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Miami Marlins

NL East Preview: A Nationals Division to Lose

The Washington Nationals have Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren, Gio Gonzalez, Denard Span, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche. What does that mean?  It means they have the best pitcher in the NL East, the second-best young hitter, the deepest rotation and the most potent front five in any line-up. They are extremely well managed and maybe more important than anything, feel like it’s their time to dominate. They have no discernible weaknesses. The Washington Nationals are going to win this division. Besides the Detroit Tigers winning the AL Central, this might be the easiest call of the entire MLB preseason.
 
Can any team even challenge them? What would have to go right for any other squad to penetrate the seemingly predestined playoff spot for the Nats?… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: The Miami Marlins Trade Everyone to the Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays get: SS Jose Reyes, 3B/OF Emilio Bonifacio, C John Buck, SP Josh Johnson, SP Mark Buerhle

Miami Marlins get: SP Henderson Alvarez, C Jeff Mathis, SS Yunel Escobar, Shame and prospects SP Justin Nicolino, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, OF Jake Marisnick,

Less than twelve months removed from a massive winter shopping spree that preceded the team’s long-awaited move into a brand-new stadium in downtown Miami, the Marlins have completed a fire sale that many thought they’d started this summer by trading Hanley Ramirez, Edward Mujica, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. The Fish have removed almost every vestige of considerable major league experience or salary demands from their roster, leaving only SP Ricky Nolasco, OF Giancarlo Stanton and new imports Mathis and Escobar as the only players on the roster with three or more seasons of service time. Stanton has already voiced his disapproval, and there are rumors he’ll be the next star to go, though I find it hard to believe that Miami would trade him with four years left on his rookie deal.

In a nutshell, the Marlins have completed their once a decade post-championship fire sale, except this time they haven’t won anything besides the award for “the franchise least deserving of success in major North American sports”. For the purposes of this post, I’ll leave out the repercussions this will have the possibility of there ever being success for Major League Baseball in South Beach, as well as the unscrupulous manner in which the Marlins seemed to have conned the city of Miami into paying for a brand new ballpark for what amounts to an expansion team. Let’s just focus on what happens to these two teams. 

For Miami, it’s fair in some ways to say this was just about dropping salary, but in others…this was a baseball trade. If all the prospects that go to the Marlins that were supposed to, the Fish are getting three of Toronto’s top 10 prospects, as well as a major league-ready pitcher in Henderson Alvarez. The Marlins next year are going to look like an expansion team, but then again, they lost 93 games this year and ranked 29th in runs scored, 21st in team ERA and 17th in errors. On every conceivable level, this team was subpar and that’s even before the comparison to their payroll, which was the 7th highest in baseball. Miami had a roster full of post-rookie contract vets in or past their primes who weren’t going to get better. 

As MAMBINO examined this past summer after the Hanley Ramirez trade, perhaps the expectations put upon the Marlins during the preseason weren’t particularly fair–maybe this team wasn’t that good in the first place. In the three to four seasons preceding their big move into downtown Miami, the Fish stuck around as a speculative playoff dark horse, with youngsters like Josh Johnson, Ramirez, Nolasco, Sanchez, Dan Uggla and Andrew Miller on the roster. Yet, year after year, the Marlins failed to win more than 87 games or finish any better than 2nd place. Predictions remained stagnant for a “sleeping giant” Florida team, as they waited to add big money pieces to an “almost there” stadium situation in which they’d finally be able to supplement a rich system of homegrown players with free agents

The truth is, maybe we all got caught up in the interim. This team’s window to pay for free agents like Reyes, Buerhle and Heath Bell to supplement the home grown product wasn’t 2011–it was 2007, 2008 and 2009. Our exRead more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Hanley Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers get: SS/3B Hanley Ramirez, RP Randy Choate

Miami Marlins get: SP Nathan Eovaldi, SP Steve McGough

When the worst news of a trade is that there will be less at-bats available for Adam Kennedy and Juan Uribe, any deal can be considered a win.

