2014 NFL Draft: Bridgewater vs Clowney (ft. Matthews)

Players Featured: Teddy, Bridgewater, Jadeveon Clowney, Jake Matthews

Clowney, Bridgewater

Confusion at the Top of the Draft Board

     With the 2013 NFL regular season finishing, and January bowls in full swing, players’ draft stocks are under extreme evaluation.  The common conclusion in the media is that Louisville Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be taken first overall by the Houston Texans.  However, I do not believe in the Texans, or any NFL team spending their first round pick on a QB.  Granted, multiple QBs will be taken in the first round, but I’m against this practice.

clo

     Throughout his college career, Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End for the University of South Carolina, was considered a manchild and the type of player who only comes around once in a generation.  After a lackluster start to the season, Clowney’s stock dropped, allowing for others to take the spotlight.  There were rumors that Jadeveon was not putting forth his full effort, as to not injure himself before the draft as he saw former teammate Marcus Lattimore do.  After seeing Clowney’s performance in the Outback Bowl, and his immediate declaration for the draft, I believe that this is the case.  In my mind, as long as Clowney doesn’t show a lack of speed or explosion at the NFL combine, I’m putting this potential red flag to rest.

bw

     As a student at the University of Florida, and an avid Gator Football fan, I have first hand experience of Teddy Bridgewater’s mastery in the 2013 Sugar Bowl.    As apposed to Clowney, Teddy Bridgewater put up better numbers in 2013 than 2012, and doesn’t lead to doubts of a potential decline.  There is no question that Bridgewater is an NFL ready QB, but with Clowney still on the board, I don’t see the value in taking a QB early in the draft.  I’ll go into more specifics with this team-by-team.

draftmock

     To assess the current projected draft structure, I took all 2014 Mock Drafts released during the month of December, pulled from DC Pro Sports Report,  and calculated the frequency of both Teddy Bridgewater and Jadeveon Clowney throughout the first 5 overall picks and beyond.  As can be seen, a majority of the mock drafts have Bridgewater going #1 overall, but Clowney seems to be evenly split among the first five picks, appearing most often as #3 overall which would send him to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Team-By-Team

Case Keenum

 Houston Texans (#1 Overall)

     2013 was filled with disappointment for the Texans.  After winning their first two games, Houston lost 14 straight, and fired their head coach Gary Kubiak in the process.  The team has hired Bill O’Brien, formerly the head coach of Penn State to fill the void.  The Texans flip-flopped between veteran Matt Schaub and second year player Case Keenum throughout the 2013 season.  Schaub is probably not the answer at QB, and Keenum is unproven.  Bridgewater is projected to be an upgrade over Schaub and Keenum, but by how much?  Matt Schaub saw great success in Houston prior to 2013, finishing top 10 in the league for passer rating from 2008-2012.  Case Keenum set multiple NCAA passing records at the University of Houston, though not against the top competition.  Keenum stepped in for Schaub in week 7, and put up good performances through his first three games before starting to struggle, and eventually handing the job back over to Schaub. Yes, the QB situation in Houston is not ideal, but it still does not warrant selecting Teddy Bridgewater with the first pick in the draft.  Is the potential upgrade of Bridgewater worth letting 31 more first round picks fly off the board before other areas can be assessed? Not in my opinion.  Is Bridgewater 31 first round picks better than a Quarterback the Texans can take in round 2? Probably not.  Looking at the top QBs in the draft; Bridgewater, Bortles, Manziel, Carr.  None of them are surefire NFL stars.  None of them are as much of a sure thing as Andrew Luck was perceived to be.  Some of the big names projected to be available in the 2nd round are McCarron, Mettenberger, Murray, Boyd.  Grab one of these guys in the 2nd round.  Is Bridgewater that much better, and that more valuable to the Texans than one of the other 31 first round picks and the addition of one of the QBs from this list?  Most likely not.

J.J. Watt

     Due to this, I believe that drafting Clowney with the first pick provides more value to the team going forward.  Clowney would be set to replace 32 year old Antonio Smith, playing opposite J.J. Watt on the defensive line.  The Texans can then flip Antonio Smith for a late draft pick, which can be used to fill other needs.  In 2012, J.J. Watt was without a doubt the best Defensive End in the NFL.  He failed to replicate is performance in 2013, with substantial decline in tackles, sacks, passes deflected, and forced fumbles.  Adding Clowney into the mix is a win-win situation for both players.  Clowney was double teamed non-stop at South Carolina, and the attention to Watt will give Jadeveon every opportunity to flourish.  With the addition of Clowney on the other end of the line, less pressure is put on Watt.  Teams won’t be able to create a game plan to single out Clowney, or Watt because you can’t double team both of them without greatly compromising your offense.  Other top defensive ends include Is Clowney worth more than passing on 31 other first rounders to take a defensive end in the second round.  I strongly believe so.

Robert Griffin III

 St. Louis Rams (#2 Overall)

     I love the Rams’ management.  I love the Rams’ management.  I love the Rams’ management.  The Rams held the #2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, and the Redskins owned #6.  Both sides came together for a trade to swap their first round picks.  In addition, the Rams received The Redskins’ 2012 2nd round pick (#39, Janoris Jenkins), their 2013 1st round pick (#22) *Which was sent to Atlanta along with the Rams’ own 2015 7th round pick, for three picks in the 2013 draft*, and their 2014 1st round pick(#2, Jadeveon Clowney?).  All to move down just four spots in the draft order.  The Rams eventually flipped the Redskins’ former 2012 6th overall selection to the Cowboys for their 2012 1st (#14, Michael Brockers) and 2nd (#45) round picks.  The Rams then traded the Cowboys’ former 2nd round pick to the Chicago Bears for their 2nd round pick (#50, Isaiah Pead), and 5th round pick(#150, Rokevious Watkins)  I love it so much.  I would feel like an evil genius for orchestrating those moves.

Sam Bradford

     The Rams have Sam Bradford at QB, so no need to draft one here.  The decision will most likely fall between OT Jake Matthews from Texas A&M or Clowney.  However, the Rams are reported to be looking to move out of the #2 spot.  This would continue the long string of moves stemming from receiving three extra top picks from the Redskins to move down just four spots.  The Rams are loaded on both ends with Chris Long and Robert Quinn.  Drafting Clowney would allow one of the two to be expendable.  The Rams have LT Jake Long holding down the O-Line, so the Rams could take Matthews and play him opposite of Long, making Sam Bradford a very happy man.  Unfortunately for the overarching theme of the article, the best move for the Rams here is to either grab Matthews, or trade down, acquire more top picks, and take an offensive skill player or a defensive back.

If the draft goes Clowney #1, Matthews #2, we could see the emergence of two dynamic duos on the line.

Chad Henne

 Jacksonville Jaguars (#3 Overall)

  Over the past few years, the Jaguars have consistently been one of the worst teams in the league, winning 5, 2, and 4 games in the last 3 years respectively.  In 2012, the Jaguars drafted WR Justin Blackmon from Oklahoma St.  Blackmon’s off the field troubles leading to suspensions have been a detriment to the team as Blackmon only played 2 games in 2013 after his standout rookie season in which he led all rookies with 865 receiving yards.  In 2013, the team took OT Luke Joeckel from Texas A&M suffered a season ending injury in October, but looks to be a lock on the Jags’ O-Line.

     The Jaguars currently have Jason Babin and Tyson Alualu on each defensive end.  But, draft Clowney could allow Alualu, who is listed as a Defensive Tackle, to return to his natural position.  Clowney provides an impact on the defensive front which would alleviate the pressure put on the Jaguars’ young DBs.

Justin Blackmon

   The Jaguars’ will be very tempted to draft a Quarterback with this selection.  With Chad Henne as their current QB1, and 2011 draft bust Blaine Gabbert at #2, there is definitely opportunity for a rookie to step in and take over.  However, as mentioned with the Texans, the value isn’t there if guys like Clowney or Matthews are still on the board.  If the Jags feel like there’s enough depth in the draft in other positions, they can select OT Jake Matthews for a Texas A&M reunion with Joeckel.  This actually presents a great situation for a young QB to excel.  With Joeckel and Matthews providing good protection, and the ability to throw the ball to Blackmon, Cecil Shorts III, Mike Brown, and Mercedes Lewis, there is a huge amount of talent.  However, the Jags are reported to be letting RB Maurice Jones-Drew test free agency in order to release a large amount of cap space to pursue other players.  The Jaguars could pick up a late round RB to fill the void, sign a free agent, or let Denard Robinson do what Offensive Weapons do.  I believe going Matthews in round 1, then selecting a successful college starting QB like Aaron Murray, or Tajh Boyd is the most effective plan of action to set the Jaguars up for success.

