The Miami Marlins felt that they had a need for starting pitching in this most recent trade deadline, and it was hard to fault the team for thinking that way. Jose Fernandez was out for the year or longer with Tommy John surgery recovery. The Fish were throwing Brad Hand and Jacob Turner, two struggling starting pitchers who were not likely to be members of a competitive team. And just this weekend, after the Jarred Cosart deal was done, we found out that Henderson Alvarez was to be sent to the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. In a way, it was more than understandable for the Marlins, who have faint aspirations of being a competitive team, would want starting pitching.
Except that in their effort to get it, they gutted a part of their minor league farm system that already had issues. Before the 2014 season began, we were well aware that the Marlins had decent depth in prospect starting pitchers. Behind Andrew Heaney, who was a consensus top-30 prospect, Miami had basically a bevy of flawed but promising back-end starters, from higher-floor players like Justin Nicolino to more Major League-ready players like Brian Flynn. Where the Fish struggled in the farm system was in the position player department. Colin Moran served as the future of the team at third base before he was traded, and Jake Marisnick served as the only depth piece among position players in Miami, as the Fish are actually strong in the majors in outfield.
But the Fish did the exact opposite of what was expected of them in their case. Instead of trying to strengthen their position player situation, especially in the infield, Miami traded from the position players that they had in order to get a cost-controlled pitcher who will not be a free agent until 2020. It makes very little sense for the Fish in a long-term sense; while Cosart is a former top prospect who has spent time in the majors making starts, he is far from a huge improvement for the Fish right now. In a few years, Cosart will still be cheap, but so too would whoever among the Marlins' group of prospect starters have been by that time. Why acquire a pitcher who serves only a small short-term gain and has similar long-term outlook as other guys in your system?
The Marlins have a few likely reasons. Each of the guys mentioned, aside from Heaney, has a clear and obvious flaw that may prevent him from reaching full potential. Flynn has years of poor strikeout-to-walk ratios behind his track record. Justin Nicolino cannot strike anyone out in Double-A right now. Adam Conley has a history of being converted from relief and recently suffered an elbow injury. Jose Urena is putting up merely pedestrian results at every level. Anthony DeSclafani has done mostly the same and has the status of being a former throw-in in the major Toronto Blue Jays trade. Each guy has a limitation that makes it tough for him to project in the big leagues.
The Fish probably thought more of Cosart, who has a similar "one issue" problem but at least has pitched in the majors and posted passable numbers. Much like Jacob Turner, the Marlins may have thought that the devil you know may very well be a better choice.
Jake Marisnick was blocked in the outfield, and the Marlins would never admit that they needed backup for Giancarlo Stanton to be sent off, so that is understandable. But Moran was the future at third base, and now the Fish have to turn to other options there. But the team probably feels it already found that option for the next few years in Casey McGehee. From an earlier article on Friday:
But the Marlins like McGehee thanks to half a season of success and are thinking about offering him a contract extension to stick around beyond the 2015 season. This might be a bad idea given McGehee's age, but the Fish want to impress upon Giancarlo Stanton that they are not a rebuilding team and that they are serious about contending. Stanton is friends with McGehee and would like him to stay, and the Marlins want Stanton to sign a long-term extension. Keeping McGehee may go a ways towards doing that.
The Fish probably think the combination of what McGehee has shown thus far and the effect on Stanton is enough to justify keeping McGehee. Essentially, the Marlins are betting on the infield they have right now to continue playing well. The Marlins think that a combination of Derek Dietrich, Donovan Solano, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Casey McGehee is enough to make a winning infield.
But Marlins fans know better. Fish fans know that the team's biggest weakness was up the middle in the infield, and the Marlins' bet on their current crop may come back to bite them. Hedging their bets somewhat, Miami did acquire Enrique Hernandez in the hopes that the 22-year-old can serve as an additional future option. But he has no pedigree as a prospect and questionable numbers at the plate before this season, so Miami still does not know what it has in him.
The Fish gave up two position player prospects and a competitive balance draft selection to bolster its depth at starting pitcher, the only thing it seemed like it had in spades. The logic is understandable, but the Fish have to figure out another option for their infield for future seasons, because the long term options at three positions are probably not on this team right now.