3 Moves the Marlins Should Make Instead of Trading Away Giancarlo Stanton
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Assuming the Marlins are true to their word—for now—their offseason doesn't begin nor end with Stanton. In fact, since Stanton is staying put, there are a few moves the Marlins could make to not only build around Stanton for the 2013 season, but improve the franchise's future, as well.
One move the Marlins should make might be born out of necessity; another deal could speed up the rebuilding process; and a third transaction might come out of nowhere, but it could help the Marlins build an effective yet unorthodox everyday lineup.
If these actions pan out, perhaps Stanton might consider re-signing with the Marlins when the team decides to offer the outfielder a contract extension. After all, Stanton is eligible for arbitration after the 2013 season, and the Marlins need to know which direction they are headed with him.
So, in order, here are three moves the Marlins should make instead of trading Stanton.
Find Stanton's protector if LoMo can't go
If Logan Morrison isn't ready to go by Opening Day, who will the Marlins find to protect Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup?
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When the Marlins signed Placido Polanco less than a week before Christmas, it seemed as though first-year manager Mike Redmond could fill out his Opening Day lineup card right then and there.
Hopefully, Redmond used a pencil instead of a pen.
First baseman Logan Morrison told reporters Saturday he might not be ready come Opening Day prior to the third annual LoMo’s Camp For a Cure to benefit the American Lung Association. In fact, Morrison said he has yet to run, hit or throw, and the Marlins' first full squad workout is a month away.
“I’m not going to be able to run until the middle of February,” Morrison told the Sun-Sentinel. “It’ll take a week into spring training, then it will be a progression to lead up to bases at some point. I don’t know when that will be.”
If healthy, Morrison is expected to hit fifth in the batting order and protect Stanton from being pitched around. But now, that plan might be on hold as Morrison is still recovering from his surgically repaired right knee.
The Marlins already took the first step in case such a scenario does happen, as they agreed to terms with Austin Kearns on a minor league deal Sunday, according to the Miami Herald. Last season, Kearns signed a similar deal, worked his way onto the big league club and hit .245 with four home runs and 16 RBI in 147 at-bats.
Kearns, though, might not be enough.
First base options such as Travis Hafner, Casey Kotchman and Juan Rivera are still available, but the guy the Marlins should target is Luke Scott.
Scott's defense leaves a little to be desired, but this was a player who batted .266 with 75 home runs and 214 RBI from 2008-10 before injuries plagued him in each of the past two seasons.
If healthy and affordable, Scott could be a perfect platoon player with Kearns should Morrison be out for an extended period of time, or move Morrison back to left field and create a scenario where Redmond has a deep bench that allows him to rest his starters regularly.
By signing a bat such as Scott, the Marlins might be able to buy some peace of mind for themselves, for Morrison and for Stanton, knowing Scott can protect Stanton and allow Morrison to take his time in his road to recovery.
Trade Ricky Nolasco
Ricky Nolasco might be chatting about an exit strategy out of Miami.
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As some of you already know by now, Ricky Nolasco wants out of Miami, Nolasco's agent Matt Sosnick said last month.
And thus far, the Marlins have done their due diligence. Since Nolasco expressed his desire to leave, reports have surfaced that the Marlins have taken phone calls on their all-time winningest pitcher (76 wins) and have had an interest in a deal for a player such as the Los Angeles Angels' Peter Bourjos.
While some may think a Nolasco trade could fetch the Marlins a top prospect or two, it will depend on how much money the Marlins are willing to pick up on Nolasco's $11.5 million contract. If the Marlins' 12-player fire sale was any indication, the answer might be as little as possible. The Marlins agreed to send just $8.5 million in over $160 million in guaranteed salaries, which might explain why the Marlins weren't able to get the Blue Jays' No. 1 prospect, catcher Travis d'Arnaud, while the Mets did with the R.A. Dickey trade.
Basically, the more money the Marlins pick up, the better the likelihood the Marlins get a top prospect.
Now, some might oppose a Nolasco trade because he's the only veteran in the starting rotation, and he could eat up innings since he's made at least 30 starts and thrown at least 185 innings in four of the last five years. Those are valuable traits to have, particularly on such a young squad.
But he's not worth keeping around at that price, especially since Nolasco wants out.