Clowney, Murray

   In the event that both Clowney and Matthews are off the board, things get interesting for Jacksonville.  The value in taking a QB will be as high as ever, so it depends on how the team evaluates the top QBs (Bridgewater, Bortles, Carr, Manziel), and well as the other players at the top of the board (OLBs Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack, and C.J. Mosley).  The Jaguars currently have Paul Posluszny at the Middle Linebacker position, and Geno Hayes as one of their Outside Linebackers.  The addition of Mack or Barr could solidify their Linebacking core to improve a defense that was one of the NFL’s worst in 2012 and alleviate the struggling offense.

     My ideal option is to trade down for the next OT on the board, Cyrus Kouandjio from Alabama.  This keep my ideal situation of shoring up the offensive line in round 1, then taking a QB, RB, and defensive players with the following few picks.  My trading down about 5-6 spots, the Jaguars can pull in a haul of draft picks (possibly from a team desperate for a top QB).  Look at what the Rams recieved from the Redskins in 2012.  It seems unlikely that a team would give up that much again, but receiving additional top picks can only help a Jacksonville team that needs so much.

If I Had Picks #1-3 

Houston TexansJadeveon Clowney – DE, South Carolina
Team X* (From WAS via STL)Teddy Bridgewater – QB, Louisville
Jacksonville JaguarsJake Matthews – OT, Texas A&M

*Team X is a mystery team trading up to get Bridgewater, in fear that the Jaguars will be selecting a Quarterback.

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Be a GM: Miami Marlins – Part 3.5

Chad Qualls
Image From Miami Herald

Before the Trade Deadline

     In my previous post Be a GM: Miami Marlins – Part 3 – Trade Deadline, I examined trade opportunities for Marlins Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, as well as reliever Chad Qualls.  The Marlins received interest from Stanton, and their crop of relievers, but were ultimately quiet at the deadline, as were many other clubs.

     In my previous post I said “For me, the Pirates would have to part with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon at least”.  The general reaction was that this would be an awful deal for Pittsburgh, but I defended it by saying that it’s the type of deal it would take to deal Stanton while he still has 3 years under team control.  According to a report surfacing this morning on FishStripes, referencing an article on Marlin Maniac yesterday, the two young power arms were part of the deal.  However, this contradicts what Miami-Herald writer Clark Spencer reported at the July 31st trade deadline, so it’s still in the air.  The reported deal is as follows:

Pirates Get:
OF Giancarlo Stanton – 23 y.o. – MLB – .245/ .364/ .466, 13 HR, 34 RBI – 68 G (15.2 BB%, 25.6 K%)
RP Steve Cishek 27 y.o. – MLB – 23/25 SV/O, 3.08 ERA, 23.9 K%, 8.3 BB% – 49.2 IP
OF Justin Ruggiano – 31 y.o. – MLB – .200/ .278/ .365, 12 HR, 32 RBI – 86 G  (8.5 BB%, 24.3 K%)

Marlins Get:
SP Gerrit Cole – 22 y.o. – MLB – 5-5, 10 GS, 3.69 ERA, 17.6 K%, 5.7 BB% – 61.0 IP
OF Starling Marte – 24 y.o. – MLB – .279/ .335/ .442, 32 SB, 10 HR, 30 RBI – 108 G (4.0 BB%, 23.4 K%)
SP Jameson Taillon – 21 y.o. – AA/AAA – 4-8, 20 GS, 3.75 ERA, 22.2 K%, 7.8 BB% – 115.1 IP
1B Stetson Allie – 22 y.o. – A/A+ – .291/ .389/ .514, 19 HR, 75 RBI – 107 G (13.2 BB%, 29.2 K%)

Breakdown

Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole
Image from LA Times

     The Marlins would give up their star outfielder, and closer, who are both first-time arbitration eligible this off-season with multiple remaining years under team control, along with a reserve outfielder who isn’t arbitration eligible for another year.  In return, the Pirates offer their #1,2, and 4 prospects from 2012 according to Baseball America, with two of them in the Major Leagues this season, along with a minor league converted 1B, who was their #9 prospect as a pitcher in 2012.

     I was initially blown away by this offer when I saw the names that the Pirates were going to part with.  But then as I looked into them, I realized that I was victim to “being used to” Giancarlo Stanton.  His name isn’t as eye-popping as Cole, Taillon, and Marte because I see and hear about Stanton on a day-by-day basis.  This is something I’ll keep an eye out to not let affect me anymore.

     Cole, along with the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez, Mets’ Matt Harvey, Cardinals’ Shelby Miller, etc. is widely considered as one of the top rising pitchers in the game.  Once Taillon, who just made his first start since being called up to AAA, gets the call to the MLB, he will join this company.  Starling Marte is a highly regarded outfielder as well with plus speed and defense.  Stetson Allie was a two-way player in High School, and was drafted by the Pirates as a pitcher.  However, after struggling through parts of two years, he converted to 1B and is making his way up the system.  Cole and Marte are both not arbitration-eligible until after the 2015 season, with Cole making his debut this year (likely “Super Two”), and Marte at the end of last year.  Taillon and Allie both have yet to start their Major League Service clock.

Jameson Taillon

Jameson Taillon
Image from Bleacher Report

     Gerrit Cole has been effective through 10 starts in the majors, but his decline in K% is a concern.  He’s averaged 25% Strikeouts through 2012 in the minors.  This fell to 17.5% in AAA this year, and consistently leveled at 17.6% through his 10 major league starts.  There’s no way to know if this is a decline, or a fluctuation, but it’s not something that makes you feel ready to go all in for him.  Jameson Taillon has a career 21.9 K% in his minor league career.  Cole looks to have a slightly better outlook than Taillon, but both profile as top of the rotation starters.

     Marte hit for a high average in lower level minor league ball with average power.  He’s a speedy outfielder with a strong arm, although he has a consistently low walk rate, and a higher than ideal strikeout rate.  Stetson Allie was a highly touted two way athlete who converted to being a position player in 2012 due to major control issues on the mound.  Allie tore it up in A this year (.324/ .414/ .607) during 66 game, but has struggled to produce in 41 games of A+ ball (.238/ .348/ .364).

Marlins Outlook

Andrew HeaneyImage from MiLB.com

Andrew Heaney
Image from MiLB.com

     The Marlins would receive what would largely be referred to as a huge package in return for Stanton, Cishek, and Ruggiano.  However, the problem I had in dealing with the Pirates, is that they aren’t loaded with prospects in areas that the Marlins need.  The Marlins minor league system is loaded with Starting Pitching.  While Cole would fit into the current rotation right behind Jose Fernandez, him and Taillon add to the loackjam that already exists in the Marlins starting rotation 1-2 years down the road.  The Marlins would have in alphabetical order: Hederson Alvarez, Adam Conley, Gerrit Cole, Nate Eovaldi, Brian Flynn, Jose Fernandez, Andrew HeaneyJustin Nicolino, Jameson Taillon, and Jacob Turner.  Possibly also lower level prospects Anthony DeSclafani, Angel Sanchez, acquired in the Nolasco trade, and Jose Urena who are a little farther away.  But from the list ranging from Alvarez to Turner, how do you pick five guys from that?  Even so, is losing Stanton, Cishek, and Ruggiano worth the improvement from the #6-7 guys on the list to Cole and Taillon?  Also, with Alvarez, Eovaldi, Fernandez, and Turner already in the rotation, which one of them do you bump?  You already have four current guys on the list in the Marlins system battling for that last spot.  There’s an old adage that you can never have enough good pitching, but for what the Marlins are giving up on offense, the large majority of the return being pitching doesn’t make sense.

     Starling Marte is the next top prospect in this trade.  As an outfielder, he steps into a position where the Marlins are also loaded with talent.  Marcell Ozuna is a nice power bat who was recently sent down before undergoing season ending surgery, and the Marlins just called up their #1 and #2 prospects, outfielders Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick.  The Marlins have other lower level outfield prospects in their system, but this presents the same question as the pitching rotation.  Which of the three do you kick out for Marte?

