An Abomination

by Bill M on November 16, 2012 · 0 comments

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Marlins owner Jeff Loria has always been a clown; the crazy uncle everyone hopes won’t show up for Christmas but always does.  He’s made a mockery of the league with firesale after firesale and criminally low MLB roster salaries.  He fired his manager for rightfully calling him out after he threw a public temper tantrum…and that manager had just won NL Manager of the Year (Joe Girardi, 2006).

There were some, including myself, who at the very least understood the strategy of the fire sales, however.  If you can’t do better than middle of the division with what you have, and you have very limited revenue, why waste money on a few good players and a bunch of journeymen making the MLB minimum?  I watched the Pirates do that for 15 years with Kevin McClatchy, and he created the longest streak of losing seasons for any team in the history of North American professional sports with that strategy.  Instead of treading in mediocrity or worse, sell high, restock the minors, and hope maybe you’ll have enough depth that a few good free agent signings put you over the top when the next crop is major league ready.  Plus, you’re saving some money for that rainy day with the ultra-low salary.  Makes sense…when your team plays in an outdated football stadium and is constantly in the bottom 5 in attendance.

Everything changed, however, when the tax payers of Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami ponies up over $500 million (80% of the total cost) for a brand new state of the art baseball specific stadium that opened in 2012.  On the day Marlins Park opened, Jeff Loria forfeited the right to decimate his major league roster to save money, even in the guise of rebuilding.

Apparently Loria missed the memo about the new coversheet for the TPS reports.  This week, the Marlins conducted yet another firesale with the Toronto Blue Jays.  The trade is still pending some player physicals and official league office approval, but the Commissioner’s Office should nix the deal.  There is no way anyone can say this is in the best interest of baseball.

The nerve to even try to make this deal one year after opening the new tax payer funded stadium goes beyond nixing it or a slap on the wrist.  This guy has become a liability to MLB.  If MLB lets this trade stand, they will be setting a disastrous example for teams trying to obtain public money for new stadiums in the future.  After the years of annoyance, this man has become an abomination.  It’s time for MLB to step in and relieve Mr. Loria of control of the team, a la Frank McCourt and the LA Dodgers.  Loria has thumbed his nose differently, but with no less of a subversion.

Now that I have that mild tirade out of the way, let’s break down this trade:

To the Blue Jays: RHP Josh Johnson, SS Jose Reyes, LHP Mark Buehrle, C John Buck, UTL Emilio Bonifacio and $4 million

To the Marlins: SS Yunel Escobar, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, RHP Henderson Alvarez, C Jeff Mathis, LHP Justin Nicolino, and OF Jake Marisnick

 

BLUE JAYS

Generally speaking, the Marlins traded just about all of their remaining assets other than Giancarlo Stanton in this deal.  They traded their best pitcher (Johnson), their second best hitter (Reyes), their second best pitcher (Buehrle), and a valuable utility player (Bonifacio) who was actually a starter for them that played several different positions.  Buck was really the only dead weight in the deal.  And the $4 million was window dressing.

Johnson – JJ at one time appeared to be as good as anybody.  But, after losing most of 2011 to a shoulder ailment, he came back throwing 92-93 after being a solid 95 with his FB in ’09-‘10.  While still excellent, he didn’t have the same stuff, and he didn’t have the same command (BB/K tend of 3.9, 2.8, to 2.5 over the last three years).  That said, he’s only 28 years old and still has that Ace mentality with above average stuff.  He is a major asset to any major league team.

Reyes – He’s an above average offensive force at a premium position.  He was signed to be the Face of the Miami Marlins with the new stadium and rebranding of the team.  It wasn’t his fault that the team fell apart last year, and cutting the cord after one season is more than laughable.  The Blue Jays acquire a major catalyst at the top of an already potent order.  He could be the missing link who takes them to the next level.

Buerhle – He is what he is: one of the best inning eaters in all of baseball.  He has thrown over 200 innings in each of the last 12 seasons, and had an ERA over 4.00 in just three of them.  He’s most definitely not an Ace, but he sure solidifies the middle-end of a rotation.

Bonifacio – He plays good defense at 2B, 3B, and CF, and even plays a decent SS in a pinch.  He’s not a great player to stick in one of those positions, but using him regularly, spelling your starters all around the diamond and he’s invaluable.  He also has Elite speed by almost any statistical measure.

Buck – As stated, he’s basically dead weight, but the Blue Jays only need him as a backup, and he has a lot of experience and some legit power.

 

MARLINS

The entire point of these fire sales is certainly to dispose of payroll, but it is also to get young talent in return.  The Marlins got some talent, but I’m not sure I would call it great.  Although, I must admit, after doing the write-ups, there’s more here than I originally thought.  It doesn’t diminish my disdain for the spirit of the deal, but it is better than I thought.

Escobar – The enigmatic Escobar has now been run out of two towns because of lack luster #want and a general prickliness in the club house.  In other words, he’s a cancer.  I figured immediately that he was a pass through, and I’ve read the same.  At worst for the Marlins, he ends up being their staring 3B.

Hechavarria – He’s a slick fielding SS who had a bit of a breakout with the bat in AAA.  But, that breakout must be put in the perspective of playing in the Pacific Coast League (PCL), specifically in the thin desert air of Las Vegas.  In other words, it was a mirage.  He’s slated to be the starting SS for the Marlins, but I’m expecting some more time in AAA before he becomes a career utility man and/or late inning defensive replacement.  I’m probably more pessimistic than most, but I’ve seen this profile before, and those players never become first division players.

Alvarez – He had a nice rookie season in 2011 (3.51 ERA) at just 21 years of age, but the league made adjustments the second time around (4.85 ERA).  The guy throws pretty hard (93-94…harder than Johnson the last two years), but he’s never really missed bats.  Crash Davis called strikeouts fascist, but the reality is that when you can miss bats, it increases your margin of error.  Alvarez has a low margin for error, and while he’s still very young, he needs to make adjustments as well.

Mathis – he’s essentially a cheaper version of John Buck.

Nicolino – He’s a legitimate pitching prospect.  He’s got pedigree being a 2nd round pick in 2010, and he’s not quite 21 yet.  He’s yet to throw a pitch above Low-A ball, but the prospecting sites I check say he’s a good mix of stuff and polish, and he’s left handed to boot.  Lots of risk, but he’s probably already the #2 arm in the system now behind Jose Fernandez.  They will most likely both start at HIA.

Marisnick – A year ago, he never would have been included in this deal.  He’s big (6’4” 200#), he’s got a great motor, and he flashes all five skills (hit, power, speed, arm, defensive range).  He was a consensus top 3 prospect in the Toronto organization, and he was considered a rising star.  Then 2012 happened.  He held his own in High-A, but he really struggled in AA, leading some to question his eventual ceiling.  He was young for the upper levels, so he deserves some slack (NOTE: upper levels start at AA…some say the jump from High-A to AA is bigger than AA to the majors).  Even with the risk exposed by his 2012 performance, he’s the jewel of this deal.  He will join the Marlins top prospect Christian Yelich at AA.  It will be interesting to see which one plays CF.

 

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