Owner Jeffrey Loria is adamant about wanting to build around Stanton, according to major league sources. And for all the outrage over the Marlins’ most recent dismantling, rival scouts and executives say the franchise is again teeming with young talent.
Stanton, who tweeted, “Alright, I’m pissed off!!!” after the Marlins’ blockbuster with the Blue Jays last offseason, remains extremely unlikely to sign with the club long term, sources say. But the Marlins certainly can afford him next season, his first year of arbitration, and he is under club control for two more seasons after that, through 2016.
Which isn’t to say the Marlins are committed to keeping Stanton; they could trade him as soon as this offseason, and even their immediate plan is subject to change. But remember, baseball is watching the Marlins closely, according to a statement that commissioner Bud Selig released after approving the team’s trade with the Blue Jays.
“Going forward, I will continue to monitor this situation with the expectation that the Marlins will take into account the sentiments of their fans, who deserve the best efforts and considered judgment of their club,” Selig said. “I have received assurances from the ownership of the Marlins that they share these beliefs and are fully committed to build a long-term winning team that their fans can be proud of.”
Stanton, according to some with the Marlins, now seems more comfortable with the team’s direction, pleased with the budding talent around him. Others, however, say he is simply adopting a more positive outlook, making the best of a difficult situation – one that soon will include a trade of his close friend, right-hander Ricky Nolasco.
The Marlins are on pace to lose 105 games, but they’re 13-9 in June and finally getting healthy. Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi recently rejoined the rotation, and righty Henderson Alvarez is close to returning from a shoulder injury. Stanton earlier missed more than six weeks, and first baseman Logan Morrison more than two months.
The bottom line: The Marlins are in position to rebound quickly after the trades of right-hander Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante to the Tigers, infielder Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers and right-hander Josh Johnson, lefty Mark Buehrle, shortstop Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio to the Blue Jays.
The team began the season with the game’s fifth-best farm system, according to Baseball America, and since has graduated right-hander Jose Fernandez, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and outfielder Marcell Ozuna to the majors.
Fernandez and Eovaldi could form a powerful 1-2 at the top of the Marlins’ rotation, and Alvarez and righty Jacob Turner look like legitimate pieces as well. Hechavarria still needs to progress as a hitter, but Perry Hill, the Marlins’ noted infield instructor, says the rookie’s defense is as good as any shortstop’s in the majors – and as good as any of his previous six Gold Glove winners.
Second baseman Derek Dietrich is showing power. The outfield soon will include top prospect Christian Yelich, and Stanton could become more expendable if Jake Marisnick, now at Double A, fulfills his high-end potential. Oh, and don’t forget - the Marlins recently selected North Carolina’s Colin Moran to be their third baseman of the future with the sixth overall pick of the draft.
More pitching also is coming. At least three potential starters – righty Anthony DeSclafani and lefties Justin Nicolino and Andrew Heaney – are performing well in the minors. Righty Arquimedes Caminero, throwing 98 to 101 mph at Double A, is a potential closer.
None of this assures that the Marlins’ latest rebuild will be a success; some of their prospects will succeed, others will fail. A number of good young players require several years in the majors before they make an impact. Those who click right away start earning big money once they become eligible for salary arbitration.
Considering all that, the Marlins probably would be wise to maximize Stanton’s value, trade him for a massive haul before July 31 and add to their pool of high-end prospects. But Loria, sources say, is hell-bent on winning in the near future – and proving that he made the right baseball decisions when he tore apart his roster.
In that scenario, the Marlins are better off keeping Stanton than trading him.