The Miami Marlins seemed to have their third base problem resolved for 2013 when they acquired Yunel Escobar from the Toronto Blue Jays. Unfortunately, it seems Escobar had a "change of heart" and did not want to move to third base, and the Marlins subsequently traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays for Derek Dietrich.
The problem with this move is that it leaves the Fish in the same place they were at the end of the 2012 season: without a third baseman and with few remaining options available. We discussed a few of the options available to the team yesterday, and none are attractive in the least.
The Marlins have not had a decent regular third baseman since Miguel Cabrera was traded all those seasons ago. Since then, Jorge Cantu spent the most time on the team at third base, and he was followed by a litany of plug-ins and replacement-level scrubs. The team's inability to find a medium-term solution at the position has plagued long before this offseason leading into 2013.
Remember that this was supposed to be fully resolved by Hanley Ramirez, who was under contract through 2014. Presumably, the Marlins would have had their third base solution for three seasons before having to make yet another decision on the position after years of difficulty. But the team seemingly gave up not only on Ramirez, but on the entire 2012 core extremely early into their existence. In the case of Ramirez, it was understandable that the Marlins thought he would not bounce back from his more recent struggles. At the same time, as we later saw, it seems the trades of midseason were just a prelude to a full-on fire sale to be completed in the offseason, which means that it is very likely the Marlins gave up on the 2012 core in just half a season of play. It shows an extreme lack of foresight and planning to abort a mission so early on its maiden voyage.
It looks especially ridiculous when the team's lone developed prospect at third base, Matt Dominguez, was one of two players traded for the most minor of midseason upgrades at first base, Carlos Lee. At the time of the trade, I felt the Marlins were giving up too much for a player who was mostly retaining name value. The good news was that the organization was set at third base for a change and therefore did not need Dominguez, whether he was or was not ready for the big leagues. Three weeks later, the Marlins traded Ramirez as well, once again showing a distinct lack of foresight.
Leading up to this impasse in 2013, the Marlins traded away both the medium- and potentially long-term solutions at the position and headed into a weak 2013 free agent class without an answer at third base. With the team's barren farm system, it also seemed extremely difficult to find an answer in the trade market without giving up their major league talent. Marlins fans were left wondering whether Donovan Solano or Emilio Bonifacio were going to be the solutions at third base, or whether the team would simply start an overmatched Greg Dobbs. But following the Hanley Ramirez trade, there was at least indication that the Marlins would look to spend money in 2013 and beyond in order to improve the ball club. Of course, now that seems like a pipe dream, and as a result the whole plan at third base has looked ragged and disheveled.
I have been harping on the team's lack of a coherent plan going forward from year to year. The lack of stability within the Marlins organization starts with the revolving door of managers and continues into the direction of the team as a whole. It trickles down right to the management of certain positions on the team, such as third base. The team's latest setback was not necessarily their fault, as Escobar has known character issues and certainly is understandable in his desire not to switch to an inferior defensive position in order to play for a last place team. But one gets the feeling that, with a long-term plan for success and the patience to stick to that plan, the Marlins would not run into the sort of problems they currently face at third base. If the Marlins were simply patient and careful with their planning, maybe they would already have options of their own at this position rather than scraping the bottom of the barrel for third basemen yet another season.