Welcome to Miami; Don’t Bother to Unpack

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From another plane of existence, watching Jeffrey Loria and the Marlins, George Steinbrenner just elbowed Mussolini and said, “This guy’s a nut.”

The most important part of following the stories that crop up during the approach to the MLB trade deadline is to know which to discard as nonsense and which to take seriously. For example, I said months ago that the Diamondbacks wouldn’t trade Justin Upton, but the trade talks have been mentioned so prominently and acknowledged by the Diamondbacks that they have to be believed.

The Rays considering moving James Shields is probably legitimate because they’re willing to do anything and everything.

Cole Hamels trade talk is a “hit-getter” meaning that any web piece on Hamels is guaranteed to drum up a lot of webhits. They’re to be taken as little more than “stuff” tossed into the air without any real basis in fact.

But there are some stories that are too ludicrous to be believed in the normal world, but are easily believable in the nuttier venues of baseball. One such venue is in Miami with the Marlins.

This MLBlog posting by Joe Frisaro suggests that the Marlins could become sellers. The Marlins spent a lot of money last winter and were expected to win. They’re not playing well. But it’s four months into the season and 99.9% of sports franchises would not react so rapidly in deciding to blow it up. But the Marlins are of that .1% that might.

Yes, it would make sense—as it has for several years now—to be open to trading Hanley Ramirez. Logan Morrison hasn’t hit and combined with the disfavor he fell into with the organization last season, he’s a possible trade chip. With those players, it wouldn’t necessarily be gutting the team, but trading a player elsewhere and bringing back other players to help now and make the team and clubhouse better. The emergence of Justin Ruggiano, looking more and more real every day, makes several players expendable. Josh Johnson’s value isn’t very high right now. No one’s taking Heath Bell or John Buck.

But Giancarlo Stanton? They’d get a ton for him. It would be crazy to entertain moving that type of player, but that place is crazy.

For organizations that don’t have the shady past of the Marlins, it would be enough for the GM, team president and owner to go up to a player who’s upset by the implication that he might be available and say, “It’s nonsense. Someone made it up to have something to write about,” and have it accepted as truth. With the Marlins? Even if head of baseball operations Larry Beinfest tells a Jose Reyes that he’s not going to be traded, is Reyes going to believe it?

I wouldn’t believe David Samson or Jeffrey Loria if they told me it was raining as the three of us were standing in the middle of a hurricane.

Given their history of purging the organization of managers, coaches and veteran players on capricious mood swings and financially motivated teardowns, would anyone—including the players—be shocked if the Marlins did blow it up at mid-season?

It’s 89 games into the season, the Marlins are 43-46 and a major disappointment; they’re 12th in the National League in attendance. They made a florid show of spending prowess last winter and haven’t performed. That’s justification to make some changes, but not to demolish the whole thing.

With most other teams, it’s an easily dismissible concept. With the Marlins, every player in that clubhouse has it in the back of his mind that he might not be with the team much longer; that the contract he signed is something to be transferred, legally, at a moment’s notice. At some point it’s going to burrow through a player’s thick head and he’ll understand that teams don’t give a player a no-trade clause in his contract so they’re able to, y’know, trade him without his permission.

This is the risk taken by Reyes, Mark Buehrle, manager Ozzie Guillen and anyone else who signs up for that dysfunctional madhouse.

It’s unlikely that the Marlins will detonate it so quickly. In fact, I doubt that they will. A trade of Ramirez or Morrison is possible. I can’t see them gutting the Fish in July. But there’s that chance—that chance that Reyes will suddenly find himself playing for the Mariners in Seattle for the next 5 ½ years when he thought he was signing with the Marlins to play in Miami for 6.

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National League East—Buy, Sell or Stand Pat?

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Washington Nationals

They have the minor league system to do something significant, but looking at their roster and the players they’re due to have eventually returning from injury, they don’t need anything.

Their offense has been somewhat disappointing as they’re 10th in the NL in runs scored. They’re not particularly patient at the plate, but they spent a large chunk of the first half of the season without Michael Morse and Jayson Werth; they lost Wilson Ramos and were playing Rick Ankiel in centerfield.