What the Marlins should do is trade Nolasco and then turn around and use that money to sign a veteran free agent pitcher to a one-year deal to take his spot. Some of the pricier pitchers still on the market include right-hander Shaun Marcum and left-hander Joe Saunders. Last season, Saunders pitched on a one-year, $6 million contract. Knowing the Marlins, they probably prefer to shop in the bargain bin. In there, reclamation projects such as Erik Bedard and Dallas Braden are available.
Whether the Marlins part ways with Nolasco now or before the July 31 trade deadline, the Marlins will probably need to shave Nolasco's $11.5 million salary off the books. And the sooner the better, because they could use the rest of those savings to make this next move...
Add more speed
The Marlins could use Michael Bourn's speed at the top of the Marlins' lineup, especially since Giancarlo Stanton will be the Marlins' only consistent source of power.
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Assuming Morrison is healthy, this is what the Marlins' everyday lineup will probably look like:
LF Juan Pierre
2B Donovan Solano
C Rob Brantly
CF Justin Ruggiano
SS Adeiny Hechavarria
This lineup features four slap hitters (Pierre, Solano, Polanco and Hechavarria), a pair of guys with doubles-power (Brantly and Morrison), a soon-to-be 31-year-old who has to prove his breakout 2012 season was no fluke (Ruggiano), and Stanton. Essentially, this lineup scares nobody.
As the Sun-Sentinel's Juan Rodriguez tweeted, the best way for the Marlins to score runs this season is to manufacture them like Henry Ford's Model T, one of the best selling cars in history. Furthermore, we know cars today are fast and that is exactly what the Marlins should add to their lineup: speed, and plenty of it.
Based on the free agent landscape today, it just so happens center fielder Michael Bourn is still available. It also just so happens that of the eight Marlins projected to start on Opening Day, center field is the position where there is the most competition.
In the last four seasons, Bourn has been selected as an All-Star twice, won two Gold Gloves and led the National League in stolen bases for three consecutive years (2009-11). During that same span, he hit .280 with 166 extra-base hits and 216 stolen bases—the most among all players.
Yes, Bourn is looking for a mega-deal, but in the event this Scott Boras client can't get what he wants, he could sign a one-year deal in the neighborhood of $15 million and re-establish his value. While some might think this fantasy scenario might never happen, it could if the Marlins trade Nolasco and open a roster spot with $$$ earmarked for it. Keep in mind, the players union is keeping a close eye on the Marlins' spending habits, so any slashing of the payroll might be better served with the addition of a high-priced player.
Other landing spots for Bourn includes the Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs and the Minnesota Twins, according to ESPN.com's Jim Bowden. Bowden said the Mariners and Cubs don't want to give up a draft pick to sign Bourn, while the Marlins and Twins don't want to commit to that type of money. But the lack of spending is what has the players union monitoring the Marlins.
Let's say the Marlins trade Nolasco without picking up a portion of the contract, and then sign Marcum and Bourn to one-year deals because they couldn't find the multi-year deal they sought. The worst-case scenario is the Marlins add $10 million in payroll and get a high-risk, high-reward prospect in return for Nolasco. The best-case scenario is the Marlins still add payroll, but receive a few more prospects in return after trading Bourn and Marcum at the July 31 trade deadline.
Plus, with these moves here is what the Marlins will look like on the field:
And on the mound:
RHP Jacob Turner
RHP Nathan Eovaldi
RHP Henderson Alvarez
P Wade LeBlanc/Tom Koehler/John Maine/Alex Sanabia/Brad Hand
With or without Nolasco, the rotation was nothing special to look at today. Instead, it will be predicated on the progress Turner, Eovaldi and Henderson makes.
As for the everyday lineup, Bourn and Pierre could be the speediest table-setters the Marlins have ever had, and this is a franchise that once had Pierre and Luis Castillo hitting in front of the likes of Pudge Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera and Derrek Lee on their way to the 2003 World Series title.
If Bourn is not a viable option, the only other alternative on the market is Scott Podsednik, who will turn 37 two weeks before Opening Day. Last season, Podsednik hit .302 in 199 at-bats with the Boston Red Sox. He might come cheap since there's been a report saying Podsednik is expected to look for a minor league contract. In the six seasons Podsednik accumulated more than 500 at-bats (2003-06, 2009-10), he hit .284, averaged 156 hits and stole at least 30 bases (46.2 average) in each of those years.
Since the Marlins don't have the thunder to make opposing pitchers feel uncomfortable, having plenty of speed on the base paths could be the next-best solution.