Miami Marlins: Why Signing Prince Fielder, Trading Hanley Ramirez Could Work
Jeffrey Loria must still be washing his hands of the smell of money he still has after dishing out loads of it ($191 million) at the winter meetings.
But he must prepare to dive back into his vault and dish out some more to the biggest free agent left: Prince Fielder.
Yes, the ballclub has Gaby Sanchez, and yes, it needs to be focused on starting pitching, but as the front office has learned acquiring it isn't easy at all.
Earlier this offseason, the Athletics demanded Logan Morrison or Mike Stanton as a headliner in a package for ace Gio Gonzalez, and the Marlins walked away with the sense that it won't be easy to just trade for any starting pitcher, especially with a weak farm system.
No, the underlying reason why the Marlins should sign Prince Fielder surrounds the ongoing soap opera that is Hanley Ramirez.
During the winter meetings, rumors were rampant that Ramirez, 27, was not at all thrilled about moving to third base, so much so he demanded his contract be restructured to accommodate the move. The Marlins, whether they want to make it known or not, said that did not happen at all and want to have an All-Star left side of the infield with Reyes at shortstop.
But if the Marlins made it known that's what happened, they would be at the mercy of other teams knowing they want to trade him.
The Marlins know Ramirez doesn't have nearly the same trade value as he would have had a year or two years ago. However, that hasn't stopped teams from speaking with the Marlins. According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, several teams indeed initiated conversations with Miami officials about Ramirez in Dallas.
What's better for the Miami Marlins moving forward?
The bottom line, however, is that signing Prince Fielder softens the blow if the Marlins are to part ways with Ramirez. Adding Prince Fielder to the lineup and the team while subtracting Ramirez perhaps changes the whole culture of the team, which is already happening this offseason (new uniforms, new players and new ballpark).
It's no secret that Ramirez has had his run-ins over the years with players and managers. He got into to it with Dan Uggla (lack of desire/effort to win, via ESPN), then Fredi Gonzalez (infamous hustle play, via ESPN), then Jack McKeon (for being late, via Fox Sports) and this past season with Logan Morrison (lack of leadership and anchor, via NBC Sports).
You'd think eventually owner Jeffrey Loria, who some say adores Ramirez, would get the picture that he can ill-afford to have another dramatic scene play out in a new era of Marlins baseball, especially when Ozzie Guillen is your manager.
Trading Ramirez, who has a $15 million salary in each of his next two seasons (2012 and 2013) and a $16 million salary in 2014, would open up the space needed to comfortably sign Prince Fielder. Ramirez could also bring back an established starting pitcher in return, filling out the rotation.
Fielder, 27, brings quite the bat (38 home runs in 2011) to a lineup that already has Jose Reyes, Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison entrenched for the foreseeable future.
While team president David Samson has said he doesn't view Fielder the same way he does Albert Pujols, according to the Palm Beach Post, owner Jeffrey Loria left the door ajar for the chance it could happen by saying this to Joe Capozzi of the Post: “I don’t know about that. I don’t know. We’ll see."
Yes, Fielder's body is a concern, and yes, Scott Boras is his agent, but Jose Reyes' hamstring and C.J. Wilson's age (31) didn't stop the Marlins from offering them long-term contracts. I'm sure a five-year, $125 million contract would be acceptable, especially after throwing in a vesting option of some sort for sixth year. Hey, at 32, Fielder could truly set himself up for a full-time DH role and big contract.
But at the end of the day realize this: Would you want to set yourself up with ongoing drama Ramirez will be sure to bring if he doesn't get his way, or would you want to turn the page completely and start over?
Just imagine the home run shows Mike Stanton and Prince Fielder would bring each and every game, that will surely drive out fans and TV viewers, Latino or not, wanting to see a glimpse of the 400-foot monster shots and the oohs and aahs that await.
Fielder grew up in Melbourne, Florida, and has a house in Orlando. Do you think he'd want to go anywhere else if the Marlins come calling with an enticing offer?
It's come time for Loria to realize this might be the best thing he could do for his sake, the manager's sake and the good of his team.
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