Steve Cishek
Image from Miami Herald

     Stetson Allie is the lowest level prospect of the bunch, and he could very well become a great 1B, but it’s hard to put your future at the position in a guy who is a converted pitcher.  Also, the Marlins currently have Logan Morrison at 1B who has had a nice season since coming back from injury (.279/ .365/ .457).

     This also leaves an opening at the back of the Marlins bullpen.  Steve Cishek has been phenomenal as the Marlins closer this season, converting his last 18 saves in a row, dating back to June 8th.  In my opinion there’s a fine line between undervaluing and overvaluing closers.  Yes, they only pitch one inning, but consistency in the 9th inning is hard to come by.  The Marlins knew all about closer problems in 2012.  Speaking of Giancarlo Stanton.  For the time being, the front runners for the closer job would probably be Steve Ames, who the Marlins acquired in the Ricky Nolasco trade and has minor league closing experience, or AJ Ramos, who has a high K%, but also a high BB%.  Earlier in the season, he was almost guaranteed to give up a Home Run every appearance, but that trend has subsided.  Colby Suggs, who the Marlins drafted with their second competitive balance draft pick in this year’s draft, projects to be a major league closer as well.  Suggs is currently at A+ Jupiter.

Giancarlo Stanton
Image from ESPN

Decision

     The Pirates offered a huge return to the Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton.  Ignoring everything else, it’s a deal that I would most likely pull the trigger on.  However, this is not the right move for the Marlins.  The Marlins would add the level of prospects necessary to trade Stanton at this time, but not at the right positions.  Trading Giancarlo Stanton should leave you with no major holes left to fill, but by losing Steve Cishek and adding on in already rich places, the Marlins would actually be creating a hole in their bullpen while not patching up any other areas.  It’s hard to say no to Cole and Taillon, but this isn’t the right move for the franchise.

I agree with Marlins management in Declining this reported trade offer

     The Marlins want to negotiate a long-term deal with Stanton, and he would maintain the same trade value, if not more in the off-season.  The offers will keep rolling in for Stanton, and the Marlins will hold off until they receive one that provides them a comparable return to this trade, but in areas where they need improvement.  I would keep Stanton through the Off-Season unless contract negotiations get hostile and he has to be moved, but I’d like to think that won’t happen.  This trade featured huge names, but Marlins management ultimately made the right decision in holding on to Giancarlo.

EDIT: Turns out, as I feared, that this was a false rumor.  Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Be a GM: Miami Marlins – Part 3 – Trade Deadline

The Miami Marlins are always in the news at the Trade Deadline, and the story is no different in 2013.

Bullpen

Stellar Fist Pump from Cishek in the WBC

     The Marlins possess sought after relievers Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, Ryan Webb, and Chad Qualls.  Cishek, Dunn, and Webb still have multiple years under team control, while Qualls’ is signed on a one-year deal.  Of the four, I would be most inclined to keep Cishek, who is currently closing games for the Marlins, and doing so extremely well.  Qualls is the most likely to be dealt, as the Marlins don’t want to part with valuable bullpen arms who could contribute to next year’s team.  Also, they don’t want to leave the young starting rotation with an inexperienced bullpen to back them up for the remainder of this season.  Qualls would be a rental reliever for any team, as a 34 year-old journeyman doesn’t scream “Long-term plans”.  Nevertheless, Qualls has caught fire in 2013, putting up the best season of his career.  Through 42 IP in 42 Appearances, Qualls has put up a 2.57 ERA, 1.024 WHIP with a 7.29 K/9 and a 1.93 BB/9 leading to a 3.44 FIP.

UPDATE (9:57 PM) – Chad Qualls fell while celebrating a strikeout tonight.  Stay hot kid.

Zack Cox at Arkansas

     The Marlins dealt relief to a contender at last year’s deadline as well, sending Edward Mujica to the Cardinals for 3B prospect Zack Cox.  Mujica had a 4.38 ERA at the time he was sent to St. Louis, so Qualls’ numbers are significantly superior.  However, Mujica was just 28 at the time, and still had a year of Arbitration remaining, which increased his value.  All things considered, Qualls should be able to produce the same return as Mujica did, possibly more.  What Mujica brought in was fairly significant.  Zack Cox was the Cardinals #4 prospect heading into 2012 by Baseball America.  He was drafted in the first round out of the University of Arkansas  in hopes that he would develop into a premier hitter.  He showed that ability during his first full minor league season in 2011, but fell off dramatically in 2012, hitting .254/ .294/ .421 in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.  Cardinals management decided it was time to move on from Cox, and shipped him to the Marlins, who sent him back down to AA.  Cox has been solid in AA this season, hitting .292/ .393 / .391.  his power numbers decreased, but he’s hitting more consistently as the Marlins are allowing him to take a slow track through the system.  He has the Marlins future 3B job in his sights, but will be competing in the system with recent 1st round pick, Colin Moran out of UNC.

     In my opinion, the Marlins sold Mujica enormously high  The Cardinals’ frustration with Cox allowed him to be moved at a fairly cheap price, and it’s difficult to say that this trade is comparable to what the Marlins can get for Qualls.  Nevertheless, this shows that the Marlins can target mid-level prospects (or seemingly declining former top level prospects) in exchange for Qualls.

Decision: Avoid trading Qualls for the sake of trading him.  Aggressively shop him around, but if the return isn’t right (comparable to Mujica’s return), try to negotiate a 2014 contract in the off-season.  Cishek, Dunn, and Webb are main contributors to the Marlins bullpen, and with the team appearing to be a contender in 2014, I would want to keep that consistency.

OF Justin Ruggiano

Veteran Position Players

     The Marlins could potentially move Placido PolancoJuan Pierre, Greg Dobbs, and Justin Ruggiano.  Polanco and Pierre are signed to one-year deals, and will be Free Agents after the season.  Dobbs is in the last year of a two-year contract.  All four are most likely fits on the bench for a contender, and none of them would be able to bring in a significant return.  Ruggiano had a breakout year in 2012, his first full season, hitting .313/ .374/ .535 in 91 games.  However, he’s slumped this year, removed from his everyday role, floating around a .200 batting average.  He holds the most value, as he still has another season before he’s arbitration eligible, and teams may hope that he returns to his 2012 form.  However, his remaining pre-Arb year is valuable to the Marlins as well, who didn’t want to move him a few weeks ago.  The Marlins called up their top two outfield prospects last week, which makes Ruggiano slightly more available.

Decision: Without much to gain in return, I’d hold on to the veterans, and try to retain Polanco, Pierre, and Dobbs for another year to serve as valuable bench players for the 2014 season.

Giancarlo Stanton

     The feature of this article, and many national news stories is Right Fielder Giancarlo Stanton.  I’ve admittedly flip-flopped back and forth about what the Marlins should do with the face of the franchise.  He’s 23 years old, and will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season, which will increase his salary by a couple million dollars.  He led the league in slugging in 2012, and had already amassed over 100 career Home Runs.  He is a budding superstar, and teams are willing to pay a very high price for him.

Keep Him

Giancarlo Stanton

     The Marlins are historically known to being a penny-pinching team, but are in a position to spend big money, which they have available to give to Stanton.  If the Marlins stick with Stanton, I see them avoiding arbitration this year with a one year deal in the neighborhood of $7-8MM.  I then project him to earn $10-12MM after 2014, and $13-15MM after 2015.  To avoid paying Stanton $13-15MM for 2016, and then have a future long-term deal based on that salary structure, I would begin working on a back-loaded multi-year deal immediately after the season.  My first offer of a  proposed contract would follow a similar structure to my predicted arbitration salary hike, but then level off around $17-18MM for 2016 and beyond.  Miguel Cabrera, former Marlins emerging offensive superstar, signed a long-term deal with the Tigers in 2008, which levels off at about $20MM per year.  In my opinion, Stanton has shown the potential to deserve a similar contract, but there is no way that I would begin the negotiations at Miguel Cabrera’s deal.

