Marlins decide to change course after plans go awry
The ballpark has worked. Mark Buehrle has worked out fine. But go back to last December and the pursuit of Albert Pujols and all the buzz about Ozzie Guillen, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell, Buehrle and the new home, and look at where they are today and it is obvious the transformation of the rain-delay Florida Marlins into the glitzy Miami Marlins hasn't added up as a whole.
It simply wasn't working. Oh, the average attendance is OK, at least thus far; it's better than four other National League teams. But the Marlins entered the day 12 1/2 games out of first place, with a 16-29 record since June 1. When you're minus-71 run differential is better than only those of the Astros and Rockies and you're 14th in the league in runs scored, it isn't working.
So what the Marlins are doing is trying to get up and do it again. Not a wholesale giveaway or outsourcing; there was even a report Tuesday that they were listening to offers on Giancarlo Stanton, which simply isn't true. But in moving Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante in separate trades with the Dodgers and Tigers for two young starting pitchers and a young catcher, they have admitted that the rapid buildup of last winter didn't work the way they hoped. Sanchez was going to walk as a free agent and it was time for Hanley to move on, after hitting .245 with a .731 OPS the past two seasons and playing defense one team's evaluator called "a serious concern."
What they did a week ago was call around and let other clubs know that they would move Ramirez and either Sanchez or Josh Johnson. Not Logan Morrison, even if he is underachieving. Not Stanton, under any circumstances. Not Buehrle. They would love for someone to take Heath Bell and a chunk of the $27 million he is owed over the next three years, but there hasn't been any interest.
Now, if the Angels, Rangers, Red Sox, Blue Jays or Orioles called with a mind-blowing, multi-prospect offer for Johnson, they might listen by Tuesday afternoon; there are concerns about Johnson. After fighting to overcome shoulder and other injuries, his ERA is 4.14, his strikeouts per nine innings have dropped from 9.1 to 7.9 the last three seasons, but the preference is to hold on to him, and the fact that the Angels and Rangers seem to have focused on other pitchers, the Red Sox and Jays don't seem willing to unload their prospect warehouses seem to make it likely he'll stay -- that is unless the Braves lose out on Ryan Dempster and trade Julio Teheran, Mike Minor and/or Randall Delgado.
When the Marlins followed an 8-14 April with a 21-8 May, they thought everything was going be all right. Then came June, they lost eight of nine in one stretch, six in a row in another, finished the month 8-18, and realities set in. Reyes has to do better than .272. Ramirez was at .246. Morrison's average is .237. They went and got Carlos Lee and he's hitting .204. Stanton is on the disabled list and played only 80 games because of a knee injury he suffered last year. Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Carlos Zambrano have ERAs over 4.00. Bell leads the league with six blown saves.
So they now will have Nathan Eovaldi in the rotation. They're sending Jacob Turner to Triple-A to get his head clear and try to regain his velocity after rushing to Detroit. They think Rob Brantly, also acquired from the Tigers, is their future catcher. Jose Fernandez may be in Jupiter, but he is a premium pitching prospect, and Christian Yelich may rocket to their outfield. They've saved money and can use it over the winter, as they try to convince their fan base to finish out this season and look forward to the next.
The spiffy baseball part of the Miami Marlins simply wasn't working, and clearly wasn't going to get any better. So now they have to get up and do it all over again.
Peter Gammons is a columnist for MLB.com and an analyst for MLB Network. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.