We are a third into the season and know that we have a strong team that could be a playoff contender for the long haul. With knowing this, is it time to start thinking about ways to improve this team through additions? It certainly should be, especially if we want to maximize our chance of being a playoff team and then succeeding deep into those playoffs. However, the question is what additions can help us and what is available on the market that makes sense?
With the Marlins having a very nice core in place, and a very solid structure to their team, additions for them can be best suited in players that are considered “rentals” due to their pending free agency. In particular, the ones that can be had for reasonable prices in trade offers would be ideal. The additions that should be looked at are in a starter, a closer/set-up caliber pitcher, and an infielder that plays either 3B or 2B or both. The Marlins don’t need elite players in these roles, but a nice quality player should be looked at in each case that is an upgrade of sorts. We can consider each as follows:
We know that we are very good with JJ, Ricky, and Anibal. However, we tend to be a tiny bit thin at the backend of the staff due to the struggles of Vazquez and also with Volstad. While it doesn’t take a staff of ace pitchers to win a championship, adding or changing a piece to make a staff solid all the way through can help the situation. Luckily the Marlins aren’t in dire straits and can be picky about what they go after based on the very right price. When looking at the possibilities around MLB, there are some names that can be had for very favorable offers. Specific names to look at would be Hiroki Kuroda (Dodgers), Jeff Francis (Royals), and Aaron Harang (Padres). Each could possibly be had at the deadline for a trade offer that the Marlins find very reasonable. If they are willing to offer a little bit more and maybe overpay, there is Edwin Jackson (White Sox) and, if they are willing to part with a pretty sizable package of talent, there is Francisco Liriano (Twins) who would be ideal for this year and beyond going into the new stadium as he’s not a potential free agent. Kuroda, Francis, and Harang could be great and more realistic deals to solidify this staff, especially if they replace, say, Javy Vazquez, who they all would be an upgrade over at this point. Francis, in particular, can offer that extra bit of being a lefty that offers versatility in our staff and is certainly a very good talent that wants to re-establish his career – the prototypical player that the Marlins have had success with in their history. While Jackson and Liriano are upgrades, they are probably out of the trade range for the Marlins in price tags that this organization may not be willing to part with right now. If the Marlins are looking to upgrade their starting pitching for a playoff run this year, any of these pitchers could be a plus.
Closer/Set-up Caliber Pitcher
Now some Marlins fans may look at this portion and point out that we do have Leo Nunez who is having a decent season so far as our closer. However, we have been down the road a couple of times before in Marlins history with closers who were as erratic and stress inducing as Nunez has been. We all can remember how things didn’t go so well with Kevin Gregg being that erratic closer without us seeking help for him that was far better than the other half of the Disastrous Duo in Renyel Pinto. There was however a time when the Marlins had an erratic closer and succeeded. That was in 2003 with Braden Looper. The way that they succeeded was by adding insurance for their closer situation by trading for another closer in Ugueth Urbina. That opened up the option of going with a “hot hand” closer situation that eventually played a major role in the Marlins winning the championship that year. The Marlins would be wise to go to this format again rather than place all of their hopes in the hands of a closer that any knowledgeable baseball observer would expect will cost us many games that could end any of the Marlins’ playoff hopes. When looking around MLB for potential options that can be had for a reasonable price, there is one name that keeps coming out – Matt Capps. He will be a free agent this year and the Twins are looking like they will be well out of contention once the trade deadline arrives. Since Capps isn’t an elite closer and isn’t having the best of seasons, he could be available for a small offer and the Twins could probably be convinced to pay a portion of the remaining salary for the year at the point of a deal, just to clear a little money. While Nunez and Capps may not be closers that can lead any team to a championship on their own, the combination of them can make this bullpen potent enough to cause havoc through the regular season and, if needed, beyond.
The Marlins have been rumored to have interest in an upgrade through adding at 3B or 2B. However, they seem to be more set in not adding anything unless it is an acquisition that is good enough to make them wait another year to bring up Matt Dominguez. With this being the case, it limits the possibilities for the right fit. With any move involved at either position, it most certainly would have to be a veteran that is a rental for the rest of the year, who is more secure of producing enough to keep Dominguez down, while that veteran is a bargain in trade value. A very difficult task? Certainly, however when you look at the names Mark DeRosa (Giants), Aramis Ramirez (Cubs), and Wilson Betemit (Royals), the possibilities could be there. Any of the 3 can be help as Ramirez provides the best pop and middle of the lineup presence while DeRosa and Betemit offer a lot of flexibility with the array of positions that each can play to add to the current committee being run out there at 3B. Under the Marlins situation, any of these 3 can be of some good use to the team for a price that the Marlins would be willing to pay. Betemit would do that at a bargain price while Ramirez and DeRosa would help the team only after something can be worked out with some money in their contracts. If these aren’t to anyone’s liking, and the Marlins are willing to go to a higher scale in trading, there is the good old fashion blockbuster that can be discussed in inquiring about David Wright (currently injured) or Jose Reyes of the Mets who are rumored to be available. However, adding either would almost require Matt Dominguez as part of the package, but are probably worth dealing Dominguez for because, with Wright you have a player that provides offense that there is no guarantee that Dominguez can ever reach and, with Reyes it adds a different piece of offense in speed that the Marlins would certainly enjoy, if they can look past his antics. However, since the Marlins do have Hanley Ramirez, the addition of Reyes would require one of the two to move off of shortstop. The best scenario in this case would be moving the growing Hanley to 3B with the smaller and quicker Reyes remaining at shortstop. A move involving any of the scenarios mentioned here would stabilize the Marlins in a manner that could have them standing until the end. However, keep in mind; they may still go with Matt Dominguez. That isn’t so bad either.
Whatever direction the Marlins take in upgrades, while Larry Beinfest has earned the trust of Marlins’ fans, these upgrades would certainly add to this already strong team.