Trade Him

D. Willis’ Smooth Delivery

     Stanton’s value is as high as it’s ever been.  As mentioned before, he’s an emerging superstar who is just reaching arbitration for the first time.  Comparing him again to Cabrera, the Marlins traded him after the 2007 season to the Detroit Tigers along with pitcher Dontrelle Willis for the Tigers #1, 2, 6, 8 rated prospects according to Baseball America, along with other mid-low level players.  The Marlins would be able to reel in at least 3 of a team’s top ten prospects, ideally 2 of the top 5.  In my opinion they should throw in one of the relievers teams have been calling for (preferably Qualls) to bump up the level of the prospects they would receive.

     The most important thing to consider in this situation, is that the Marlins already have multiple potential replacements for Stanton.  According to Baseball America, three of the Marlins’ top five prospects are outfielders, all of whom have been in the majors this season (Christian Yelich #2, Jake Marisnick #4, Marcell Ozuna #5).  Beyond those three, they also feature Jesus Solorzano, Austin Dean, Brent Keys, and Isaac Galloway in a rich system of minor league outfielders.  Stanton is simply not at a premium position of need for the Marlins, which in my opinion makes him expendable.  Also, the millions of dollars that would be used to lock up Stanton could be better used to lock up the Marlins phenomenal young pitching staff.

Don’t Trade Him

     The rebutting argument against trading Stanton is how unpredictable trading for prospects can be.  Once again, the Marlins traded Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for four of their top ten prospects, including #1 and #2.  A total of zero of them, are still with the Marlins, and Cameron Maybin (#1) and Andrew Miller (#2) never lived up to their potential.  All those two names do is make Marlins fans cringe.  Bad trades happen, Major Leaguers are known commodities, while prospects are prospects, something that might be good in the future.  The unpredictability and risk of trading Giancarlo is something that can not be over analyzed.

Decision: Make Stanton Available, and listen to offers, but don’t undersell him

Yelich at the 2013 Futures Game

     If a team wants to give you their entire future, then by all means go for the trade.  But if I’m Michael Hill, and I’m not receiving everything that I want from a team, then there’s no deal.  If I’m trading Giancarlo Stanton to your team, I want to be able to go through your organization, and hand-pick the players I want like I’m at a buffet.  If any compromise has to be made, then it’s no deal.  Stanton won’t break the bank in the off-season, and it’s worth keeping him around to see if the Marlins can be truly competitive in 2014, which I believe is very possible, barring unforeseen injuries.

Needs

Marlins All-Star Jose Fernandez

     The most difficult part about making trades for prospect is to decide where you need help.  The Marlins are set in the outfield, no question about that.  3B seems locked down with Cox and Moran, and I’m a big fan of future Gold Glove winner Adeiny Hechavarria at SS.  Derek Dietrich hasn’t been amazing at 2B, though I really like Ed Lucas.  If only he wasn’t 31.  Donovan Solano could still be a fit, but this is a position that could use improvement.  At 1B, there isn’t much behind Logan Morrison, who is finally fully healthy.  Rob Brantly has been a disappointment behind the plate after impressing at the end of 2012 after he came over from the Tigers for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez.  Brantly is still just 24, but is hitting .232/ .283/ .294 while splitting time with Jeff Mathis.  Former first round pick Kyle Skipworth hasn’t been able to hit at any level, and relying on J.T. Realmuto to be the future isn’t a safe bet.  The Marlins pitching is phenomenal, led by Jose Fernandez, and followed by Nate Eovaldi, Jacob Turner and Henderson Alvarez.  The Marlins also have Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino in the minors among others with a young pitching staff whose future is just as bright, if not brighter than the Marlins’ outfield crop.

Trade Possibilities

2B Kolten Wong

Chad Qualls

     If we assume that Chad Qualls can bring in a similar return to Edward Mujica, then we’re talking a downward-trending lower high-level prospect (if such a thing exists) or a mid-level prospect.  I love what the marlins did in the Mujica trade, by taking a risk on a possible high-level guy, who is having a bad season.  If the Marlins deal with the Cardinals again, Kolten Wong‘s name has been thrown around, as he’s blocked at the Major League level by Matt Carpenter.  However, the Marlins aren’t likely to be able to put together the package for him without having to part with an integral piece.  His name has been linked to a potential Alexei Ramirez trade, who holds more value than Qualls.  The Marlins would have to throw in another reliever or two (Dunn, Cishek, or Webb), or maybe even Derek Dietrich who replace Wong’s spot in the Cardinals system, obviously to a lesser extent.  As an outsider, it’s unclear what the asking price is for Wong, but maybe the Cardinals could sell low again.  Wong is more highly regarded than Cox was at this time last year, but then again Qualls has been better than Mujica was, and the Marlins have arms to give.

Giancarlo Stanton

SS Xander Bogaerts

     I’m trying very hard not to be one of those internet users who has no sense of trade balance, but it would take a completely unreasonable package for me to trade Stanton right now.  The Red Sox reportedly are willing to give up everything to get Giancarlo.  Any deal with them would need to include Xander Bogaerts, and Henry Owens, plus much more.  Bogaerts plays the same position as Hechavarria, but could move over to 2B to create a stellar middle infield that already has me excited.  Bogaerts, the Red Sox #1 prospect by BA, is a 20 year old from Aruba, who has absolutely torn it up in the minors.  Owens, their #5 prospect, recently turned 21, and has pitched very well at High-A Salem.  The Red Sox also have C Blake Swihart at #6 who is showing an upward batting trend.  Their #2 prospect, former South Carolina Gamecock standout, Jackie Bradley Jr. has already spent time in the majors, but being an Outfielder isn’t necessarily attractive to the Marlins. Again, I’d just pick out the Red Sox star prospects, and if I can’t have everyone I want, then sorry Beantown, Giancarlo will still be a Marlin.

     The Pirates and Rangers have also expressed interest in Stanton.  For me, the Pirates would have to part with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon at least.  It would create a very crowded pitching rotation for the Marlins, but is that ever a bad thing?  Unfortunately for the Pirates, many of their top prospects are Outfielders which doesn’t help.  The Rangers have Jurickson Profar, who has been playing 2B.  However, they just traded for Matt Garza which took a hit out of their system, and don’t have many other guys close enough to being Major league ready for me to feel comfortable about.

If Stanton does get traded, I’m thinking that it’s going to be the Red Sox.

Be a GM: Miami Marlins – Part 2.5

Have the Marlins latest roster moves opened the door for Giancarlo Stanton to leave Miami?

Late Monday night on July 22nd, minutes after the Marlins’ 3-1 win over the Brewers in which the team snapped a franchise long 37-inning scoreless streak, beat writer Joe Capozzi sent out this tweet.

A video has already surfaced on Marlins President Larry Beinfest addressing the move.

Analysis

Getting the Call

This move shocked me at first. Marcell Ozuna and Derek Dietrich have been mainstays in the Marlins line-up for a majority of the season, playing 69 and 57 games respectively. Ozuna hit .300 through his first two months in the big leagues, but has slumped through the month of July, hitting .162 in his last 68 ABs. Dietrich came over to the Marlins after Yunel Escobar was flipped to the Rays shortly after the Blue Jays blockbuster. Dietrich was one of the Marlins to represent the team for their MLB Fan Cave visit, but he has been consistently underwhelming in this year. He’s hitting .214 on the year, and doesn’t boast any impressive stat categories. A common thread between Ozuna and Dietrich is their high strikeout rates, and low walk rates. Both are around 4% BB and 20% K, which the Marlins are hoping they can improve on in the minors.

The two young outfielders coming up have me excited. Christian Yelich was the Marlins first round pick in 2010, and has participated in the past two Futures Games. I thought he should’ve made the club out of Spring Training, and Jose Fernandez should’ve started in the minors, but obviously that didn’t happen. Who knows, maybe the script would’ve been flipped and Yelich would’ve been our All-Star? After a slow start, Yelich has recovered to hit .277 in AA so far, but also put up a .364 OBP and .518 SLG. Yelich has a similar K% in AA that Ozuna and Dietrich did in the Majors, but Yelich also walks more. The hit on his BB% in the majors will be monumental to his success. If he can keep it around 10%, I see him being successful, but if he drops down into the dangerous territory that Ozuna and Dietrich fell into, his stint in the Majors will not be long. Yelich is an exciting OF with a strong bat, who projects to be the Marlins future CF. Hopefully that stage begins now.

