The Fish Make a Pair of Deals
By all accounts it’s been a rough season down in South Beach for the Miami Marlins. The team was chosen to host the Opening Night game against the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals in their brand new retractable roof ballpark, adorned with sculptures, green walls, dancers, and a night club. The team disappointed their fans that particular April night, falling to the Cards 3-1, while failing to muster much, if any, offense. The lack of run support would become a running theme over the next 2 months as would high-priced bullpen blowups, leading to a 45-52 record. Not quite what owner Jeffrey Loria had in mind when, for the first time ever, he decided to open his wallet, upping Miami’s payroll to $118 million, the 7th highest in baseball. This is even more shocking when you consider the fact that just 1 year earlier the Fish spent just $56 million total on their team, good for the 24th most in baseball. All this spending hasn’t equaled wins however, and with an impatient front office feeling let down, some big moves have been made. Let’s analyze the pair of trades the Marlins have made so far:
Miami sends Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to Detroit for Jacob Turner, Rob Brantly, and Brian Flynn
Miami actually did very well in this trade, sending away free agent-to-be Anibal Sanchez and utility starter Omar Infante for a nice collection of prospects. Jacob Turner was the #1 rated preseason prospect in the Detroit farm system, and has been for 3 years running. He was rated as the 22nd best prospect overall in baseball by Baseball America, and possesses a nice repertoire of pitches. His fastball sits between 90-93 mph, and Turner has the ability to crank it up to 95 when needed. Scouts consider his curveball and change-up to be plus pitches and Turner also has a 2-seamer that he occasionally mixes in. He’s been hit hard in his 12.1 major league innings this season, which is normal for most pitchers who just became old enough to buy a beer, posting a 8.03 ERA. Turner’s had solid success at the upper levels of the minor league system, posting ERAs under 3.50 in limited time in both Double and Triple-A. While pitching isn’t one of the Marlins’ biggest needs, he projects as a solid, cost-controlled, mid-rotation pitcher, a nice asset to have.
In addition to Turner the Marlins also picked up Rob Brantly, a 22-year-old backstop, who also has solid potential. Brantly was promoted to Triple-A Toledo during the 2012 season after tearing up Double-A, hitting .311/.359/.461. He’s struggled a bit offensively since the promotion, but he’s still considered a solid prospect. This is an especially important pick-up for the Marlins who have absolutely no catching depth in their minor league system, making Brantly their man of the future. Brian Flynn, the last player in the trade, projects as rotation filler at best, but players have commonly been known to outplay their projections in the past, so we will wait and see on him.
From the Tigers’ perspective this trade is exactly what they need to join the American League elite (Texas and New York). Anibal Sanchez will slide in nicely behind Justin Verlander and Doug Fister, giving the Detroit a nice 3-headed punch at the top of their rotation. Sanchez had been the Marlins 2nd-most effective pitcher in 2012, going 5-7 with a 3.94 ERA (104 ERA+), while striking out 8.2 batters per 9 and walking a career-low 2.5/9. He’s been durable and effective over the past 2.5 seasons, throwing nearly 200 innings each year while posting better than league-average ERAs. He should fit nicely in the middle of the Tigers’ rotation, bumping Drew Smyly and Rick Porcello back to their more natural 4th and 5th spots.
The bigger upgrade for the Tigers comes in the form of Omar Infante, who will immediately fix the black hole that is otherwise known as 2nd base at Comerica Park. Infante was having a very fine year playing 2nd for the Marlins, hitting .287/.312/.442 (100 OPS+) with 8 homers, 33 RBI, and 10 steals in 11 attempts. Detroit had been getting absolutely zero production out of the 2nd base position this year from the motley crew of Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago, and Danny Worth. Overall Detroit 2nd basemen were hitting just .197/.280/.272 with 3 homers, 32 RBI, and 2 stolen bases. In addition to being an offensive upgrade, Infante is also better with the glove than any of the 3 players listed above, and his mere presence makes the Tigers better.
Overall this trade is probably a win-win for both franchises (although it’s far, far too early to make judgment calls), with Detroit improving themselves in 2012 while the Marlins look ahead to 2013 and beyond.
Miami sends Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate to Los Angeles for Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough
It’s somewhat easy to see the Marlins reasoning behind essentially dumping Ramirez: they were fed up with his poor attitude, both on and off the field, as well as the 2 straight seasons of sub-par production. But it’s difficult to see a way in which they received near-equal value in return, because Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough. Eovaldi was the 96th rated prospect by Baseball America coming into the 2012 season, and possesses an excellent mid-90s fastball as well as an average change and curve. He’s struggled in his 16 career major league starts, going just 2-8 with a 3.96 ERA while facing mostly light-hitting teams. Eovaldi’s biggest issue is that his secondary offerings are eminently hitable (10.1 hits allowed per 9), which means that far too many base runners are getting on base.
Scott McGough, a 22-year-old minor leaguer, is also having a similar issue, except for the fact that he’s still in Single-A. McGough piles up strikeouts averaging better than 9 strikeouts per 9 innings, but if he doesn’t get the K, he struggles to get batters out. This issue wouldn’t be a big deal at the Major League level, but it’s a big red flag for a 22-year-old who has yet to reach Double-A ball.
From the Dodgers’ perspective this is an excellent deal because they are by far getting the player with the highest ceiling in the trade in Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez is a very poor defender, probably the worst defensive shortstop in the Major Leagues, but his bat still has major pop. Ramirez has hit 20+ homers 4 times in his career, and he’s on pace to do it again this season. His power makes up for his poor batting average (.244) and average on-base percentage (.322), but even then those numbers are an upgrade over Dee Gordon (.220/.280/.282). Ramirez doesn’t have Gordon’s blistering speed on the bases, but the rest of his game should upgrade the Dodger offense significantly. LA ranks 12th in the National League in runs scored per game (3.89) and nobody in the National League has hit fewer homers (60) or totaled fewer bases.
This trade looks like a win for the Dodgers right at the moment, because they were able to upgrade their offense without sacrificing much if anything in the way of high upside prospects. And if Hanley can reawaken his bat and start hitting more like he did from 2006-2010 (average year: .314 with 25 homers, 79 RBI, and 39 steals) this deal will become one of the absolute biggest heists of all time.