The Miami Marlins are aggressive in their approach to promoting their prospects, but MLB.com's Joe Frisaro highlights two cases in which that aggressiveness may have backfired due to a critical reason: a lack of options on players. For Jacob Turner and Brad Hand, their early promotions have run them out of minor league options and have forced the team's hand in terms of 2014 roster construction.
This is a problem related to the question of service time and gets back to the Marlins' desire to allow their players to grow facing the best competition. In the case of someone like Turner (who was promoted too quickly by the Detroit Tigers, actually) and Hand, those fast promotions may have contributed to Major League struggles, and now the team has few options in terms of allowing those players to grow in the minors.
The Marlins actually have a few names who are out of minor league options and will have to make the big league roster or potentially part ways with the franchise. With each player, the Marlins' hands are tied, but how will this affect the 2014 roster? Let's take a look at those five names.
1. Mike Dunn
Dunn is the least likely to change anything for the Marlins this season. The fact that he is out of options is irrelevant simply because he is one of the team's important bullpen cogs and would be unlikely to be demoted for any reason. Even in the case of extreme struggles, Dunn would simply be shifted down the leverage order or inning of work rather than to Triple-A entirely. Dunn has improved significantly thanks to a decrease in walks in 2013, and he will look to build on that success in 2014. He is not going anywhere.
Jones was one of the team's major free agent signings, and like Dunn, the odds are unlikely that the Marlins would run into problems with him being demoted. Having said that, Miami may very well see the ugly side of Jones's play up close and personal, and were he a normal player with options, the team may have considered a short-term demotion to work on something like swing mechanics. But because the team not only is out of options but also paid more than $7 million for two years of Jones's service, expect Miami to stick it out during the tough times regardless of performance.
One advantage Miami does hold in that regard is that few teams may deem themselves desperate enough to pick up Jones off of waivers given his contract. It is neither long nor particularly onerous, but it is not a fair price for a mediocre-at-best first baseman, and few teams may have a need for his services at that price.
The Marlins traded Justin Ruggiano for Bogusevic because they knew he had one less season of service time on his clock and would thus save the Marlins a small price in 2014. But both players had the same options issue going into this year, as both had served enough Major League time to run out of minor league options. Bogusevic figures to play an important backup role in Miami as the team's fourth outfielder, but the club has little choice but to keep him on the roster even if he struggles. Bogusevic is no prospect anymore, so any significant mess-up and Miami may be more than willing to let him pass through waivers and risk losing him.
4. Brad Hand
Hand is one of the two players whose the options situation hurts the team. The Marlins promoted Hand in 2011 when he was still navigating Double-A. It was a rough half-season and he had yet to see significant Major League time since. Unfortunately, that promotion took out the first of three option years, and now those seasons are up and Miami has to make a choice just as Hand improves as a pitcher. Miami still likely has nothing in Hand, who faces major control problems and just now re-found the strikeout, but they would like to find out without giving up the former prospect.
The team's options are to put him in as the fifth starter or as the club's second lefty in the bullpen. The former option is better suited for a more promising player like Brian Flynn or a more proven (and mediocre) hand in Tom Koehler. The latter displaces Dan Jennings, who served admirably as the team's second lefty specialist last year. Limiting Hand's decent-sized platoon splits to just fellow left-handers may help the control problems and allow him to find himself in a new role, so this might be Miami's best choice.
5. Jacob Turner
Turner seemed destined for the fourth rotation spot, but he has not exactly displayed a sparkling performance record. So while Miami will still turn to him in 2014, they may not be able to guarantee the best version of Turner this year. After struggling mightily in Triple-A during parts of two seasons in Miami's organization, Turner is beginning to look like a lost cause.
This option situation probably shows more of a problem of development rather than a problem of roster management now. Miami's best choice for fourth starter was still Turner, but his prospect sheen has long since dissipated, especially after last year's ugly second half. Had the Tigers not rushed him to the big leagues in 2012, maybe Miami could have afforded an extra year working in a hitter-friendly location and learning how to best induce strikeouts and regain his much-ballyhooed control. Last year, Turner looked lost facing big leaguers in the second half, and if he does so again this season, he is much more likely to be demoted from the rotation or traded altogether.
The most harrowing aspect would be if Miami dealt Turner for nothing after he was the prized catch in the Anibal Sanchez / Omar Infante trade. Turner's trade value is completely shot and Miami would be lucky to get peanuts for the former top prospect. The team's best bet is if he begins to turn the corner in development, and now the club will not have the safety net of Triple-A New Orleans to help in that quest.