Yelich and Marisnick in the Spring

Jake Marisnick came over to the Marlins in the controversial trade with the Toronto Blue Jays in this pas off-season. Marisnick and Yelich were teammates at AA Jacksonville before being called up together, and had great chemistry hitting 1-2 in the order. Marisnick put up similar numbers to Yelich, but with a slightly higher batting average, and lower walk rate. Being similar to Christian Yelich is a great thing, and hopefully these two have successful debuts and stay in the bigs.

What Does This Mean Moving Forward?
I think that this move has a huge impact on what the Marlins will do at the trading deadline in about a week. The Marlins have been receiving interest in Outfielders Justin Ruggiano and Giancarlo Stanton. The Marlins don’t want to trade either player. He’s not arbitration eligible until the end of the next season, unlike Stanton who will be a First-Time Arbitration Eligible player this Off-Season. A history of injuries could limit what he’s worth, but he definitely has a case to be payed big money, which the Marlins don’t want to pay if they have other options. The promotion of Marisnick and Yelich shows that the Marlins are ready to try out their potential new outfield. Ozuna was in those plans, but he’s back in the minors again to hopefully sort out his slump. If Marisnick and Yelich show that they’re big league ready, it spells the end for Giancarlo Stanton and/or Justin Ruggiano in Miami. That’s the only way I see looking at this move. The Marlins were hesitant on trading Ruggiano because of Major League outfield depth. They just sent one OF down to bring up two, and if I’m reading this correctly, Ozuna will be back in the big leagues once Ruggiano or Stanton are traded at the deadline.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Arizona Diamondbacks

Any Future In Miami?

Stanton is the more likely candidate to be traded. He’s owed more money in the off-season and has an astronomically higher value than Ruggiano. As mentioned in previous “Be a GM” posts, the Marlins can bring in a huge package for Stanton, whose value is as high now as ever. The Marlins have called up Stanton’s potential replacements to the big leagues, so this means:

Giancarlo Stanton is more available now than he’s ever been

Be a GM: Miami Marlins – Part 2

Brantly, Ozuna, Dietrich

51 games into the season, it’s hard to say that the Marlins are under preforming even though they sit at 13-38.  All hopes of this being a cinderella story are virtually shot, so it’s time to make some moves.  The Marlins have only scored 138 runs thus far, last in the majors.  The pitching rotation has been solid, and the bullpen good enough.  This is somewhat unexpected because the fish have been missing Henderson Alvarez and Nate Eovaldi due to injury, and Jacob Turner is still in AAA.  The Marlins’ struggles are a direct representation of their offense, and this is what needs to be addressed.

Statistics:

Batting Stats from MLB.com, Click for a full-size image

Pitching Stats from MLB.com, Click for a full-size image

Moves:

Giancarlo Stanton

1. Time to start shopping Giancarlo Stanton

In part 1 of this series I was 100% against the idea of even imagining a Marlins team without Giancarlo Stanton, but recent events have led me to believe that he needs to be made available.  Why the sudden change?  Here’s why I would start shopping Stanton around to other clubs:

  1. Value
    In my opinion, Stanton’s value is higher now than it will ever be.  His high ceiling, and immense power have many teams thinking of him as the future face of the league.  Every single prospect in the league short of Jurickson Profar should be attainable for Stanton (But I would still call Texas first).  Stanton is also still under team control for the next 3 years, which is appealing to possible suitors.
  2. Injury Problems
    Giancarlo Stanton is currently on the DL with a hamstring strain.  He has appeared in less than 50% of games this season, and spent a period of time on the Disabled List in 2012 as well.  I heard one sportscaster refer to Stanton as a high maintenance Ferrari.  If you don’t keep him well-tuned, he’s going to break down.  It’s up to other GM’s and team’s staffs to determine if this will be a repeating problem or not.  I’m not convinced that he’ll be able to give a full season for many years.  At least not long enough until the Marlins will be competitive again.
  3. He’s Replaceable
    You read that correctly, Giancarlo Stanton is replaceable.  The Marlins made noise by calling up a few of their top prospects earlier than expected.  One of those was Marcell Ozuna.  Ozuna is currently the Marlins best bat, and has shown to have a Stanton-like arm from RF.  The Marlins also have top prospect OFers Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick in the farm system, who are both almost Major League ready.  The Marlins 2014 outfield could be Marisnick-Yelich-Ozuna.  Stanton doesn’t fit in here, and the pieces he can bring back far outweigh his value over the trio of OFers above.

    Yelich and Ozuna

Dealing Stanton will obviously create another media uproar against the Marlins’ management, but I’ll be the first one defending them as long as they get proper value in return for Giancarlo.  Stanton will create major highlights and produce for another team, but it is in the Marlins best interest as an organization to cash in for his talents now.  Start making noise now, and generate a huge return package at the trade deadline.

Ricky Nolasco

2. Trade Nolasco, maybe Slowey, Dunn, Webb

Pitching has been one of the pleasant surprises for the Marlins this year.  Young pitchers Henderson Alvarez and Nate Eovaldi will be back from their injuries shortly, and can fill in for Ricky Nolasco and Kevin Slowey.  They will definitely be in high-demand at the deadline when teams need to shore up their rotation with solid veterans.  The Marlins also don’t need to be dealing with Nolasco’s contract ($11.5MM in 2013), and will be a free-agent at the end of the year.  Mike Dunn and Ryan Webb fill the need for teams needing bullpen help, and the Marlins need to continue building for the future.  However, only Nolasco needs to be aggressively shopped.  the Marlins have Slowey, Dunn, and Webb under team control through 2014, 2017, and 2016 respectively.  They should only be traded if the right deal arises, but many teams will be asking for their services.

3. Try to trade Justin Ruggiano

There is no doubt that some contender will need help in the OF for the second half of the season at the trade deadline.  Justin Ruggiano was finally given his chance to play everyday for the Marlins last year, and shined ( .313 / .374 / .535 ).  He hasn’t been near that productivity so far in 2013 ( .217 / .293 / .410 ), but I’d hope that teams look at the veteran outfielder did last year in 91 games.  He would likely have to be packaged with one the pitchers above to bring in.  As also mentioned earlier, the Marlins have plenty of outfield replacements available.

Trade Targets:

The Marlins have future openings at 1B, 3B, and always need pitching.  1B should be the more immediate need, since the Marlins acquired 3B Zack Cox from the Cardinals at the deadline last year, but he hasn’t gotten a shot in the bigs yet.  Logan Morrison hasn’t been healthy enough to fill the hole at 1B.

Matt Adams

Ranked as MLB.com’s #2 1B prospect, and the Cardinals #6 prospect, Matt Adams is a power hitting 1B that’s big league ready.  The Cardinals have a deep farm system to tap into.  Stanton can certainly bring in Adams + Shelby Miller (5-3, 2.02 ERA, 0.979 WHIP) + Carlos Martinez (#2 Cardinals, #30 MLB, #9 RHP).  The Cardinals might not want to give up their top 2 pitching prospects in Miller and Martinez, but it’s definitely where I would start discussions.  The only potential problem is that the Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras plays the same position as Stanton, but I’d be willing to move Taveras to LF if I was able to land Stanton.  The Marlins might be able to land only Adams if they dangle Nolasco, but I’d definitely inquire with the Cardinals’ management.

Miguel Sano

Miguel Sano

I may be a little biased since I just watched Pelotero, but Miguel Sano is one of the best players to come out of the Dominican in the past few years.  He is the Twins top prospect, #11 in the MLB, and the top 3B.  Sano just turned 20, and has proven himself as a hitter in the minors.  Sano is a type of player that you can build your organization around, but will only be attainable if the Marlins are willing to part with Stanton.  I’d ask for Alex Meyer (#2 Twins, #38 MLB) or Kyle Gibson (#3 Twins, #45 MLB) in the deal with Sano, and maybe a lower level pitching or 1B prospect.  The buzz around Sano is similar to what was around Stanton as he was making his way through the majors, so it’s hard to ask for more than him.

Jurickson Profar

Jurickson Profar

I mentioned earlier how I think the Marlins could put together a deal to get any prospect except Jurickson Profar with Stanton.  Profar first burst on the scene with his Little League World Series team from Curacao, and has seen limited Major League action so far.  He is the #1 overall prospect in the majors right now, and it’s hard to imagine the Rangers parting ways with him.  Nonetheless, you have to try if you’re shopping a player like Stanton.  The trade would have to be Stanton for Profar straight up, or with the Marlins giving more.

