Originally posted on MarlinsBaseball.com  |  Last updated 5/21/13
With some internal and/or modest changes, the offensive woes have the possibility to be resolved more easily than expected. When looking at the 2013 Marlins season, the very second that the Opening Day lineup was announced with Placido Polanco in the cleanup spot behind Giancarlo Stanton, it was very clear that the offense was in severe dire straits far more worse than anticipated after the offseason. After all, how can it be taken any other way than negatively when a team’s decided solution to protect their best offensive force includes a player batting a good deal of the time in the middle of the order, who is a man that entered the season with only 3 of his 16 seasons having achieved 10 or more homeruns in any of those seasons (peak total of 17 back in 2004), that topped that off with his career high in RBI being a stammering 72 that was achieved a few years ago, in a season when he had a career high of 676 plate appearances. Regardless of the injury issues that led to this occurrence, it is still an illustration and one of the roots of why this team continues to struggle to score runs every single game. However, as bad as things are, Marlins fans don’t need to throw themselves from the balconies – at least, not yet. With some internal and/or modest changes, the offensive woes have the possibility to be resolved more easily than expected.   Lineup Structure Change …too many guys that are table-setters or whose offensive skills are closer to getting on base rather than driving in runs. First, while not being the most minor of changes, there is one change that has caught my attention and maybe others since last season – the need to change the lineup structure in regard to the balance between “table-setters” and “run-producers”. Even if this team was 100% healthy, they still weren’t going to be effective as an offense. The reason is that there was not going to be enough effective production at driving runs in. All the while, there were going to be too many guys that are table-setters or whose offensive skills are closer to getting on base rather than driving in runs. Common sense says that getting men on base is an absolute waste when there is nobody there to drive those men in. If healthy, the Marlins have a great run-producer in Giancarlo Stanton and they have a somewhat decent one in Logan Morrison. However, the other potential run-producer, Justin Ruggiano, is proving to be more of a bottom end of the lineup or off-the-bench type of run-producer. He is not a middle of the order type. Same thing can be said of Greg Dobbs. After these players, the Marlins have nothing else in the form of run-producers. Juan Pierre is a leadoff hitter. Donovan Solano, when healthy, is a table-setter type that could be the prototypical second batter. Placido Polanco was always the prototypical second batter type, but his decline makes one wonder about his value to this team. Adeiny Hechevarria and Rob Brantly, at this point in their careers, are both bottom of the order hitters who don’t provide much more than singles with an occasional extra-basehit. A lineup structured like this only works when the run-producer combination is built with at least more than one high level run-producer – essentially protection for Stanton that is closer to his own ability rather than to Morrison’s or any other piece has been. With the reality being that the Marlins aren’t going to spend money for another Stanton caliber player, the need to change the lineup balance is required. Besides getting healthy with Stanton and Morrison, this team needs to add another run-producer, which would require replacing one of the players who aren’t run-producers (very likely Polanco or Pierre). Then, the team needs to upgrade from one of the current run-producers (Ruggiano). Now, the question is how or where these solutions can be found?   Internal Solutions For solutions, the possibilities can be found internally. There are two possibilities that have come in recent weeks in the rookies, outfielder Marcell Ozuna and second-baseman Derek Dietrich. Both have offensive potential and have started off well since they were brought up to fill in for the injured Stanton and Donovan Solano. They both have shown power ability in the minors and have each gone deep since their call-ups – Ozuna from the right side and Dietrich from the left side. Although filling in for injuries, both so far look like and can be big answers for bringing the Marlins’ hitting some credibility and respect. The only question would be positioning on the field once Stanton and Solano come back – that is if we go under the assumption that both Ozuna and Dietrich will keep hitting to warrant staying in the lineup once Stanton and Solano are back.   With Dietrich, everything is a little simple. Solano has played third base and that may be the best option once he returns. This would result in Polanco being the odd man out. When thinking about it, considering Polanco’s performance so far and clear decline in the recent years, is that really a bad thing? Most can agree that it’s the move that needs to be done rather than keeping young players from getting MLB playing time while an ineffective, declining veteran continues to handicap this team’s incompetent offense. If Dietrich or Solano aren’t the answer, there is always the backburner thought of one of the third base prospects that the Marlins have added in the past year or so, such as Zack Cox if he can stay healthy and show he can master Double A.   …outfielder Marcell Ozuna and second-baseman Derek Dietrich. Both have offensive potential and have started off well since they were brought up… With Ozuna, it’s a little bit more complicated. On a defensive level, he serves the team best as a rightfielder. However, that is Stanton’s position. There is the option to move Ozuna to leftfield, but that would mean benching Pierre, which would leave the Marlins without a true leadoff hitter in the lineup. If the Marlins intend to keep Pierre in the lineup, it would mean having Pierre in centerfield, which, even if Ruggiano is used as a late inning replacement, would significantly hurt the Marlins’ defense due to Pierre’s very poor arm that would allow runners to routinely advance to other bases in situations when they normally wouldn’t. There is the chance for timing favoring the Marlins for another way to sort it out. Stanton’s return from injury may fall in line with the possibility of bringing up top prospect, outfielder Christian Yelich who can play centerfield, bat leadoff, and is showing that he has mastered Double A. A return of Stanton, move of Ozuna to leftfield, and bringing up Yelich would be a nice way to improve the offense – assuming that Ozuna continues hitting and Yelich can pay immediate offensive dividends that coincide with the high expectations of the prospect that he is.   With the possibilities of the internal options such as Ozuna and Dietrich combining with a healthy Stanton and LoMo and potentially going another step further with bringing up Yelich, the Marlins offense may not remain in an anemic mode very long. Throw in the additive of what either Pierre and/or Ruggiano going to the bench with Dobbs could do for the team’s pinch-hitting or the DH role for Interleague games, and the Marlins offense can get very effective in a hurry.   If they do look to trade veterans to bring in immediate help, we are essentially looking at Ricky Nolasco, Juan Pierre, Justin Ruggiano, Greg Dobbs, and Kevin Slowey. External Solutions For possible external options, the chances are very slim. It isn’t so much that there are not many available. It’s more a reflection of the Marlins, after trading away so many pieces since last year’s trade deadlines, not having too many trade chips that they would want to deal away now. If they do look to trade veterans to bring in immediate help, we are essentially looking at Ricky Nolasco, Juan Pierre, Justin Ruggiano, Greg Dobbs, and Kevin Slowey.   Despite an offseason that tied Nolasco to offseason trade rumors that reportedly could have netted the Marlins some nice offensive talent such as Mark Trumbo, the reality is that Nolasco has pitched himself into a position of having very little value beyond a serviceable position player. The possible return that could be had would make trading Nolasco not something to sweat over unless the offensive returns are filled well and the return is to net more prospects. Other than this, the only other way would be if there is a sucker that is willing to overpay the Marlins for Nolasco. While it is possible, it may not be likely.   With Ruggiano or Pierre, either can be flipped for a third-baseman. The reality is that if either would be moved for immediate offensive help, it would be for a similar caliber of player in either case. The only way that either can net the Marlins more would be as part of a package. That isn’t likely to happen.   …for Greg Dobbs, the possibilities are pretty much the same as they are for Ruggiano and Pierre…it wouldn’t make sense to make any trade… As for Greg Dobbs, the possibilities are pretty much the same as they are for Ruggiano and Pierre.  With that said, it wouldn’t make sense to make any trade with him seeking immediate help because the Marlins have too many outfield options that are equal to or better than any option that Dobbs could net in a trade. Additionally, since Dobbs can play third base, it wouldn’t make sense to do since the return won’t be much of (if at all) an upgrade.   Finally, there is Kevin Slowey who started off the season well, but has taken a slide. Before, if he maintained the same success that he had earlier, he would have been a nice trade chip for modest help. However, the slide he’s taken has immediately hurt his trade value and potential return. In fact, if he continues on a downward spiral, he may become a candidate for being released at some point. He essentially has no trade value and can’t net the Marlins any helpful, immediate offensive addition.   As for a potential trade chip like Polanco, that isn’t very likely to net the team anything that would improve the organization in any way. In fact, he is a player that the Marlins should consider releasing at some point if he doesn’t prove to be useful to the Marlins in any way. With his performance so far this season, it’s probably safe to say that Polanco has no trade value whatsoever.   Therefore, with the possibilities of improving the Marlins offense already available to be found within the organization, it can be expected that the Marlins offensive problems won’t last very long. I hate to sound like a Marlins homer or an advocate of what has occurred with this team’s roster since last year’s trade deadline, but the reality is that the Marlins offense can be corrected without any extreme measures. It just requires placing the right pieces together that will make it more effectively. Again, fans should step away from the balcony and just look for the Marlins to sort out the mess. Fixing the offense is a lot easier than expected and the outlook of the potential offense is not as grim as people think. Look for good things to start happening sooner rather than later.
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