The Miami Marlins completed the trade deadline by having sent away Mat Latos, Michael Morse, and Dan Haren is separate trades. That is three of the team's four major acquisitions of the winter, acquisitions which were aimed to position Miami for a chance at a playoff spot. Of those moves, only Dee Gordon remains on the roster thanks to his magical first six weeks. Other than that, it appears as if the Marlins have called their offseason a distinct failure and have sold off those parts less than year since acquiring them.
Why did the Marlins' moves fail? Was it the fault of the players involved, or did something else occur this season in Miami that led to this offseason being deemed a failure retroactively? There were a couple of obvious reasons why this offseason was aborted, and it is worth mentioning them.
1. Many of the players were one-year rentals.
Haren and Latos were one-year rentals who were bound to leave the team either way. There was a remote chance the Fish would have considered keeping Latos around after this year had he and the team performed well, but Haren was always destined to head elsewhere. The only chance Miami was keeping either of these two until the end of the year was if the team was playing well enough to compete. With their struggles, it was clear that the team was going to sell on them.
2. Latos was still injured.
Something was still wrong with Mat Latos despite the offseason's worth of rehab for his injured knee. The knee clearly ended up still bothering him at the beginning of the year, as his velocity was still gone at the start of the year and he was pitching poorly, though not as poorly as his ERA indicated. By the time this became obvious to Miami, the Fish shelved Latos by the middle of the year and his return only lasted a few starts before the trade deadline. At that point, Latos had helped contribute to the club's struggles at the start of the year, and his subsequent great play was too little, too late to unbury a struggling Marlins team. Had Latos not been injured or had someone figured out his problems earlier, maybe the Marlins squeeze out another win from their season over the questionable performance he put up.
3. Michael Morse was awful.
There's really no arguing against this. Morse was awful this season, so he too failed to contribute anything in terms of wins for the team this season.
3. Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich did not play well.
Wait, what? What do Ozuna and Yelich have to do with Latos, Morse, and Haren?
Well, go back to the original point. The Marlins probably could have handled losing a win from Latos or a win from Morse if the rest of the team was playing up to par and keeping the club in contention. Instead, a 3.5-win player like Yelich was below replacement level for the first two months of the year and a three-win player like Ozuna has played near replacement-level ball for the entire campaign. Instead of adding up to four or so wins by now, the two have combined for just 1.5 wins by FanGraphs. That leaves Miami down another 2.5 wins from what they would expect at this point. That is a bigger drop than the combination of the three players dealt and their performances versus their expectations.
Miami losing these wins from two young potential stars and core pieces was a serious blow to the team's chances. But that is not all.
4. Henderson Alvarez got hurt.
Alvarez was at least expected to be a league-average starter, perhaps a little more, but he was injured and replaced by a bevy of poor starters. Adam Conley, Justin Nicolino, Jose Urena, and Brad Hand have combined to make 14 starts and have pitched horrifically in place of Alvarez. Combine that with Jarred Cosart's poor play and the Marlins are down another couple of wins from their expectations.
If you add up the tally, you are looking at six wins that the Marlins may have lost out on between injuries and ineffectiveness. If you even add four wins to the Marlins' tally (and take away the subsequent losses) and the Marlins turn into a 46-58 team. Still out of contention, but a significantly better-looking squad.
5. The Marlins are underperforming their Pythagorean expectation.
For some reason, this year's Marlins squad has underperformed its expected play based on their runs scored and allowed. The Marlins have scored 370 runs and allowed 408 runs. That should lead to a performance closer to a 47-win team according to the Pythagenpat formula. If the Marlins had played up to their run-scoring standards, they would be on the outskirts of the playoff race.
It looks even better if you take the team's runs produced and prevented by BaseRuns, a formula used to estimate a team's run production in a context-neutral fashion. BaseRuns estimates Miami has a run differential of just negative-eight runs, meaning the team has really played up to a 50-win team level.
Now that is considering all the poor play from Yelich, Ozuna, Morse, Alvarez, and his replacements. Imagine if the Marlins added three of those lost expected wins to a 47- or 50-win team. Suddenly, you are at the level of the San Diego Padres, who are still well on the outskirts but appearing at least competitive.
At that level of .500 or even .520 play, about six games out of the Wild Card, would the Marlins be so willing to give up on Latos, Morse, and Haren? Well, the team was about 4.5 games out of the Wild Card last season with four teams ahead of them by July 31 and were clear buyers in making the Jarred Cosart trade. Chances are that, if the Fish had 50 wins right now, the team might be looking to add a marginal piece rather than take away, especially given the performance of the Washington Nationals and New York Mets at the top of the NL East.
So really, the failure of this past offseason has more to do with the Marlins having underperformed both their expectations and even their underlying play this season. Had the Fish played up to their skill level, they should have been better than a team staring at another top draft pick. Had they done that, we may be looking at these moves differently. It is indeed partly their fault, but the Marlins' failed offseason was heavily influenced by the play of others on this disappointing team.