Mike Olt

The other Texas Ranger, Mike Olt is a major league ready 3B that has already has his name thrown around a ton in trade talks.  if the Marlins go after Olt, they can bring in a few pitching prospects as well.  The Rangers don’t have a top pitching prospect, so maybe another team can get involved, unless the Marlins feel strongly about a few of them.  Cody Buckel (#4 Rangers, #80 MLB) has been solid in previous years, but is struggling so far in AA.  Reliever Wilmer Font (#7 Rangers) has had a solid 2013 so far.  The Rangers also have my former travel ball teammate OF Lewis Brinson in their system.

LoMo after a HR

Any top 1B / 3B Prospect

When it comes down to it, this is what I’m looking for.  The Marlins are solid enough at C, SS, 2B, and OF with Rob Brantly, Adeiny Hechavarria, Derek Dietrich, Marisnick, Yelich, and Ozuna.  1B belongs to Logan Morrison when he comes back, but he hasn’t been consistent or healthy enough for me to feel comfortable with him.  Zack Cox is expected to be the Marlins’ future at 3B, but this is also a position that can be upgraded.  Or, take Kris Bryant or Colin Moran if they fall to #6 in the draft.  The Marlins might just have to take the best package offered to them regardless of position, and then make subsequent moves from there.  As it gets closer to the deadline, the market for players like Nolasco and Slowey should narrow down.  If I was in charge I would be making major moves, but I’ll have to sit and watch to see what my favorite team does.

Be a GM: Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Mariners are far removed from the team that tied the Major League wins record in 2001 with a 116-46 mark. They’ve been a sub .500 team for 7 of the last 9 seasons, and finished 26th in total attendance last year. In 2001-02, they led the league in that category. However, the 2012 season was a preview of things to come for the Mariners. Their win total increased by 8 games, and the organization gave young talent such as Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, and Kyle Seager their first full season in the big leagues. The crown of their season was fittingly delivered by a king. Mariners’ ace “King” Félix Hernández brought national attention to Seattle by pitching the 23rd Perfect Game in MLB history. This only adds to the legend of the 26 year old Venezuelan. The Mariners have stocked up their farm system through the amateur draft, landing them at the #5 farm system in the Bleacher Report’s rankings.

Moving forward for the Mariners, is their best option to build from within, or bring in outside talent? The strength of their farm system, and the status of Félix Hernández provides management with both options. The AL West will be loaded in 2013, and the Mariners are by far the least hyped team in the division. They recently sent LHP Jason Vargas to the division rival Angels in exchange for 1B Kendrys Morales. They also signed outfielders Jason Bay and Lord Voldemort Raul Ibanez to one-year contracts. So what more does management have to do in order to be relevant?

Dustin Ackley will set the tone in Seattle

Projected Lineup

Batting Order (AVG / OBP / SLG)

1. Dustin Ackley 2B ( .226 / .294 / .328 )
2. John Jaso C/DH ( .276 / .394 / .456 )
3. Kendrys Morales 1B ( .273 / .320 / .467 )
4. Kyle Seager 3B ( .259 / .316 / .423 )
5. Jesus Montero C/DH ( .267 / .310 / .408 )
6. Raul Ibanez LF ( .240 / .308 / .453 )
7. Franklin Gutierrez CF ( .260 / .309 / .420 )
8. Michael Saunders RF ( .247 / .306 / .432 )
9. Nick Franklin SS ( .278 / .347 / .453 ) ; AA – AAA stats

Presenting the struggle that is the Seattle Mariners offense. Former first-round pick Dustin Ackley failed to live up to expectations in 2012, but the Mariners are hoping that these are just growing pains. Ackley hit (.273 /.348 /.417) in 90 games last year, and he was expected to repeat or top that performance. Year 3 needs to be an improvement for Ackley or else the team will have to consider other options. John Jaso and Jesus Montero split time between C and DH with neither of them being a strong defensive catcher. Golden Spikes Award winner, and former Florida Gator Mike Zunino awaits to step in at some point in 2013. Kendrys Morales is an upgrade over Justin Smoak who hasn’t been able to consistently produce at the big league level. Kyle Seager broke out with the Mariners for his first full season in 2012. He showed his power last year with 20 homeruns, and as a career (.328 / .401 / .474) in the minors, his batting average should pick up in 2013. Raul Ibanez is back in Seattle once again, and the Mariners hope he can hit how he did during his last stint with the club. He’s also fresh off being a post-season hero for the Yankees. Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders have spent the past few seasons with the Mariners. Gutierrez has been better offensively, but he’s also spent more time in the big leagues. Saunders can potentially be replaced by veteran Jason Bay, if he somehow returns to his former self. To-be rookie Nick Franklin beats out last year’s starter Brendan Ryan for the starting job. Nothing productive can be said about Ryan. He his (.194 / .277 / .278) in 2012. It’s time for the future, Nick Franklin, who is listed as the Mariners’ #3 prospect by MLB.com.

Verdict: The only way that the Mariners’ offense can be successful is if multiple players have career years.

No doubt in King Felix at #1

No doubt in King Felix at #1

Pitching Rotation ( W-L , ERA, WHIP, K, BB, IP)

1. Félix Hernández ( 13-9 , 3.06 ERA , 1.14 WHIP , 223 K , 56 BB , 232.0 IP )
2. Hisashi Iwakuma ( 9-5 , 3.16 ERA , 1.28 WHIP , 101 K , 43 BB , 125.1 IP )
3. Blake Beavan ( 11-11 , 4.43 ERA , 1.26 WHIP , 67 K , 24 BB , 152.1 IP )
4. Erasmo Ramirez ( 1-3 , 3.36 ERA , 1.00 WHIP , 48 K , 12 BB , 59.0 IP )
5. Danny Hultzen ( 9-7 , 3.05 ERA , 1.31 WHIP , 136 K , 75 BB , 124.0 IP ) AA – AAA stats

CL Tom Wilhelmsen ( 6-3 , 29/34 SV , 2.50 ERA , 1.11 WHIP , 87 K , 29 BB , 79.1 IP )

Félix Hernández as the #1 starter is the easiest decision that any manager has to make. He’s flat out dominant, no questions asked; Moving on. 31 year old Hisashi Iwakuma played his first year of baseball in the United States last year for the Mariners The 5-year veteran of the Japan Pacific League put up phenomenal numbers after being bumped up to the rotation, and making 16 starts.  Everyone knows about King Félix, but the 1-2 punch of Hernández and Iwakuma is a hugely underrated threat to the opposition.  Following them is Blake Beavan, who will play his third year at the Major League level in 2013. Beavan had an up and down 2012 season, finishing with an ERA above 4.00 . He keeps his walks allowed to a minimum, but Beavan’s poor outings have come when opponents get 7+ hits off of him. The majority of at-bats against him culminate in 2 strike counts. In a statistical anomaly opposing batters hit for a higher average when he delivers a first pitch strike (.290) than a first pitch ball by (.247). Based on statistical data, Beavan could be more successful by working off the plate with his fastball and further developing secondary pitches. Erasmo Ramirez pitched out of the Mariners bullpen in early 2012, and then started 15 games in AAA games before returning to the majors in September. He finished the season with a stellar final month, holding opposing hitters to a .188 average and posting a 0.88 WHIP. The Mariners have themselves a gem if Ramirez pitches similar to that form in 2013. Danny Hultzen’s AAA statistics raise some question marks. After shutting down AA lineups with a 1.19 ERA through 13 starts, Hultzen was called up to AAA. In 12 AAA starts, Hultzen wasn’t the same pitcher. His innings per start dropped dramatically, and he got knocked around for a 5.92 ERA. The popular opinion is that in his first full season of professional baseball, Hultzen ran out of gas. In 4 of his last 7 starts, Hultzen’s ERA for the game was above 9.00, combining for 20 ER in 12.2 IP.  I’m willing to believe this opinion only because of his sudden increase in walks. In AA Hultzen’s BB/9 was 3.82, and that jumped to 7.95 in AAA. Hultzen’s tendencies to walk batters is troublesome, and that is the only thing holding him back from being a successful major league pitcher. He can be a #1 someday, but not yet. I have him at #5 because his fully rested arm will impress management in the spring enough to give him a shot. However, if he starts tanking again like he did at the end of 2012, a move to the bullpen might be best for his health. Tom Wilhelmsen closed for the M’s in 2012, and hasn’t done anything to show that he shouldn’t remain in that role. “The Bartender” is entering his third year at the major league level after a 5 year hiatus from 2005-09 where he, wait for it, tended bars. Wilhelmsen is a converted starter who thrived in his first season as a closer, and is a reliable man to shut the door if the Mariners can give him the lead.

