As Scott covered yesterday, the Marlins’ Pecota projected record has been released and has since shifted up, presently standing at 77 wins. That’s 11 behind the projected NL east division leaders, the New York Mets.
Looking around the projections for the National League we see the Los Angeles Dodgers (98), and Chicago Cubs (91) are expected to run away with their divisions. Among non-division leaders the Washington Nationals (87), and San Francisco Giants (86) lead the pack, placing the projected minimum win total for a playoff birth at 86 (84 in the American League).
If the NL mark holds true, it will be the lowest mark since the two Wild Card system began back in 2012. Seemingly a perfect opportunity; unfortunately, the Fish would still have to find an additional nine wins in the couch cushions if they want to get there.
And get there they must, as the team is currently in the most desperate of win-now modes, mainly because of one player: Giancarlo Stanton’s contract is about to explode to $25 million in 2018. Rarely do the Fish go beyond a $100 million payroll, and no team has ever won a World Series with more than 15% of their payroll dedicated to one player.
The raiding of the farm system has also contributed to the current predicament, but the cause is immaterial. The Marlins find themselves on the edge of a precipice: Everything since the fire sale has led to this season.
So, it’s time to get a little desperate. Here are a couple crazy ideas that could produce a few extra wins.
1. Move Dee Gordon to shortstop, start Derek Dietrich at second base.
I know, this has the potential to be disastrous. When Dee played SS for the Dodgers he was terrible, abysmal, god-awful. In 1,304 innings, he posted a -21 DRS. Compare that to +14 over 5048 innings for Hech, and it’s clearly a massive defensive down grade.
At 2nd base, swapping out Dee for Deets is perhaps just as much of a downgrade. By making this move, the Marlins are risking serious gaps at two important defensive positions.
Now for the pros. As bad as Dee was at short as a Dodger, he was just as bad a second baseman. Fast forward to now and he has two seasons, one admittedly cut short, of gold-glove caliber production at the keystone. Perhaps the improvement can also be transferred to the other side of the infield?
What is certain is the offense will take a massive jump in production. Last year Hech produced a 56 wRC+ in 547 Plate Appearances. Take those opportunities and split them between Gordon, and Deets, who have 93 and 110 career wRC+ respectively, and the Fish give themselves a chance at scoring significantly more runs.
If Dee can’t play short and Deets is a disaster at 2nd we’ll find out soon enough and things can go back to normal. There really isn’t anything to lose, if the Fish play it safe and things go as planned they aren’t a playoff team by a mile.
2. Platoon Ichiro at first base with Justin Bour
This one is less crazy; crazy-lite if you will. Bour’s struggles against lefties are no longer theoretical. In 110 PAs, we’ve seen his strikeout rate jump by 13 percentage points, his wOBA fall by .100, and his .ISO decrease by .150. A right-handed platoon partner is necessary to maximize the value from first base.
Some fans, and the Marlins front office themselves, have suggested that J.T. Realmuto could come out from behind the plate to partner with Bour. This is an intriguing possibility, but as it would mean sliding Realmoney all the way down the defensive spectrum in one fell swoop, it would be something I am loath to do.
Instead, we should not look to a right-handed hitter at all, but to a lefty that hits like a righty. Over his career, Ichiro has consistently maintained reverse platoon splits, holding a career 115 wRC+ against lefties, as opposed to a 99 against north-paws. Even last season, as a 42 year old, he produced a stellar 139 wRC+. This is one of the last reliable skills Ichiro has, it would be in the Marlins best interest to start him against any lefties, while sitting the often south-paw challenged Bour.
Those are two suggestions for ways the Fish could squeeze a few extra wins out of their 2017 roster. Neither are home runs, but when you’re a team on the outside looking in to the playoff picture, as the Marlins are, it’s exactly the kind of gamble you should be taking. What would you do?