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Miami Marlins oddly considering keeping veteran pitchers like Dan Haren

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The potential decision to not sell on veteran starters like Dan Haren and Mat Latos makes no sense for the Miami Marlins.

The Marlins may not be taking the ball away from Dan Haren or other veterans.
The Marlins may not be taking the ball away from Dan Haren or other veterans.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we discussed what the Miami Marlins likely should do with some of their veteran players should the team remain so far behind in the race for contention. The club lost again last night and is now 14 games below .500 at 30-44. They are 10.5 games back of the division leading Washington Nationals and 10.5 games back of the Wild Card. The team is still projected to be about a .500 team going forward, but the club has dug itself too bad of a hole out of which to climb; FanGraphs projects the Marlins have about a one percent chance of making the playoffs given their current talent level and current record.

However, as we discussed yesterday, it seems Miami still thinks it has a remote shot less than halfway into the regular season. In particular, they do not think that they will be trading any of their players, even as the team loads up with starting pitchers. Dan Haren and Mat Latos in particular could serve as interesting players to trade. But as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has said, the Marlins seem unlikely to trade Haren, though Latos could be out of the rotation once Jose Fernandez and Henderson Alvarez return.

Neither of those moves are the least bit rational, and they point to some odd thinking from the Marlins. Last year, the Fish were a .500 team that stood 2.5 games back of the division and 4.5 out of the Wild Card by June 26. At that time, even with an injured Jose Fernandez, it was reasonable for the Marlins to try and stay in the race a little while longer, though subsequently the team fell by the wayside within the next month and a half. This year, the club is far from the race and would have to play at an extreme pace to even climb back into the game, as noted by Craig Edwards of FanGraphs today.

The problem for the Marlins is that improving will not be enough. The Nationals and Dodgers are projected to finish the season with the highest winning percentage at roughly .580 going forward. If the Marlins were to get performances well above expectations and match those teams, they still finish with just 82 wins. To get to 88 wins, the team would need to win more than 65% of their games, a level only the St. Louis Cardinals have achieved so far this season.

To his point, the Marlins just getting Fernandez back is probably not enough. We projected Fernandez to be worth almost three Wins Above Replacement in 100 or so innings. If you compare that to the projection for, say, Tom Koehler, you get maybe a boost of about 2.5 wins for the course of the year. Those 2.5 wins are nice to have, but they by no means put the Marlins from bottom-dweller to contender in a hurry. In fact, FanGraphs' .500 projected rest-of-season winning percentage includes Fernandez's contributions.

Even if Fernandez and Alvarez are replacing replacement-level talent, the added wins just would not be enough to bring the Marlins back up from 14 games back of .500. There is no conceivable way that a loaded Miami roster could be expected to win 65 percent of their remaining games. That does not mean it could not happen, but the odds are very low.

Facing bad odds, why not consider moving Haren or Latos? Both pitchers are at their highest stocks as of right now. Haren is supporting a 3.38 ERA despite another huge home run rate and a 4.26 FIP and 4.19 SIERA. Latos still has an awful ERA, but he has thrown significantly better since his return from the DL.

LATOS, 2015 FB VELO (MPH) K% BB% ERA FIP
Pre-velocity 91.5 18.8 8.3 6.12 3.58
Post-velocity 93.6 24.7 7.4 4.12 3.97

The last start for Latos was poor, but he still was hitting velocities he had not touched since before 2014. With that kind of interesting return in velocity, the Marlins should at least feature Latos heavily in the rotation, if only to convince potential suitors that he still has Major League stuff and that he would be a worthwhile acquisition.

Instead, the Fish are rewarding Haren with no trade rumors despite the fact that he has played a perilous game stranding runners all season. They may demote a legitimately interesting player because of his ERAs without looking at some very simple scouting observations that portend good things. And most importantly, they may not trade either guy despite neither likely returning to Miami next season.

The Fish could always promote Justin Nicolino, Jose Urena, and Adam Conley on a more permanent basis and trade the one-year rentals for prospect depth while getting some time to evaluate potential options for next year's rotation. Instead, Miami may hold onto both guys despite not having enough rotation spots for all players and despite being ridiculously out of contention. It would be a double whammy of incompetent play on the field and personnel management off of it.

It always seems as though the Marlins vacillate slow but hard on their decision to go for it or give up. The team makes no nuanced decisions, instead opting for an all-in approach when it is unnecessary (trading prospects last year for the mediocre Jarred Cosart) or dumping everything (2012). The team could play a reasonable middle ground by trading at least their one-year rental players for depth and assessing the future in a lost 2015 season, but instead they may chug along with a set of players who no longer have a real role on the roster.