Verdict: The Mariners have a strong top of the rotation which will consistently provide solid outings. If spots 3-5 can provide the offense with a chance to win, the Mariners could put up a fight. This pitching staff has promise and the capability to carry the Mariners in 2013.

Moving Forward

The Mariners have some pretty big holes to fill. Their minor league system’s strength is heavily skewed towards pitching with guys like Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Stephen Pryor, and Carter Capps. Walker is a ways away, but Paxton should arrive soon, and Pryor and Capps already have big league experience.

The King is a fan favorite

1. Keep Félix Hernández

As mentioned too many time before, Félix Hernández is awesome. He made his big league debut at 19 years old, and threw a perfect game at age 26. Hernández is the face of the Mariners franchise, and gives them a monumental advantage every single time he steps on the mound. Multiple baseball analysts think that it’s in the Mariners’ best interest to trade him for 3-4 top prospects, but I disagree. Hernández could bring in a massive return, perhaps the biggest shipment of top prospects ever. Hernández has 2 years left on his contract, and is set to make around $21MM each year. This contract isn’t destroying the Mariners bank, as they were prepared to pay $100 MM over 4 years for 31 year old Josh Hamilton. Félix Hernández is one fo the best players in the history of the Seattle Mariners, and one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball. Giving him up for prospects at this point in his career is just silly. If you trade Félix away, you’re virtually giving up for 3-4 years as guys develop, and you’ve ripped away the fan base, whose support has already dropped. From a baseball perspective, you would be giving away a 26 year old proven product entering his prime for unproven players who maybe project to be stars. The likelihood that the return would be better than Hernández is paper thin. Teams fear the Mariners because of King Félix. The Mariners need to build around him, not use him to build. If he doesn’t want to sign an extension with the Mariners, than that’s a different story. Ship him out before news of his feelings toward the team go public, and rack up the largest return in MLB history. But barring that scenario, let the King reign over Seattle.

Bourn is a premier defensive outfielder

2. Sign Michael Bourn
After Josh Hamilton signed, the hot stove focus switched to speedy, defensive-minded outfielder Michael Bourn. Bourn could take the spot of either Franklin Gutierrez or Michael Saunders, and jump up to the top of the batting order. Bourn in the lineup would decrease the pressure on Mariners hitters, and increase the pressure on other team’s pitchers. In 2012 Bourn hit (.274 / .348 / .391), and stole 42 bases in 55 attempts. Bourn would cost considerably less than Hamilton, and the Mariners have the money bookmarked away to compete in a bidding war for his services.

3. Test the market for OF
The Mariners lack a long-term solution at any position in the outfield. Ask around, see who’s available and for what cost. Also see what interest other teams have in guys such as Eric Thames and Casper Wells. They are guys who could possibly be involved in a bigger deal as temporary replacements for teams who give up an Outfielder for prospects.

4. Trade Montero + Smoak
The Mariners are blessed with something that Major League clubs drool over; A surplus of catching prospects. Jesus Montero, former Yankees super prospect, played his first complete season in 2012 and put of solid numbers for a rookie catcher. But, he will be forced out of a job when Mike Zunino, out of the beautiful University of Florida, is big league ready. Zunino can be the best catching prospect since Buster Posey, and John Jaso was the Mariners’ most productive hitter in 2012. These two factors make Jesus Montero expendable, and teams will give up a lot for a young, promising catcher. Justin Smoak had lofty expectations when he was traded to the Mariners, and he hasn’t lived up to them. The trade for Kendrys Morales confirmed that patience for Smoak to produce is running low. While he still has the potential to be something, now is the best time to send him off. Who knows what a Montero + Smoak package could bring in? Maybe the missing pieces to a strong Mariners team in 2013.

5. Draft college position players
The Mariners farm system is stacked with pitching, but lacks in quality major league ready position players. Specifically, they need college outfielders. They recently acquired Leon Landry from the Dodgers, and the center fielder from LSU had an eye-opening season in the minors. Looking at the 2013 draft class, Austin Wilson out of Stanford tops the list in that category, but is likely to be off the board by the time the Mariners pick at #12. I like Michael Lorenzen from Cal State Fullerton for the Mariners in the first round. Projections have him going late in the first round, but I think his value will pick up throughout the college season. I watched Lorenzen play last year when CSF came to play UF in the opening series of the season. Lorenzen hit over .500 in the series, and then came in to close out the final game on the mound with a fastball in the upper 90’s. He was the most impressive player I saw all year aside from Zunino.

Summary (TL;DR)
The Mariners’ chances of making he playoffs in 2013 are slim. Offense will be a struggle, but the singing of Michael Bourn could significantly improve the outfield, along with trading away surplus pieces. The pitching rotation is strong, with only limited question marks. The Mariners can address their need for offense through drafting college position players, specifically in the outfield. To be successful the Mariners need to provide pieces around Félix Hernández, and keep him in Seattle for a long time.

Be a GM: Miami Marlins

Marlins Logo     The Miami Marlins were one of baseball’s biggest dissapointments in 2012. They had huge expectations for their first season playing in Marlins Park and wearing their new logo. The team’s management, notorious for keeping a low payroll, spent big money on their talented squad. The team vastly under-performed, finishing in last place in the NL East at 69-93. Changes needed to be made, as the Marlins couldn’t financially support this team anymore. In the most heavily scrutinized trade of the off-season, the Marlins sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, and John Buck to the Toronto Blue Jays in return for Yunel Escobar (later traded to the Rays), Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis, and three minor league prospects. Baseball America broke down the trade piece-by-piece in this article.

Instead of analyzing the Marlins’ past moves, and how they told their fans to turn to page 394, I’ll be moving forward with what they can do for the remainder of the off-season to have a successful 2013 campaign and beyond. They filled their hole at 3B today by signing verteran Placido Polanco to a one-year deal. This deal allows the Marlins to keep prospects Zack Cox (acquired from STL for Edward Mujica) and Derek Dietrich (dealt by the Rays for Yunel Escobar) , in the minor leagues for another year with no pressure to be MLB ready.

The Blue Jays, Dodgers, and Tigers congratulating Gaincarlo Stanton

The Blue Jays, Dodgers, and Tigers congratulating Gaincarlo Stanton

Projected Lineup

Batting Order (AVG / OBP / SLG)

1. Juan Pierre LF ( .307 / .351 / .371 )
2. Donovan Solano 2B ( .295 / .342 / .375 )
3. Logan Morrison 1B ( .230 / .308 / .399 )
4. Giancarlo Stanton RF ( .290 / .361 / .608 )
5. Justin Ruggiano CF ( .313 / .374 / .535 )
6. Rob Brantly C ( .290 / .372 / .460 , 31 GP )
7. Placido Polanco 3B ( .257 / .302 / .327 )
8. Adeiny Hechavarria SS ( .254 / .280 / .365 , 41 GP )
9. Pitcher

I believe that if this Marlins lineup stays healthy, the team can accomplish great things next season. A history of injuries is a concern for the Marlins 2013 lineup, Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton missed some time for the fish last season as the team struggled to produce offense. Newly acquired Placido Polanco also spent time on the DL for the Phillies in 2012. Of this projected starting lineup, only Giancarlo Stanton and Juan Pierre appeared in over 100 games in 2012. In addition, Donovan Solano, Rob Brantly, and Adeiny Hechavarria made their major league debuts just last season. Solano leads the trio in games played with 93, followed by Hechavarria’s 41, and Brantly’s 31. This Marlins team is young and inexperienced, but extremely talented. Justin Ruggiano and Donovan Solano were breakout stars last season, and they will be depended on to remain in that form. Juan Pierre needs to be a reliable lead-off man and continue to be the threat on the base paths that he was for the Marlins’ 2003 World Series team.