When they have their regular, everyday lineup out there and put either Bryce Harper or Werth in center to replace Ankiel, they’ll be fine in the run-scoring department.

Their bullpen has been lights out and Drew Storen will be back. In regards to Storen, I wouldn’t put much stock in his rehab results—he got blasted yesterday; as long as his velocity and movement are there, let him get back in shape without worrying about how he pitches.

What do they need? Some bench help? Okay. That’s something that can be acquired after the trading deadline when more teams are willing to clear out some players. Marco Scutaro, Ty Wigginton, Mike Aviles, Justin Turner are names to consider, but the Nats will be perfectly fine if they simply stay where they are and move forward with who they have.

Atlanta Braves

They need to buy but I don’t know if they will.

The Braves could use a big time starting pitcher but as has been the situation in the past, are they going to add payroll to get it?

GM Frank Wren made a big show of looking for a shortstop after Andrelton Simmons got hurt and then was forced to act when Jack Wilson got hurt as well. He traded for Paul Janish.

That’s not a big, bold maneuver.

They’ve been linked to Zack Greinke but I’m not getting the sense that the Brewers are ready to sell. Recently the suggestion was made that they were looking at Jason Vargas. Vargas and the words “impact starter” were used in the same sentence. Vargas is not an impact starter, but if I were a Braves’ fan, Vargas or someone similarly meh is what I’d expect them to obtain.

New York Mets

The three game sweep at the hands of the Braves is being taken as a calamity, but the Mets have been resilient all season long. They’re not buyers and nor are they sellers. They’ll look to improve within reason and not give up a chunk of the farm system to do it. Can they add payroll? No one seems to know. I’d guess that they can add a modest amount in the $5-10 million region and that’s only if it’s a player that the front office believes can make a significant difference and/or they’ll have past this season.

I’d avidly pursue Luke Gregerson for the bullpen and inquire about Joe Thatcher, both of the Padres.

Here’s one thing I would seriously consider: crafting an offer for Justin Upton centered around Ike Davis and Jordany Valdespin. The big time pitching prospects in the minors—Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler—are off the table. The Mets could move Lucas Duda to his natural position of first base and get a 25-year-old, cost-controlled, potential MVP in Upton.

The Diamondbacks can consider moving Paul Goldschmidt for pitching.

Miami Marlins

They should probably just stay where they are and hope, but they have little choice but to be buyers.

Carlos Lee was acquired from the Astros to try and fill an offensive void and he hasn’t done much so far. Would they think about including Logan Morrison in a trade to shake things up? Justin Ruggiano is killing the ball in his first legitimate opportunity to play regularly in the Majors and his numbers mirror what he posted in the minors as a regular. But he’s 30. They have to determine its legitimacy.

The bottom line is this: they need pitching in the rotation and bullpen and are running out of time. Francisco Liriano is a target as is Grant Balfour, Jonathan Broxton, Huston Street and any of the other suspects.

Philadelphia Phillies

Here’s the situation: In spite of winning the last two games of their series against the Rockies, the Phillies are still 39-51 and 14 games out of 1st place in the division. They’re 7 ½ games back in the Wild Card race. Some of the teams still in the Wild Card race are going to fade. Realistically it’s going to take around 88 wins to take the last Wild Card spot. In order for the Phillies to reach that number they’re going to have to go 49-23 the rest of the way. Even with Roy Halladay returning tomorrow night, it is an almost impossible feat for them to pull off. If they were playing reasonably well, I’d say, “Okay, maybe they can do it.” But they’re not.

I have no idea what’s going to happen with Cole Hamels as the new talk is that they’re preparing a substantial offer to keep him. Maybe it’s true. But they need to get rid of Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino; see what they can get for Wigginton.

It’s not their year and if they sign Hamels that will probably assuage the angry fans—to a point—if Ruben Amaro Jr. concedes the season and gets what he can for the veterans who definitely won’t be back.

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