In a remarkable, Mitch Kupchak-esque pact, both in scope and in secrecy, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Miami Marlins’ franchise player Hanley Ramirez, along with left-handed reliever Randy Choate, for two young pitchers. Ramirez had been rumored on the trading block for weeks, though few thought that the Miami front office would actually ship out the former shortstop whose prolific power bat and speed made him one of the finest players in baseball. However, if indeed the Marlins decided that Hanley, who had made the switch to third base this year because of Jose Reyes’ signing, were to be traded, only a bounty of potential major league prospects would be enough to consummate the deal.

So then, how did the Dodgers acquire Ramirez for a ceiling number 3 starter and a minor league pitcher that isn’t even in LA’s top 20 prospects?
The story is still being developed, but early thoughts have to do with money and performance. Hanley is in the middle of a 6-year, $70 million dollar deal. He’ll be paid $14 million this season, along with a combined $31 million for the next two years. The reports are that the Dodgers will be paying this in full, which leads me to think that perhaps other teams weren’t willing to take on around $37 million dollars of salary.

Of course, that type of money wouldn’t be so much of an issue if Hanley were performing at the peak of his powers. Ramirez has continued a slump that’s lasted a little over two years. After cratering during an injury-ridden 2011 season in which he batted a mere .243 in 92 games with a .712 OPS, the Dominican infielder is hitting at a similar clip this year, stroking a .246 bat to a .750 OPS. His statistics over the last three years now have fallen from a crest of a .953 OPS, 24 homers, 106 RBI and 27 stolen bases in 2009 during his age 26 season. In many ways, this type of dip in performance is particularly worrisome when a player of his talents should be hitting his prime, rather than a mid-career lull.

Even with those glaring numbers, a couple statistically inferior seasons from a potential MVP that’s been injured and asked to move to third shouldn’t be enough to move him for anything less than a king’s ransom. The last factor in this trade trade thus has to be attitude. The Marlins were losing this year despite a high payroll, the adrenaline and energy of a new stadium, a great, but demanding manager and a bunch of vaunted free agent acquisitions. Instead, the team sputtered in the very competitive NL East, falling to last place in a division they were expected to at least fight for ownership of. The locker room chemistry had to be shaken up, and so within a week, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, Randy Choate and Hanley Ramirez were all traded for pitching prospects.

In return for Ramirez, the Marlins obtained two young pitchers…who most people haven’t heard of. Let’s get this out of the way: I don’t know who Scott McGough is. He’s not in the Dodgers top 20 prospects, nor have his minor league numbers been particularly inspiring. I’m not entirely sure how or why he was picked by the Marlins, but he certainly isn’t anyone of consequence in a trade.

As I mentioned, Nathan Eovaldi is a 22-year old right hander who most scouts project as a middle to back r… Read more...

Snap Judgments on the Early 2012 MLB Season

Even with the NHL Playoffs hitting us right in our sweet spot, and the NBA gearing up for the most arduous playoff schedule of all-time, we here at MAMBINO HQ still have some love for Major League Baseball.

Most teams have played about 12 games so far, and even just 7% into the year, we’ve got some snap judgments on this young season that are entirely too premature, over-excited and amateur in nature. But like my love life, that’s never stopped me before.

How good are the Los Angeles Dodgers?

Better than I thought, but certainly not on a 132-30 pace. Let’s throw out the most basic and obvious truth about this incredible 9-2 start LA has had; before this series with the Brewers, they’ve played the Padres and Pirates 10 times. Those two teams, if my projections are right, will end up being two of the worst four teams in the National League (along with Houston and Pucklius’ beloved Mets). Their schedule has been ridiculously easy, and even with a mediocre offense, beating starting pitchers like Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens and Edison Volquez isn’t a terribly impressive feat. Lastly, while Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier have been absolutely atomic at the 3 and 4 spots, producing 30 RBI in 10 games isn’t a sustainable business model.

