Marlins fans know by now to hold their breath whenever Martín Prado is running. Lower-body injuries—multiple hamstring strains, followed by knee surgery—cost him the majority of the 2017 season. A slower-than-expected recovery from that surgery delayed his 2018 debut and then another hamstring strain sidelined him throughout June.
This latest setback was more subtle. Chasing a foul ball off the bat of Ozzie Albies during Friday’s afternoon game, Prado gutted through the rest of that second inning without a noticeable limp.
But Miguel Rojas replaced him shortly after that. Manager Don Mattingly delivered the sour news to reporters after the 9-1 loss: the veteran infielder suffered a strained left quad. At least initially, newly acquired Christopher Bostick is replacing him on the active roster.
Although the Marlins expect Prado to play later this season, it’s time to accept that his role must change.
During Prado’s first healthy stretch of 2018 (April 27-May 25), he started 23 of 26 team games. There was a similar usage pattern during the second stretch (July 5-August 13), as Mattingly penciled his name into the lineup in 26 of 32 opportunities. Practically an everyday player!
The production simply doesn’t merit that any longer. Prado was at replacement level last season (.250/.279/.357, 82 wRC+) and looks even more overmatched as a 34-year-old (.244/.288/.301, 63 wRC+). Combine those together and he’s keeping company with a group made largely of fringe major leaguers, per FanGraphs.
Perhaps there was an initial hope that 2017 was an anomaly, that Prado could regain his old form with enough reps. His backloaded contract guarantees $15 million in 2019 and trading any portion of that obligation hinged on him convincing a contending team of his usefulness.
That ship has sailed. Prado’s playing time should never again come at the expense of controllable players like JT Riddle, Bostick and whoever may come up when roster expand in September. The Marlins’ No. 1 priority down the stretch is to determine if any of them are true complementary pieces (as opposed to organizational depth).
While still valued for his intangibles, using Prado on the field regularly moving forward would be detrimental to all parties.