Logan Morrison struggled to get going last season, and I believe that placing him ahead of Giancarlo Stanton in the order will help him turn it around. Nobody wants to pitch to Giancarlo, so LoMo will see pitches to hit. To me, Morrison’s position in the order is the most subject to change. If he struggles during the first month of the season, I’d bump him down the 6 hole, and move the 4-6 hitters up a spot. Polanco and Hechavarria’s abilities to get on base will also be crucial for the team. Polanco has career numbers of (.299 / .344 / .403), and the Marlins hope he can return to that. Hechavarria hit (.312 / .363 / .424) in the hitter-friendly AAA Pacific Coast League, but this shows that the tools are there. If they can turn the lineup over effectively and avoid pressuring the black hole that is the pitcher’s spot, it could led to some high scoring innings for Miami.

Cishek's unorthodox delivery

Steve Cishek

Pitching Rotation ( W-L , ERA, WHIP, K, BB, IP)

1. Ricky Nolasco ( 12-13 , 4.48 ERA , 1.37 WHIP , 125 K , 47 BB , 191.0 IP )
2. Henderson Alvarez ( 9-14 , 4.85 ERA , 1.44 WHIP , 79 K , 54 BB , 187.1 IP )
3. Nate Eovaldi ( 4-13 , 4.30 ERA , 1.51 WHIP , 78 K , 47 BB , 119.1 IP )
4. Jacob Turner ( 2-5 , 4.42 ERA , 1.20 WHIP , 36 K , 16 BB , 55.0 IP )
5. Wade LeBlanc ( 2-5 , 3.67 ERA , 1.31 WHIP , 43 K , 19 BB , 68.2 IP )

CL Steve Cishek ( 5-2 , 15/19 SV , 2.69 ERA , 1.30 WHIP , 68 K , 29 BB , 63.2 IP )

The Marlins starting rotation took a hit in losing Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and Anibal Sanchez to trades. However these trades, including the Hanley Ramirez trade, brought in Alvarez, Eovaldi, and Turner. These three young pitchers should be centerpieces in the Marlins rotation for years to come. Ricky Nolasco is the only remaining arm from the Marlins’ 2012 Opening Day rotation, and him having the most MLB experience lands him at the #1 spot. The remaining starters are ordered in terms of major league experience. I’m a believer that outside of Opening Day and the playoffs, the order of the rotation is for the most part unimportant. Eovaldi and Turner have had more success in the minor leagues than Alvarez and were more hyped acquisitions, but Alvarez has had a full season of MLB starting experience which puts him at #2 for now. Wade LeBlanc was given a chance to start by the Marlins in 2012 after putting up solid numbers in the bullpen, and comes in as the #5 starter. Other candidates for that spot include Alex Sanabia and Brad Hand among others. Hand has experience starting for the Marlins, and the 22 year old put up a 4.00 ERA in the AAA PCL last year. Sanabia had success with the Marlins in the past, and had a 4.06 ERA in the same AAA league as Hand.

Steve Cishek took over the closer role last season, and is the leading candidate to take the spot heading into next season. He shows a different look with his low-sidearm release point, and was one of the few bright spots of the 2012 Marlins season. An inefficient closer put the Marlins out of the race from the beginning last year and the team couldn’t recover. Cishek’s performance will be crucial to starting the Marlins’ season on the right foot.

Verdict: The Marlins have talent. However that talent is young and mostly undeveloped. The majority of the Marlins’ question marks lie with the arms. Will Nolasco pitch like a #1 starter? How will Turner, Eovaldi, and Alvarez pitch? Who takes the #5 starting spot? How does the bullpen hold up? Does Steve Cishek have what it takes to be an MLB closer? If the rotation can put up solid numbers, and the batting lineup can stay healthy, the Marlins can surprise many people in 2013. If that happens, they might be able to win back their fan base which feels alienated by the trade with Toronto.

Moving Forward

The Marlins hopes all lie on their young players’ shoulders. None of the starters aren’t big league ready, they’re just unproven. It’s hard to find one major hole on the team that can be fixed with a trade, so I’m looking at players who are expendable, and going from there.

1. Trade Ricky Nolasco
Protest

I feel awful for the Marlins’ PR department. They had to deal with Ozzie Guillen’s pro-Castro comments in the beginning of the season and saw fans turning against their newly branded franchise. Then with the Toronto trade, the fans and city of Miami felt duped by the Marlin’s management due to unfulfilled promises which allowed public funding for Marlins Park. So, the team has nothing to worry about from a PR standpoint about trading Nolasco. The fanbases’ current numbness to trades is beneficial for this move.

Nolasco is set to make $11.5 MM in 2013 for the last year of his contract, which makes up a large chunk of the Marlins’s newly lowered payroll. His career ERA is 4.49, and his only stellar year was when he went 15-8 with a 3.52 ERA in 2008. I feel that with the current state of the pitching rotation, and the Marlins’ AAA starters who are ready to make the jump to the big leagues, Nolasco is expendable. With the salary dump that the Marlins have made, Nolasco’s contract seems like a waste of money. The Marlins need to shop him around to teams looking for a middle to bottom of the rotation starter. Nolasco reportedly wants out of Miami, but the Marlins are against it.

I believe that Nolasco would have to be packaged with another player in order to get a considerable return. Logan Morrison attracted teams last off-season, but his value is too low at the moment. See the next section for my thoughts about Stanton. In order to get maximum value, the Marlins should hold off until the trading deadline to make a trade involving Nolasco. Unexpected contenders, or teams who are lost pitchers to injury will pay a premium value for Nolasco. For the time being, throw his name around, and if a great offer presents itself, take it. It just seems silly that the Marlins dumped so many veterans, but claim that Nolasco wont be traded.

Completing the metaphor? Analogy? I’m an Engineer.

2. DO NOT GET RID OF GIANCARLO STANTON

In case I wasn’t clear, I don’t think the Marlins should even listen to offers involving him. Just no. No no no no no. No trading Stanton. Ever. No. Bad Marlins management, bad. Sit, stay, no trading Giancarlo. Don’t make me spray you with water.  Good boy, here’s a treat.  He will be a major MVP candidate year after year. He’s already a legend with his monster home runs and immense power. He makes Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton get all excited during TV broadcasts. Do not trade ever. I don’t need any fancy stats to prove that. Just keep him happy, and keep him a Marlin. Unfortunately, trade with the Blue Jays didn’t sit well with him.

3. Trust the rookies, and fill the bench with veterans

The 2013 Marlins will rise and fall with their young talent. It will be a growing process for them and first-year manager Mike Redmond. The Marlins need to go out to find cheap veterans and good clubhouse guys to help the newly acquired players adjust and stay focused. Also, the Marlins are in need of a utility man due to the loss of Emilio Bonifacio.

4. Let the Minor Leaguers develop

The Marlins have reloaded their minor league system through the draft and trades. First round picks Christian Yelich, Jose Fernandez, and Andrew Heaney are integral pieces for the future in Miami. Some articles I’ve read have called for Fernandez ( 1.59 ERA – low A , 1.96 ERA – adv A ) to get a shot, but in my opinion, he shouldn’t see the majors until possibly being a 2014 September call-up at the earliest. The Marlins are waiting for Yelich to develop, so he can soon play with Giancarlo Stanton in an outfield that can swing the bats.  Heaney, the Marlins’ most recent first round pick has only thrown 27 minor league innings in Rk-A.  However, unlike Fernandez and Yelich, Heaney played for 3 years in college at Oklahoma State.  He was 16th in the NCAA for ERA, second in WHIP, and led the nation with 140 Ks.  These three are integral to the Marlins’ future, and they can’t be rushed through the system.  The aura around Fernandez and Yelich resembles two former top prospects for the Marlins. Their names are Jeremy Hermida and Chris Volstad.  Both were drafted out of high school in the first round, and had fans begging for their call-up to the majors.  Hermida and Volstad struggled under the expectations, and never grew into their potential.  Avoid a repeat of history. Give these guys time, no matter how phenomenal Jose Fernandez‘s minor league numbers look.

Summary (TL;DR)

If the stars and planets align correctly, the Marlins can be a dark horse team in 2013. They have talented players, who need experience before they can become reliable contributors. The pitching rotation has more uncertainty than the batting order, but you can’t help but think about their potential for success. There is no reason for the Marlins to keep Nolasco around for a whole season with his salary. He is an expendable piece that can be used to fill whatever holes arise for Mike Redmond’s team. Stanton needs to stay put, and the top prospects need their time to develop.

Any questions regarding the Marlins line-up during the season should be addressed by: Wait. See. Adjust. Repeat.

Marlins Park