However…

The offense has been one of the best in the National League, and it’s productivity has largely been through the strategy of manager Don Mattingly. Faced with the challenge of creating offense with a entirely marginal crew of hitters, Donnie has created a line-up that best utilizes each guy. With the speedy Dee Gordon leading off, the number 2 hitter Mark Ellis doesn’t have to be an extra-base hitting juggernaut, but rather just a contact hitter to move Gordon over. From there, Ethier and Kemp can swing away. With Kemp batting clean-up and either hitting doubles or stealing second, contact guys like James Loney and Juan Rivera simply turn into a Mark Ellis with slightly more pop. As well as Mark Ellis, Kemp and Ethier are playing right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if they came back to Earth a bit, but still maintained strong production.

The pitching has been exactly what I projected a couple weeks ago (amongst the league leaders in ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched), but with an offense that’s producing runs, they go from a very good starting rotation to an excellent one.
I don’t expect the Dodgers to keep this up all season, but with series at Milwaukee and Houston, and then Atlanta and Washington at home, it’s possible that the Dodgers remain looking like a playoff team…for at least one more month. 

Fantasy Spin

  • Ethier has always been a fast starter, and this season is no different. I’d ride him for now, but trade him at the very first sign of trouble. Dre’s been known for gutting out injuries (to everyone’s detriment), so his being in a contract year with literally $100 million dollars sitting on the table really isn’t going to change anything.
  • I’d buy on Mark Ellis. He’s scoring runs because of the massive production of Ethier and Kemp, and as I described, he’s in the perfect situation to thrive. Even as a modest .270 hitter, he’ll still score a ton of runs. I don’t think he’s a long term solution at second for any owner, but certainly ride him until Ethier gets hurt.

Josh Willingham, AJ Pierzynski, Corey Hart and Omar FREAKIN’ Infante are all top 10 in OPS. First of all, who are these guys, and who keeps this up?

I would say that t… Read more...

MLB: Bold and/or Reckless Predictions

MLB Opening Day is the best day of the year. The Fourth of July, Christmas, and the Super Bowl all have nothing on Opening Day. On the first day of the season, every baseball city in America has a legitimate chance to set course on a path towards the World Series (well everyone except those who root for the Cubs). Look at the champions over the last 10 years in the MLB and tell me if you would’ve correctly predicted: St. Louis, San Francisco, NY Yankees, Philly, Boston, St. Louis, Chicago White Sox, Boston, Florida, Anaheim, Arizona. Barring the normal Yankee dominance and a stint in their time as a ‘roided up Red Sox team, all those teams listed were not expected to win the whole thing on the first day of the season.

As a kid, I waited nervously for opening day. I checked spring training box scores and standings each morning in the LA Times. Now, as an adult (albeit a fairly irresponsible one), I feverishly read everything on the Internet about the upcoming summer of lazy days and double plays.
Everyone who knows anything about baseball can tell you the Dodgers are going to be a shitty team this year. We have the worst infield in the League and we still haven’t ensured that Frank McCourt is going to be out of lives forever (seriously, he still owns the parking lot/land in joint venture with Magic). So even though KOBEshigawa went through the trouble of doing a full season preview on the boys in the blue, I don’t see the point in guessing exactly how many players on our starting 9 will be hitting under .250. Instead, I would like to spend my time here with thegreatmambino making reckless predictions about the upcoming season that you will not get anywhere else…
Prediction 1: The Marlins AND the Pirates will WIN a playoff series
The Miami Marlins have been making a name for themselves this offseason. They no longer have to play in their cavernous hole of a stadium, and somehow they landed the craziest manager in baseball. Add that to a lineup that now has speedy (yet fragile) Jose Reyes, a rotation that boasts Josh Johnson (not crazy), Mark Buerhle (kinda redneck crazy), and Carlos Zambrano (batshit crazy), and you have a recipe for dominance. Granted, success in Miami will only come if this witches brew of talent can gel, but with the powerhouses in the East set to have down years (looking at you Braves and Phillies), a hot Ozzie-led squad will eek out a playoff series win this fall.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are finally going to do it this year. I live with a die-hard fan of the losingest team in baseball over the last 25 years and he has assured me that this season is the one! With the expanded playoffs and a Central that no longer has a Pujols or a Prince, the Pirates will finally put it all together and make it into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The playoff series they win… that first game to get into their series with Miami.
Prediction 2: This is the last season without a DH in the NL

