The Miami Marlins have pulled off a number of trades in 2012, particularly at the deadline, and as with all Marlins trades, money was definitely an important aspect of the trade. Money was important in the Anibal Sanchez trade in the sense that Sanchez was going to be a free agent by the end of the season. But money was a far more important aspect of the Hanley Ramirez trade that netted the Marlins Nathan Eovaldi. We mentioned in analyzing the Ramirez / Eovaldi trade that a big aspect of the Marlins' deal is saving the $38.5 million remaining in Ramirez's contract over the next two-plus seasons and being able to use that money elsewhere to better buy wins.
In this case, I think the Fish decided that none of these available players were worth the extra money, and that the team wanted to turn that money into something productive in the 2013 offseason. The savings the Marlins are getting by shedding Ramirez's contract are big, and if the team suspects that Ramirez will continue on his downfall rather than bounce back up to his projection, then they are trading a bad contract and shedding salary to buy wins at a more appropriate rate.
Well, Marlins president David Samson has said a similar thing on Sunday, according to Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel, when he discussed evaluating the trade.
"I hope our fans don’t want to see us waste the money on bad players," Samson said. "It’s a wait-and-see to me not on his contract or that savings. It’s a wait-and-see on our team performing. The wait-and-see for us is on putting the team back together, and where the payroll ends up, it ends up. It’s much more about the pieces than about the splashes."
It sounds as though Samson has the right idea with regards to evaluating how this trade eventually will turn out: along with acquiring Eovaldi, the Marlins acquired money that they feel can be used in a better fashion.The Remains of Ramirez
Hanley Ramirez has not lit the world on fire as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers just yet, though you cannot rule out the possibility of him doing so. Still, he has hit just .238/.347/.405 after hitting a very similar .246/.322/.428 with the Marlins.
All of this is to point out that there is a possibility that Ramirez will be as good as he has been since 2011, which is not all that great. If that is the case, then his performance would not match up to the level of his contract in 2013 and 2014. Since 2011, Ramirez has accumulated 3.0 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) in 829 PA. Assuming one healthy season equals about 650 PA, we would expect Ramirez to then average 2.3 WAR per season. He is being paid $15.5 million next year and $16 million in 2014. If the Marlins felt that, for whatever reason, he was really this bad, than the team must have seen that they would be paying him between $6.7 million and $7 million per win.
And this is considering the modest negative defensive marks UZR gave Ramirez last season at shortstop and this season at third base. Many other metrics had more significant losses defensively from Ramirez, so it is possible that he could have been even worse than the above guess.
The Wins Market
Consider how much we might expect to pay for wins in the next few seasons. This season, it was extimated that teams were paying $5 million per win this past offsseason. Let's assume a similar number for 2013 and a $5.3 million per win mark in 2014, for example. If the Marlins saw Ramirez as a player with the above talent level, then the team would be able to get a significant number of wins more by ridding Ramirez of his salary and re-appropriating those dollars to the free agent market.
How many more wins could the Marlins get? The $15.5 million the team would have spent on Ramirez in 2013 would buy 3.1 WAR in our example. The $16 million in 2014 would buy 3.0 WAR for 2014. The total here yields a gain of 1.5 wins over those two seasons. Again, the advantages do not sound like much, but 1.5 wins costs about $7.5 million in the free agent market; if the Marlins wanted to just buy Ramirez's wins once more, they could do it for $7.5 million less in free agency.
And that is what Samson seems to believe, that the "return" for Ramirez is not just Eovaldi and Scott McGough, but the player or players and the wins that the Marlins could buy with the money saved on Ramirez's deal. This is a similar thought to what most commenters on Fish Stripes said about the Fish in 2013: if the Marlins turn around and spend this money to be competitive in 2013, then the Fish will have gained plenty with this trade beyond the prospects involved.
Willingness To Spend
The only question, and indeed the only argument for a possibility of a so-called "fire sale," is whether or not the Marlins will even spend the savings they received by having the Dodgers eat all of Ramirez's contract. If the Marlins instead pocket the money, than indeed the fire sale complaints would be warranted.
That is why those "wait-and-see" comments from Samson are so concerning for Marlins fans. But at the end of the article, he does seem to indicate that spending is not outside of the Marlins' means.
"That’s like saying when you lose money on a stock you’ll never buy a stock again," Samson said. "We’re going to buy stocks again because we do, but if you’re wrong too many times you go bankrupt."
Here he is indicating approaching spending on long-term contracts even though the Marlins have been somewhat burned in the past. This is ultimately what Marlins fans do want to see, that the team will not shy away but simply do their job better in the future.