Baseball America had Nolasco as the seventh-best prospect in the Cubs organization, and he was clearly the highlight of the deal. Pinto and Mitre were not ranked, though Pinto ranked sixth heading into 2005. Pierre was in his final arbitration year, and the Marlins did not feel he was worth almost $6 million. Pierre probably had somewhere around $3 million to $4 million in surplus value, and the Fish probably more or less got that in return.The Luis Castillo Trade
This was the worst of the contract dumping trades the Marlins made before 2006. Castillo had just $5.5 million left on his contract with a very affordable $5.75 million team option for 2007, but the Marlins dealt him for what turned out to be a set of no-name prospects. Clear loss.
The Carlos Delgado Trade
The Marlins traded Delgado a year after they failed to secure a new stadium deal by 2005. The team had structured his contract in a way that made it seem like they would do that, as the club paid him only $4 million in his first year of a four-year, $52 million contract. Delgado was amazing in his lone Marlins season, but he was going to be owed a lot of money over the next three years, and the Marlins turned that into two of the Mets' top ten prospects. Neither Petit nor Jacobs made the top 100 of Baseball America, but Jacobs had had a nice 100 PA run in 2005 before arriving to replace Delgado.
Of course, Jacobs turned into an awful player and Delgado had a few decent seasons left in him. Meanwhile, Petit did nothing and was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for everyone's favorite awful reliever, Jorge Julio. Ugh.
Most fans would call this an absolute bust of a deal given how Maybin and Miller panned out, but at the time, this sort of return was about correct for the type of player Miguel Cabrera was. Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller were both top ten prospects in baseball, so it is not as if the Tigers gave the Marlins no-name players. The blame for how the players turned out in the end can lie with any number of parties, including the Marlins' developmental staff themselves. But with how visceral the response is to the failure of Maybin and Miller and their tie to what turned out to be the worst result of a trade in Marlins history, it is hard to blame fans for thinking of this deal as anything but a scar on Beinfest's resume.
The Hanley Ramirez Extension
Signing: The Marlins sign Hanley Ramirez to a six-year, $72 million extension through 2014.
No matter how badly the contract ended, there was no doubt that the Ramirez extension was a smart move. Ramirez was coming off of Rookie of the Year win and two straight seasons of quality, near-MVP play. The Marlins bought three free agent seasons for what seemed like bargain prices at the time. Who knew that, four years later, Ramirez would barely be able to match his contract value? It was a steal back then.
The Emilio Bonifacio Trade
No matter what you think of Bonifacio now, it is hard to believe that, when looking at his statistics at the time, he would be anything but a career minor leaguer or bench player. He had no plate discipline, struck out a lot, and depended on a high BABIP for his minor league success. The 2009 season proved his old habits were not going to be enough, though kudos to Bonifacio for improving his approach and making himself a passable major leaguer.
But the Marlins traded a guy in Willingham who was already more than a passable major leaguer, but an actual good one. Willingham was coming off of a .254/.364/.470 season with the Marlins in 2008, and he had three seasons of team control left (all three arbitration years) before he would reach free agency. The Marlins threw those three seasons away for a speedy minor leaguer and a poo-poo platter of menial prospects. There was simply no way Willigham held less value than Bonifacio did at the time of this deal, even with the team interested in cutting costs.
The Josh Johnson Extension
Signing: The Marlins sign Josh Johnson to a four-year, $39 million extension through 2013.
This was a similar move to the Hanley Ramirez extension. There was no doubt, even with Johnson's injury concerns, that a team of the Marlins' payroll caliber should sign an elite pitcher like Johnson to an extension to buy out some free agency seasons. This was a no-brainer, but an easy win for the ball club.
Those were the major trades and signings up to the offseason heading into 2012. We evaluated each of those deals and found that the Marlins paid a fair price for Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle and well-overpaid Heath Bell. We turned out to be fairly right in all three cases, though Reyes is still recovering from a rough season start. What we see above is that the Marlins did not swindle anyone in trades lately and mismanaged a couple of deals, and that does not include what turned out to be the debacle of the Miguel Cabrera trade. With only a few wins in the no-brainer type moves of extending the team's young stars, it does seem as though Beinfest and company have not done as well in their dealings as they could be.
Still, they made two smart moves that will be looked at as pushes or wins going forward. Neither of the team's two latest trades can be considered net losses given their returns. With the team mostly making proper signings, the question of whether Beinfest should be removed from his position is still up in the air. His scouting view has burned the Fish on some occasions (the Bonifacio trade comes to mind), but despite a lack of use of advanced statistics, the Marlins have come out with two very good free agent signings as well this season, and could do some more before the 2013 season.
At this stage, I would lean more towards getting rid of Beinfest than retaining him for life, but the above results show a mixed bag of successes and failures, so the evaluation is still up in the air. The Marlins should keep a close eye on this regime to see if they continue to make silly mistakes with relievers and speedsters instead of making smart moves based on objective findings, because as of right now, they are definitely within fire-able range.