We all know the Miami Marlins have struggled in their inaugural season, and that in light of the trades that they made as sellers at the trade deadline, they will need to make a few changes in order to be competitive in 2013. But it seems Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria thinks the Fish are more than capable of making some moves to improve the team for next season.
"I don't think it's going to take long at all," said Loria, asked about the timetable for fixing the club's issues. "We're going to have to do some work and fill some of the holes. During the course of the year we've identified some of these holes and we have to fill them. I don't want to fill them for the sake of filling them. We need to fill them to complement some of the other good parts that are here.
I have some mixed feelings about this. Clearly, the 2012 team is flawed as it stands now, if only because the trades in midseason opened up a series of holes on the roster. So hearing Loria say that it is not "going to take long at all" to fix this team while still admitting there are holes shows that the Marlins are well aware of the team's immediate roster concerns. This means that the Marlins front office or ownership will not necessarily simply fall for some of the minor successes of this season cloud the need for work for next year.
At the same time, while "fixing" the Marlins in the short-term sounds like another potential use of money in the 2013 offseason, Loria cannot expect this team to suddenly be a contender after such a bad year. Even if the team uses its money wisely and some of their players regress to their means, 2013 may not be the year the Marlins compete again.We have discussed before that the Marlins need to attempt to "win now," but that term is not fully correct in the case of the Fish. The 2013 season is not the direct target of a "win now" approach for next season; in fact, 2014 should be the target year for a contender. Because the Marlins traded away their 2013 core in order to rebuild their roster, the team depleted itself of enough resources to put them out of a full contender status, even if they reuse the money saved. Consider that the Marlins will save $19 million from their expected books next season thanks to the trades of Omar Infante and Hanley Ramirez. At the going win rates, $19 million may buy them a little bit less than four wins next year in terms of one-year deals. Chances are the Fish will have to go longer than one year with most players to even get an agreement and receive those four wins.
Now, of course, the Marlins actually have more money available to them, depending on the willingness of the ownership to spend. The team only has $67.5 million committed to next year's team, but that does not include raises in arbitration. Even if raises for the Marlins' arbitration-eligible players only pushes the total to $75 million (and that is possible, given the team's sudden lack of those type of players due to trades), the club would only have up to $25 million to play with if the team wanted to maintain its salary at the level it stood at this year. That kind of money maybe picks up five wins, leaving the Marlins perhaps a little better than .500.
These are still prudent moves for the team to make, especially since the 2014 club should have reinforcements from the minors that could make it a beast to handle. This would not be a concern with a more patient ownership, but Loria has been notoriously impatient as an owner in the past, and said as much when speaking to the media this time around.
The Marlins are well on their way to a third straight losing season. They have to win eight of their remaining 21 games to avoid back-to-back 90-loss campaigns.
"Yes, I know," owner Jeffrey Loria said. "And I don't have any patience for that."
That presents a problem for the front office group, whether it is still Larry Beinfest and his brain trust or another group that has to handle Loria in the wake of a potential Beinfest firing. If Loria fronts the money and says he expects a contender in 2013, the likelihood of the Fish actually contending is not very high, certainly not as high as it was coming into this season. But if the front office states that contending in 2013 is a long shot even if the team spends back up to its 2012 payroll, Loria may just bail on the idea and keep a skeleton crew around Jose Reyes and Giancarlo Stanton, much like the one he has right now, which would hamper the team's 2014 chances.
So yes, it is good that Loria is positive about the team's chances of improving soon, as it means he may be willing to open up the checkbook again after saving on the next few seasons by ridding himself of some contracts. But whoever is in charge of the front office needs to make him aware of the possibility of a low 2013 followed by a high 2014, and Loria is as impatient a man as they come.