It has been a while since we answered inbox questions from MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, so it feels appropriate for us to go through them again after the latest interesting set of questions.
Do the Marlins see Justin Bour as their everyday first baseman next year? Or will they be open to upgrading?
On the positive side, Justin Bour has hit 15 home runs this year, and his batting line is one of five above-average lines belonging to batters with more than 200 plate appearances on the team. At the plate, Bour has been a positive contributor, However, when it comes to his performance compared to first basemen, it is only average at best. This year, first basemen are hitting .258/.332/.442 (.334 wOBA), a batting line 12 percent greater than league average. Compare that to Bour's line of .252/.321/.449 (.332 wOBA), which is nine percent better than league average. That line is just a bit shy of what we might expect for an average first baseman.
"Average" would be acceptable in Miami after a few years of poor first base play, but the team needs to consider a few other issues with Bour's game. For one, Bour's baserunning has been Michael Morse-level poor. FanGraphs has him at four runs below average this season, and given his stature, it would not surprise anyone if he was a below average baserunner. Secondly, he has not rated well at first base according to the defensive metrics. Bour is around three to five runs below average according to the advanced defensive metrics, which would be very poor for his playing time.
The baserunning and defense numbers should probably tone down a notch, but the hitting could easily regress a bit as well. Thus far, Bour has been about replacement level for the Fish this year, and the projections have him at replacement level going forward. Miami should give him time to figure things out next year, given that they are unlikely to contend, but they should also recognize that he likely is not the future at the position at 27 years old.
I have seen Don Mattingly's name out there as a possible new manager. What are the chances of that happening? And what other choices would the Marlins consider?
-- William S., Hollywood, Fla.
Well, the Marlins have switched their thoughts on the matter of managing once again. They thought the 2012 team needed an experienced, boisterous manager, until it didn't work. Then they wanted a quiet, inexperienced younger manager, until that was deemed not working. Now the Fish want to go back to experience and are looking at names like Don Mattingly (if he does not return to the Los Angeles Dodgers) or Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa. Do not look for internal candidates like Triple-A New Orleans manager Andy Haines or former Double-A Jacksonville manager Andy Barkett, as the team wants Major League experience on their side, likely because a lack of Major League experience most recently did not work.
Given the health questions of the starting pitching (Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez), wouldn't a top free-agent arm provide stability and insurance for a young, talented, but inconsistent staff?
Mpicardi, you can say that the Marlins need a "top free-agent arm," but you and I both know that such a player would not be in the Marlins' price range. The David Price or Johnny Cueto types of players are way outside the likely payroll restrictions the Marlins have available to them. If the team is going to improve its pitching staff, it may have to go for upside cheap picks like Doug Fister or opt for their current depleted crop of questionable minor leaguers to hopefully develop into the role.
Interestingly, Frisaro mentions the trade market as an option.
The most likely scenario is finding a starter in a trade. If that is the case, I could see Miami having talks with the Padres regarding James Shields. Marcell Ozuna could be a potential trade piece.
This Marlins team is already so depleted on any trade assets that are not critical to the roster that trading for a guy like James Shields may cripple their team, particularly if Shields starts to struggle in the next year or so. It is one thing to sign a guy to a fair contract; it is entirely a different thing to trade real value for the back years of his fair contract.
Do you see the team ultimately being able to sign Fernandez to a long-term extension?
I mean, we could go into it further, but there are a lot of reasons why Jose Fernandez is unlikely to sign a long-term contract. Scott Boras is his agent, and he notoriously does not negotiate before free agency. The Marlins have only twice offered long-term contracts to starting pitchers, and one of them was traded just one year later. Fernandez's injury has opened up huge questions about his health and durability long-term while at the same time deflating his arbitration values, making Boras even less likely to talk shop.
The only thing that points positively towards that is that the other deal the Marlins have given to a pitcher, the four-year contract to Josh Johnson, was given to someone who had an extended run of bad health. But Johnson had at least one great season under his belt after his injury and had a more agreeable agent than Boras on his side. Johnson also never finished his contract in Miami.