Nationals Baseball: The Phillies aren't dumb and the Marlins aren't the same old Marlins

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Phillies aren't dumb and the Marlins aren't the same old Marlins

While the Nats roll merrily along, two of their NL East rivals have made interesting moves. The Phillies have decided to re-sign, rather than trade, Cole Hamels and the Marlins have dealt three of their better players, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, and Hanley Ramirez.  A lot of people are taking the view that the Phillies are dumb and have doomed themselves to non-relevance in the near future, while they are looking at the Marlins as "same old fire sale Marlins".  I don't buy it.

In 2010, the Phillies defined their window by signing Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, and extending Roy Halladay. The "end year" would be 2015.  They were committed to keeping a core of talented players until that year and they verified this again by paying Papelbon a dump truck of money to pitch for them until the same year, and keeping Jimmy Rollins around for the same amount of time. The rebuilding process is already in the plans, but beginning (if necessary) at the end of 2014, not now. By letting Hamels go they'd be starting a rebuilding process two years early, meaning a talent exodus that wouldn't end for 3 seasons.  A slow and painful death followed by the unknown that is rebuilding from within. Often rebuilding DOESN'T lead to success - you don't get Mulder, Zito and Hudson all developing; you don't get back to back generational talents when you have the #1 pick - often it leads to a middle ground of mediocrity. You could cross your fingers and hope you make enough smart moves and get lucky enough that in 2016/7 you are good again, or you could roll with a very talented team for a few more years.

By signing Hamels, they remain committed, at least for one more season but probably 2 or 3, to the window they had set up for themselves. The team itself is finally back together and is 7-3 in the last 10.  You'd be rolling into next year with a rotation with Halladay, Hameles, and Lee (not to mention a pretty good Vance Worley) and a lineup with Howard, Utley, Ruiz and Pence at it's heart. That is a team that last year won over 100 games, that is very well still a playoff team. Yes it means expecting a lot health-wise but that's what you have to hope for to have plaoyffs years, or did you not notice that the Nats top 4 starters have been healthy all year?

As for the Marlins the gamble was that the team would be good enough to compete this season.  Bring in Reyes, bring in Buehrle and get yourself a pennant race. Didn't happen, so now what? The minor leagues for the Marlins is pretty bare. There was little help coming, especially in the rotation. You could keep trying to throw money at this, watching as most of your starters go over 30 and into oblivion or you could pull the rip cord now. The Marlins best players, and one of the best players in the league, is Giancarlo Stanton who is 22. He is a special player. The new plan has to work around him, because you don't know when you'll get another like him. Get as many major league ready prospects as you can and cross your fingers that they work out.  That's what they've done.  Eovaldi and Turner are ready for long looks in a major league rotation, Brantley might be ready to catch at the major league level next season. Get lucky and maybe these guys can help you out right away.  The likely "worst case" though is that they are all major league players for as long as you have Stanton. Along with their top prospect, OF Christian Yelich, they could be the kind of cheap filler that you can then work around signing guys in 2015 or so to fill in the holes.

This isn't a fire sale. This isn't a team that could compete right away.  It looked more like a team looking to hover around .500 for a year or two until it crashed back down.  By jumping the gun and grabbing guys that look to be part of a Stanton led team a couple years down the road, the Marlins have given themselves hope that they'll be as relevant as they wanted to be in 2012 in some year not too far down the road. .

What does this means for the Nats? Well it means the Phillies are going to try to compete for the NL East for the next couple years, and if the Marlins get a little lucky with who they get back in these deals, they could be good right when the Phillies can't avoid entering a decline phase.  The Nats were on the verge of looking at an NL East that would be the Braves and them competing for as long as this current team is intact, with everyone else being also-rans.  Instead they get a legit contender (assuming health) for the next couple seasons, and a possible one for the couple after that.  The Nats talent would continue to make them the favorite, but their margin over error doesn't get any larger.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I see no way that the Phils can overtake the Nats or Braves in the next few years. They have little money to spend on free agents without getting the luxury tax and their "stars" are far from it anymore. Even if their pitchers do as expected they have so little depth in the minor leagues that I don't see then holding on for a full season.

Harper said...

I wouldn't bet on it either, but if the Phils top 4 have a year similar to 2011 in them, not as good but similar, that's a pretty good team. The Nats as is should be able to still beat them, but what about the Nats if Gio goes down and ZNN is out for 10 starts? That's what this is about really - not the Phillies are going to win 100 games again, but the Phillies could be a high 80s win team so if the Nats stumble they could be there to pass them, rather than be a 75 win team the Nats can use as a cushion.

Anonymous said...

The previous post was so positive... then we get this. Let us enjoy the ride and focus on the team keeping up a pace to win at least 30 more games. After that we can discuss the competition from the Giants/Dodgers/Reds/Pirates, etc. that we will face in the post season. Then, after the Nats post-season is concluded, we can move on to talking about the Phillies keeping their rotation in tact, the marlins re-build, and the Post Chipper Era Braves. Of course those topics will all pale in comparison to the discussions we will have about the Nats off season moves. So yeah, lets just treat those other teams like the Mets for a while, meaning there is no reason to even discuss them. =) Natitude!!!

Chris Needham said...

Agreed completely on the Phillies. They lost two MVP-type bats in their lineup... no wonder they were terrible.

