At this point last month, owner Jeffrey Loria told the Miami Herald, "We're going to be fine, this is an excellent team, and I would never bet against them."
This came after the Marlins were faltering yet again during the month of June for the second consecutive season. Loria continued, saying, "I don't have any concern.... I'm not worried long-term about our offense at all..I see nothing but Miami sunshine."
This was all due to concern about the Marlins' lineup—a major reason for their 8-18 record in June. Up and down the lineup, this is an underachieving group of players—perhaps the most disappointing team in franchise history (so the 2005 team can now relax).
After spending boldly and putting out a roster that set a franchise record for Opening Day payroll, the Marlins find themselves at 44-48. Their main source for power, Giancarlo Stanton, is out for the next four weeks recovering from knee surgery, their supposed catalysts (Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes) have been anything but, and their bullpen—which has been their kryptonite late in games—is led by Heath Bell—the Terribell?
Bottom line is this: The Marlins can dream all they want—make constant comparisons to 2003 or to recent teams (i.e. St. Louis) who made miraculous comebacks to get into the postseason—but this team's troubles are too severe, and leaving it out to crash and burn won't fix the problems.
On Wednesday, Fox Sports reported the now-infamous trade rumor linking the Red Sox and Marlins, which would have sent underachieving third baseman/shortstop Hanley Ramirez back to Boston along with Heath Bell for injury-prone outfielder Carl Crawford, who is tied to $102.5 million after this season.
This was quickly struck down, but nevertheless makes you consider how the Marlins are inches away from dismantling this team bit by bit—but this time it might actually be welcomed.
Fans may not want to see the Marlins trade away players and bring back memories of their old fire-sale days—much less in the first year of a new era of this franchise with a new ballpark, new uniforms and a new name.
But the Marlins don't have any "sunshine" in their immediate present. Instead, they would be better suited by making a few bold moves to help for 2013.
TRADE #1: Marlins trade 3B/SS Hanley Ramirez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for OF Justin Upton
The Marlins and Diamondbacks would both be receiving underperforming players, but Arizona is desperately trying to unload Upton, and the Marlins have someone (third baseman/shortstop) who can immediately help them in the short-term.
Meanwhile, the Marlins would obtain a player four years younger than Hanley in Upton, and while he is also underachieving, his line of .273/.354/.395 is not as bad as Ramirez's .246/.322/.430.
This trade may be a bit far-fetched at the moment, but it could happen in the offseason.
TRADE #2: Marlins trade 2B Omar Infante and SP Anibal Sanchez to the Detroit Tigers for third-base prospect Nick Castellanos and a mid-level prospect
The Tigers have been reluctant on moving Castellanos—arguably their best prospect in the minors for trades. But it would be hard to turn down a package such as this if you're Detroit, because pulling the trigger instantly puts them in the conversation for a deep postseason run.
Sanchez would become their No. 2 starter behind Verlander, and he might even be enticed to stay in Detroit beyond this season with fellow countryman Miguel Cabrera on the roster.
Castellanos, who was selected by the Tigers with the No. 44 pick of the 2010 draft out of Archbishop McCarthy High School in Davie, Fla., will be right at home with the Marlins and would be in position to man the hot corner as early as next season.
Castellanos is currently hitting .360 with nine home runs, 50 RBI in AA Erie, and for his minor league career he has a .332/.383/.471 line, even though his power (16 home runs in 985 plate appearances) might not quite be there.
As a result of these trades, the Marlins can move Logan Morrison to first base (trade Carlos Lee, again), place Justin Upton in center field (while moving Emilio Bonifacio to second base to replace Infante), and then Castellanos becomes the heir apparent at the hot corner and a candidate for a September call-up.
These are a couple of trades the Marlins can make while not setting off the panic alarm of "doom and gloom" for this franchise's season. The Marlins can always explore the free-agent market again and redeem themselves by signing the right players and offering up that long-awaited extension to Giancarlo—which will win points among fans.
What's certain is that the Marlins will be quite busy in deciding which direction the franchise takes, and the decision must be a definitive one.
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