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One-year analysis of the Jeter and Loria rebuilds

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Surprise: it’s not close

MLB: Miami Marlins at Colorado Rockies Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last year, the Marlins have gone through quite the metamorphosis of both their major league roster and the organization as a whole. As with any rebuild, there are those that oppose and those in favor. For the opposition, an opinion often stated is that Jeter is acting no differently than Loria, and some go as far as to say that Jeter is worse. This article will cover some of the differences between their rebuilding strategies and execution at the one-year mark.

We begin by looking at the specific players involved. The year associated with each rebuild indicates when ownership completed its first “productive veteran for young, controllable talent” trade.

Philadelphia Phillies v Florida Marlins Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

The Headline Departures

The Headline Returns

“The Headline Returns” are former or current Top 100 prospects, at time of the trade, as ranked by Baseball America, FanGraphs or MLB Pipeline. For what it’s worth, rankings mean little to me, but I understand it is easier for many to grasp than scouting grades and projected development.

What do you see? Does something stick out to you?

Arizona Fall League All Star Game
Outfielder Monte Harrison was a consensus Top-100 prospect entering the 2018 season
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Here’s what becomes immediately obvious to me: the current Marlins regime, in the early stages of this rebuild and prior to trading Realmuto, Castro, Straily, and others, has infused this organization with more Top 100 talent than Loria and Co. were able to accomplish in their rebuilds…combined. Recall that Cabrera was traded two years after the 2005 fire sale (2007), but even if you include that deal’s returns (Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin), the total number of Top 100 prospects acquired would still only be eight. Think about that.

Nonetheless, some fans state that Jeter is the same as Loria, and that this rebuild is a “repeat of the past.” I disagree—this rebuild is not the same. If it were the same, then how does one account for the difference in return and disparity in talent?

A popular line of response is to claim that the current rebuild featured better outgoing assets than the previous ones (two MVPs!). In theory, this would then account for the difference in returning talent. Again, I disagree. In a vacuum, I am uncertain that I would take Giancarlo Stanton (i.e. immense contract and no-trade clause), Marcell Ozuna (i.e. two-year control), Christian Yelich (i.e. by far the best value), and Dee Gordon (i.e. reduced value) over Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Hanley Ramírez, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Delgado, José Reyes, Josh Johnson, and so on. It’s admittedly a subjective comparison, so feel free to disagree.

Regardless, how has Jeter been able to attain significantly more long-term talent than Loria did? Here’s how:

Pittsburgh Pirates v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

1. Money

Loria’s primary interest—and possibly his sole interest—seemed to be connected to his wallet. When possible, he would pair expensive contracts with the talent he was trading away, in turn lowering the value of return the Marlins received. Just imagine if Jeter had asked the Cardinals to accept Junichi Tazawa’s contract along with Ozuna, or asked the Brewers to accept Martín Prado and Wei-Yin Chen’s contracts with Yelich.

Instead, Jeter is eating Loria’s bad contracts (e.g. Prado, Tazawa, Chen, etc.) so that returns are talent-based, rather than pure salary pairings. For the current regime, money plays a part, but is evidently not the sole interest. I will also add that my one hesitation with the Stanton trade was that the Marlins could have accepted responsibility for more of Stanton’s contract, which would have upped the return value.

I am not here to deny that the current regime isn’t mindful of the wallet, but their actions do not seem solely driven by it.

2. Identity

Loria refused to allow for the organization to find a true identity throughout his rebuilds, never going into a full reset, even when it would’ve been much more appropriate. By continuously holding onto some elements of the core, he was able to sell seats—barely—and give false hope to a lukewarm and somewhat unaware fanbase.

Problem? By always half-rebuilding or prematurely deciding to “go for it” via mid-season trades (e.g. Cosart, Rodney, and so on), he never adequately built depth within the organization. He handcuffed himself and the organization from getting the return needed to build a sustainable club.

Jeter, unlike Loria, is going with the full rebuild, and in doing so has turned this unsustainable franchise on its head. The current regime has shifted the focus to future success, not to be discouraged by current attendance numbers or reactionary tweets from upset fans. A shame Loria never understood that.

3. Depth and Talent

Jeter, Michael Hill and Gary Denbo have built a farm system—still in the beginning stages—that is already more talented and deep than any system that Loria built via his rebuilds. Since late 2017, Miami has gone  from being the worst farm system in all of baseball to being in the conversation for the 16–23 range of baseball; that’s a significant jump. And let’s remember, this is before utilizing trade chips like Realmuto, Straily, Castro, and so on.

Loria was unable to accomplish sustainability. Even with Gordon, Realmuto, Bour, Stanton, Ozuna, and Yelich, the Marlins could not supply fans a winning season, or pitching talent, or a way to attain pitching or positional depth, or anything worth convincing me that a rebuild was not necessary. If Loria would have been able to create a farm system around Miami’s previous core, imagine what could have happened in Marlins Park. Instead, he emptied a farm system for aging relievers, and irresponsibly attempted to compete with no margin for error. That approach predictably failed.

A rebuild is always difficult, but this next core will be sustainable. The Marlins are in position to compete around 2020-2021, with fun and exciting players that want to be in Miami! What a concept. And it’s all thanks to organizational leaders who understand that you win in Major League Baseball with depth.

Fish Stripes original GIF

Now, some may believe that this farm system is not deep enough yet. I would agree. But what if I told you that they may be better off than we think?

Stay tuned for a unique piece on the state of the farm system’s depth, which will be released later in the offseason...