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Another Lost Giancarlo Stanton Season Sends Playoff-Hopeful Marlins Reeling

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterAugust 14, 2016

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 13: Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins walks off the field injured after the last play of the game against the Chicago White Sox at Marlins Park on August 13, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
Rob Foldy/Getty Images

With Giancarlo Stanton having suffered yet another significant injury, now's a good time to repurpose the catchphrase for Major League Baseball's All-Star Game.

This time, it counts.

After placing Stanton on the disabled list with a groin injury early Sunday, per the Miami Herald's Andre C. Fernandez, the Miami Marlins earned a brief reprieve from the bad vibes with a 5-4 win over the Chicago White Sox. Their 61-56 record ties them with the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League's second wild-card spot, giving them a shot at their first postseason berth since 2003.

Immediately after the game, however, the bad vibes came rushing back. Joe Frisaro of MLB.com passed along the crushing Stanton news from Marlins skipper Don Mattingly:

Joe Frisaro @JoeFrisaro

Mattingly says Stanton will be out rest of the year #Marlins MRI serious

It's not quite a given that Stanton's groin injury, which he suffered trying to leg out a double in Saturday's game against the White Sox, will cost him the rest of the season. But even in leaving the door ajar for the slugging right fielder to return, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill was careful not to get anyone's hopes up.

"It's a Grade 3 strain of his groin," he said, per Frisaro. "We're going to rehab it, and best-case scenario is a six-week return. Obviously, there is still opportunity for 'G' to be back this season's end. But obviously, it was a significant injury and we'll see how rehab goes."

That sound you hear is a distressingly familiar tune.

With Stanton's 2016 season likely over after 103 games, this is the fourth season out of the past five in which he's fallen short of 140 games. He may only be 26, but that track record should spur serious discussions within the Marlins about what can be done to keep him healthy. With the bulk of his injuries afflicting his legs, a move from right field to first base should be on the table.

But that's something for the Marlins to worry about later. For now, the question that needs answering is more straightforward: How the heck are they going to survive this?

It's impossible to dress up Stanton's 2016 season as one of his best. No thanks to an extended slump in May and June that rendered him one of baseball's worst hitters, his .826 OPS is the worst of his career.

However, this is no excuse to downplay the impact of Stanton's injury.

He was good before he went into that slump, putting up a 1.023 OPS with 10 homers in 26 games. He was also good after it, with a .943 OPS and 13 home runs in 48 games. Included in the latter sample size is the longest home run ever measured by Statcast, as good a sign as any that his unmatched power was still, well, unmatched.

The thought of being without Stanton's power in the final six weeks of 2016 is not a happy one for the Marlins.

They've had a hard enough time hitting for power with him in the lineup. Their 96 total home runs rank ahead of only the Atlanta Braves in all of baseball. With Stanton and his 25 homers now on the sidelines, 26 percent of Miami's home run output has suddenly vanished.

To make matters worse, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported Friday that first baseman Justin Bour is unlikely to return from his own injury until September. That's 15 more homers out of reach, leaving Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich as the only double-digit home run guys still standing.

Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com summed up this not-so-pretty picture succinctly: "Home runs aren't everything and the Marlins are already proof of that by hanging in the wild-card race. They are game-changers, though, and the Marlins now are mostly stuck trying to manufacture runs or luckily enough to string together lots of singles in a row for big innings."

This isn't an entirely hopeless scenario. The Marlins still have a decent collection of good hitters even without Stanton and Bour. Ichiro Suzuki is one of them, and he figures to be a bigger part of Miami's plans going forward.

But Ichiro isn't the most secure Band-Aid. It looks great that he's hitting .316, but the 42-year-old's age is catching up with him. He's hit well under .300 since the break. Plus, Stanton has hit more home runs in 2016 than Ichiro has in the last six seasons combined.

As such, this MLB.com report about the Marlins having Alex Rodriguez on their radar was probably inevitable:

MLB @MLB

.@Marlins have A-Rod on their radar after Giancarlo Stanton’s season-ending injury: https://t.co/rjMoJ6e1xn https://t.co/OM7HIYWZFz

"I think we're going through that process right now," Hill said about exploring various pick-up options, per Frisaro. "We're putting our list together of options. [Rodriguez] is available, so he will be on that list. We'll see where that goes."

Because A-Rod is a baseball legend with 696 career home runs to his name, the idea of him joining the Marlins is indeed a tantalizing prospect.

But realistic? Not as much.

The Marlins could afford Rodriguez, but he can't play right field and has no business even playing first base at this point. The best role for the 41-year-old would be as a pinch-hitter. And after putting up a .598 OPS before his release from the New York Yankees, he would probably do more pinching than hitting.

The Marlins would be better off checking in on Carlos Gomez, whom the Houston Astros recently designated for assignment. They could also look into waiver trades for small fish (Ryan Raburn, anyone?) and big fish (Yasiel Puig, anyone?) alike.

But whatever the Marlins do, they're not going to replace a guy who was one of the best hitters in the game on either side of that nasty slump. They can only hope to mask his absence. A run of red-hot pitching would do the trick there. To that end, Jose Fernandez's workload concerns and Andrew Cashner's ongoing mediocrity won't help.

Put another way: Their quest to end a 13-year playoff drought suddenly doesn't look so good.

 

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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