As Derek Jeter’s executives work feverishly to try to dump Giancarlo Stanton, Martin Prado and Dee Gordon, here’s the question:
Do you keep the other key pieces, even knowing that Marcell Ozuna will be unaffordable to Miami as a free agent after 2019, or do you overhaul everything and do a total rebuild, trying to replicate what the World Series Houston Astros accomplished.
The Marlins have told teams that Christian Yelich and Ozuna aren’t available, but at least one longtime former GM believes that’s a mistake.
The thinking is this: You’re probably not going to win with Yelich and Ozuna but no Stanton and Gordon and mediocre pitching, so why not just start from scratch.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“The cut has to go much deeper than [Stanton] if you are going to rebuild their franchise into one that will have sustainability,” MLB Network analyst and former Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd said. “That's a hard pill to swallow. The one position you don't want to be is in the middle where you are not good enough to win.
“My approach would be you have to be in active listening mode. If you wait another year on Ozuna [in his last season before free agency], the trade value goes down dramatically.
“What is Christian Yelich going to be if he’s surrounded by a bunch of young players? You have to aggressively put yourself in position to maximize every single asset. They've got a payroll projected to be $145 million and then $170 million in 2019. They don't have players internally to replace those players.
“That’s why I would advocate a total rebuild here, and I am looking for everything. It's much easier to build through position players [than trade mostly for pitching].”
O’Dowd, the Rockies’ GM for 15 years until 2014, made another good point: “In today's game, when you are using 35 to 40 players per year to get through a season, you have to have impactful depth and they don't have any. The dropoff is precipitous beyond their front line players.
“They are light years away in signings [from being a contender]. You have to have a ton of great drafts to augment frontline players. By the time you do that, the frontline players will be gone anyway.”
O’Dowd said “where I got into problems is I went to Colorado with the mindset of going with a complete rebuild and then was told [by ownership] we would try to contend and rebuild at the same time because of the fan base...
“Every part of your decision making process is split two different ways: your international signings; you can't give a definitive clear direction to your people to say, ‘This is what we're doing.’”
Jeter apparently doesn’t want to totally alienate the fan base by trading every good player. But that shouldn’t matter in South Florida market, O’Dowd said, because “if they rebuild totally, the Marlins attendance [historically] didn't fluctuate with them being average or sucking.”
But here’s the one thing O’Dowd said the new owners should not do: “I would not take less for Yelich by attaching Junichi Tazawa or Brad Ziegler. You have to maximize talented players. If you don't maximize their talent at this stage, that rebuild will take much longer.”
ESPN Scouts Inc., analyst Keith Law, a former member of the Blue Jays front office, said dealing Yelich and Gordon would be more beneficial to the Marlins than trading Stanton, and here’s why:
“If you trade Stanton, they are going to have to be willing to pay a good portion to get it off the books and pay even more to get good young players in return,” Law said. “It’s more realistic to trade Yelich (or Ozuna) and Gordon.”
Yelich, who has completed two years of a seven-year, $49 million contract, “would be the first guy I would put out there because his team-friendly deal makes him so much more attractive,” Law said. “You often see ownership groups reluctant to move guys on team friendly deals. You think, ‘I can build around this.’
“With someone like Yelich or Ozuna, like Gordon, these are guys who are going to be underpaid and they have so much more trade value.”
Law said Yelich could net a package similar to what the Yankees got from Cleveland for Andrew Miller – “four prospects, two top 100 MLB prospects. And the other two guys in that deal are [potential] big leaguers.”
They might be able to get something close to that for catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Law said Gordon, who’s two years into a five-year, $50 million deal, is tradable “because he’s at a peak age and you are not concerned about a sudden dropoff… You could go to [this week’s] GM meetings and say we are [listening] on Yelich and Gordon and have them traded [by December] for a pretty nice return. Yelich, Ozuna and Gordon are all at ages where the market is very good.”
But the Marlins already have decided they prefer to deal Stanton and Gordon and will have to figure out a way to clear another $13 million if they cannot find a taker for Prado, which could then put Ozuna in play.
Whether that’s the prudent approach is debatable.
Here’s my six-pack of UM football notes from Thursday, with personnel items and NFL stuff.
Here’s my Thursday Dolphins post on why problems the Dolphins thought they solved haven’t been.