Mix in that the holes that they DO have are at positions that are generally fairly easy to cobble something together on the cheap, and there's no reason they're not contenders again next year.

I mean, I'm enjoying the hell out of the schadenfreude of their Phlop, but it could come back to bite us next season.

Which is why I think it's imperative that the Nats take advantage of what's before them THIS year instead of hoping for the next few years. There aren't any guarantees next year. As you point out, the Nats have been a bit lucky with their pitching staff.

Thomas Tolley said...

The Nats are in great shape. They have 7 legit starters at pitcher in Strasburg, Zimmermann, Gonzalez, Jackson and Detwiler with Wang and Lennon waiting in the wings. They have a young lineup of "bats" in Harper, Lombardozzi, Zimmermann and Moore. This team is set for years.

Thomas Tolley said...

The Nats are in great shape. They have 7 legit starters at pitcher in Strasburg, Zimmermann, Gonzalez, Jackson and Detwiler with Wang and Lennon waiting in the wings. They have a young lineup of "bats" in Harper, Lombardozzi, Zimmermann and Moore. This team is set for years.

Hoo said...

The Marlins took themselves out of the running during the Nats big window, especially by getting rid of some real Natskillers. The Mets are still a mess which means that the Nats effectively have 2 competitors for the divisional crown.

I think the Phillies are doing the only rational thing as you point out.

While you can say, what happens if Gio or ZNN get hurt, you're ignoring a big factor. The Phillies get hurt b/c they're on the wrong side of 30 and for many 35. The Nats are in their 20s and have less wear and tear. So all else being equal, we should expect Nats to be consistently healthier than the Phillies.

Clip&Store said...

excellent post. i do agree. i have been saying for a while that the phillies are still a threat. this year i dont think so, but they have won 4 straight..and if they weezle into the playoffs, i know i wouldn't wanna face that rotation (assuming halladay and lee find their form)

Jeff Hayes said...

Anyone who is comforted by the idea that the Nats will go mostly unchallenged for dominance in the NL East in the future has very unrealistic expectations. I'm not concerned about the latest Phillies' and Marlins' manuevers because I've always expected they would be right in the thick of things in the future. These aren't franchises that are simply happy to break even. They are both franchises that have proven they have the highest ambitions.

What makes me happy is that the Nationals have finally proven that they are also a franchise that has high ambitions. It's enjoyable simply to know that year-in and year-out, our team will also be in the thick of it. Some years everything will go right and we'll have more banners flying over Nats Park. And some years things won't.

The idea that the NL East can be won easily is must too unrealistic. Relish in the fact that we've proven that it doesn't have to be easy for us to compete. And remember, that even if the Phillies, Marlins, and Braves aren't just going to roll over for us, as Harper points out, we're still the team to beat now and probably into the near future.

bsimon24 said...

It is possible for the NL East to become the hardest division in baseball. The Nats will not have an easy time winning the division year in and year out, but any year that they do come out on top, they will likely be favorites to win it al once playoffs start. Playing great Philadelphia and Atlanta teams throughout the years will strengthen us for deep postseason runs.

Anonymous said...

didn't even realize... Phillies could easily be in 3rd in the East in a week.

Kenny B. said...

I'm just happy to see guys like Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez out of the NL East. Those guys, for whatever reason, tend to own the Nats. The Marlins are the only NL East team that seems to have the Nats' number this year.

Froggy said...

Agree with the post. And agree with @Chris Needham and how much I'm schadenfreude-ing the Fillies flop.

They are always dangerous and do seem to be shoring themselves up for next year, and I wouldn't count them out to make a hard charge the remainder of the season. That being said, even if the Fillies win 70% of their remaining games and the Nats only win 50% we end up with 90 wins and they with 88-ish.

Bring it!

Anonymous said...

The Phils may not be dumb, but Philly phan sure is.

jmorrisa said...

Sorry, I know it sounds naive to say that the Phillies are done for and won't be back, but I just don't see them getting back next season. Halladay's velocity has been down into the upper 80s all season. He's not the same pitcher he was before. Turning 36 isn't going to help, as he is now well into the age when velocity begins to tumble downwards. Lee is starting to look a little old, too. If these two were both in their mid-late 20s, it'd be easy to shrug your shoulders and just call it a bad year/injury year, but mid 30s? Sorry, that's called age taking it's toll. To me, it's much more likely to see those two take another step backwards next year rather than a step forward. That leaves a token ace in Hamels, two over-the-hill pitchers, and a couple of average place holders with an average at best relief corp. Then there's the aging lineup that can either hit, but can't field, or field, but can't hit. And the fact that their depleted farm system doesn't offer them room for any injuried, which are inevitable. Remember, this year's Nats faced some devastating injuries this year and probably will next year, too. We'll get over those the same way we did this year, by having a deep and talented farm system/bench. The Phillies don't have that and one off season with a bloated budget isn't going to change that.

bdrube said...

I agree on the Phils, but not the Marlins. That franchise is a mess and has the worst owner in all of baseball (yes, even worse than Angelos). There's also an investigation into whether the team bribed county officials to get its new stadium and attendance is already cratering. If they continue to draw flies, which seems likely, Loria will dump what's left on the roster and go into full Montreal Expos mode.

Anonymous said...

No offense but I'm not buying the "thank your lucky stars" attitude one bit. Davey has been smart and EXTREMELY cautious with the starting rotation. Notice the lack of complete games?

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