The MLB has been run by a bunch of drunks for decades. Each league used to have power beyond anything you can imagine in any other professional sport. So much so that one league plays by entirely different lineup rules. This has been allowed to continue for decades for no apparent reason other than the fact that the AL prefers winning a lot, and the NL has cited tradition/purity in the game. Don’t get me wrong, I hate the DH, but with the new way the MLB has set up the schedule for 2012, the DH has to go. Currently, almost every single baseball league in the world uses a DH (all minor leagues, Japan, Latin leagues etc.).

Teams are soon going to be playing interleagu
Read more...

MAMBINO’s MLB Winter Meetings Thoughts

As excited as we are here at MAMBINO HQ about the forthcoming NBA season, we still have to give a little love to baseball, who was the sweet bedfellow that kept us warm and loved when we thought that games on Christmas were only things of BockerKnocker’s wet dreams. While the our NBA preview in the form of our 20 Burning Questions will go on, we have to pay a little respect to a pretty quiet offseason that has shown signs of life with the annual General Manager’s Winter Meetings in Texas. Let’s go over some news and notes from the past few days:

The Miami Marlins sign Jose Reyes to a 6-year, $106 million dollar deal

With a sparkling new stadium in downtown Miami, a entirely made-over brand identity and uniforms that Ricky Martin would call gay, the MIAMI Marlins needed to bring attention to the fact that they are a major market team that would be a player on the national sports scene. Jose Reyes, healthy or not, is the perfect player to launch this glorified marketing campaign with; he’s a good-looking, charismatic 28 year old, whose physical tools lead to the type of exciting play that are needed with a relatively fair-weather fan market. He is one of the best latin players in the league, coming to a city that feels like it’s not even a part of the continental United States. Hanley Ramirez, the Marlins’ incumbent shortstop, remains as one of the best spanish-speaking players in the National League. But with Reyes, you have a guy that not only can match his production, but also capture a much broader appeal with his charm and force of personality.

By the Marlins signing one of the marquee free agents this offseason, they are trying to send a message to players, agents and fans that they are no longer a team that’s going to exclusively purchase guys off the scrap heap and trade arbitration eligible rookies because of marginal raises. They are, for lack of a better term, legit. Even with Reyes’ questionable recent health history (an average of only 98 games in the past 3 seasons) – most notably injuries to his legs which would rob him of his most valuable asset, his speed – the gamble was well-worth it for a team that needed his likeness and stature in so many ways.

But don’t disregard the baseball part of the equation; when healthy last season (he still played in 126 games, by the way. No small feat), he was arguably the best player in the National League. He leads the league in triples since his arrival in the majors and is 3rd in stolen bases. Even while missing nearly a month of action, he still scored over 100 runs, hit a league-leading 16 triples with an .877 OPS, all while buoying a sometimes stagnant Mets offense featuring heavyweights like Lucas Duda, Ronny Paulino and Josh Thole.

The Marlins had to make a move like this. I think they made the best choice possible and for reasons beyond the ones on the field.

Albert Pujols offered a 10-year deal from the MIAMI Marlins

The Marlins are in the ultimate win-win situation here. By simply offering a contract to Pujols, they create the perception that this is a team that the baseball watching public needs to pay attention to, as money problems for the Dodgers and Mets have created a “big market vacuum” the Miami is all too obliged to fill. The Marlins offers stand there in the headlines alongside that of the Cubs and Cardinals, giving them a type of recognition that truly only money can buy. Even if Pujols doesn’t sign, the Marlins are simply reinforcing the fact that in addition to their Jose Reyes deal and signing of closer Heath Bel… Read more...