The Florida Marlins are a disaster of an organization. They are blessed with one of the best scouting and development programs in baseball, and that did lead to a World Series title in 2003, but outside of that, they are a mess. An unmitigated mess.
It starts at the top, as most of these things do, with owner Jeffrey Loria. Loria’s ownership of the Marlins is widely regarded as one of the most dysfunctional in baseball. He fights with every manager he hires, running two decent managers in Joe Girardi and Edwin Rodriguez out of town, and often goes around the front office to make personnel decisions, rubbing everyone, including the players, the wrong way.
Ownership was said to have meddled in the Logan Morrison fiasco earlier this year when the young outfielder was derided by his team for being vocal about their dismissal of hitting coach John Mallee among other things. It culminated in Morrison being sent to AAA, despite being one of the better hitters on the team and one of the more well-liked figures in the clubhouse.
This past offseason, thinking they were close to contention in the NL East, the Marlins front office (or ownership, who knows?) made two rather ill-advised trades. The first sent young, high-ceiling centerfielder Cameron Maybin to the San Diego Padres for right-handed relievers Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica. The second sent All-Star second baseman Dan Uggla to the division-rival Braves for utility-infielder Omar Infante and lefty reliever Michael Dunn.
For a team thinking they were close to contention, trading two talented up-the-middle players who were penciled into their starting lineup seems odd, but the Marlins were said to be going after needs in their bullpen. The other factor was the perceived signability of Uggla, who was said to be asking for too much money on an extension, an extension he eventually signed with Atlanta; more on that later.
So how has this trade turned out for the Fish? Well, not great. They sit last in the NL East, 27-and-a-half games behind the Phillies. They sit 10th in runs scored and 12th in runs allowed in the NL. Granted, not all of that is due to these trades; injuries and bad luck have played much larger roles.
Maybin is having somewhat of a breakout season in San Diego, with a .275/.332/.400 slash line, eight home runs, and thanks to terrific defensive numbers, a 4.1 fWAR. San Diego is Maybin’s third organization; he was traded to Florida in the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis deal and at the time he was one of the top-rated prospects in the game. He finished his minor-league career with a .305/.393/.477 slash line over parts of six seasons. It seems like he’s been around forever, making his debut with the Tigers in 2007, but he was just 20-years-old at the time and is still just 24. There’s no reason to think there isn’t still room for him to get better.
In return, the Marlins grabbed two relievers coming off terrific years in the safe confines of PETCO Park. Neither pitcher (which should not be surprising) has been the same this season in South Florida. Mujica isn’t missing bats at nearly the same rate which has hurt his value, while Webb has a middling 3.92 xFIP. The two have a combined 1.0 fWAR. Now obviously fWAR is not a Holy Grail statistic, especially for relievers, but that’s a rather wide spread in wins-above-replacement. Throw in the fact that the Marlins have used a combination of Chris Coghlan, Mike Cameron and DeWayne Wise in centerfield this season and the trade looks even worse.
Dan Uggla on the other hand, was traded mostly because he wanted a contract extension and the Marlins weren’t really eager to give it to him. They traded him to Atlanta where he signed a five-year, $65-million extension.
I don’t blame the Marlins for trading Uggla ahead of his extension demands, I do, however, blame them for not getting more than Infante and Dunn. Uggla was terrible to start the year, entering play on July 5th with a .173/.241/.327 and 12 home runs. He then proceeded to reel off a 33-game hit streak and hit safely in 36 out of 37 games. Since July 5th, his slash line is a sublime .340/.416/.685 and he has hit 20 home runs in 53 games. Despite terrible defensive numbers, Uggla still has a 2.1 fWAR and has brought up his wOBA and wRC+ to .333 and 110 respectively.
In my opinion, he’s certainly not worth the extension he received, but there’s no doubt in my mind that a player who ranks fifth in wOBA and wRC+ and sixth in fWAR among second basemen since 2006 could have netted more than a utility-infielder and a lefty reliever.
Infante is a solid defensive player, but for the Marlins, has simply not put up the numbers required of an everyday player. He sits with a .302 wOBA and an 87 wRC+. Dunn, meanwhile, has been decent out of the ‘pen, but hasn’t provided nearly enough value to make up for the loss of Uggla.
Keeping in mind, fWAR is nowhere near perfect, the Marlins gave up 6.2 wins-above replacement while receiving back only 2.1. Now, the Marlins wouldn’t be in contention with an extra four wins, but there’s no doubt that the front office should be regretting those two trades.
The Marlins are still in great shape going forward because of their terrific player development program. A healthy Josh Johnson paired with perennially underrated starters Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez and a lineup that includes young studs such as Mike Stanton and Morrison should get them back on track sooner than later; providing they don’t trade them away too.
At least they have a nice, new, taxpayer subsidized ballpark to move into next season. Stay classy, Mr. Loria.