Imagine, if you will indulge me, an alternate reality. Miami has, just this season, been given a new baseball franchise. All the players and the coaching staff that currently are in place are the same. The owner, however, is different.
In a vacuum, their situation isn’t so hopeless at all. They have promising young talent already performing at the Major League level in Jose Fernandez, Jacob Turner and Marcell Ozuna. They also have prospects who are excelling in the minor league system in Jake Marisnick, Christian Yelich and Andrew Heaney. They also are slated to have a relevant draft pick in next year’s draft pick as a prize for their irrelevancy. They also have a youthful manager in Mike Redmond who can better relate to the neophytes that will soon be making their way into the South Florida locker room.
With trades that are to come, the Marlins will be bolstering their farm system even more. In this alternate reality, the fans should be optimistic. The team would have no history of bilking its fan-base and the owner would have no past of trading All- Stars when their salaries become fair. However, we are in this reality. And in this reality, Marlins fans have a hard time being optimistic and faithful. They have been betrayed before and, most likely, they will be betrayed again.
The way I look at it, this is 2006 all over again. In the offseason before the 2006 season, the Marlins brass traded away Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Carlos Delgado, Juan Pierre and Paul Lo Duca. In return, they received some prized possessions in Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Mike Jacobs, and Ricky Nolasco. The 2006 Marlins had a payroll of $14,998,500 — lowest in the league by a significant amount.
The 2013 Marlins happen to have the second-lowest payroll and the differential below the team with the third lowest payroll is also quite large. The 2006 team was probably a little better than the 2013 Marlins, but the very young core, the meek payroll and the flurry of trades that preceded the season are comparable.
With the exception of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, who were traded in the offseason after 2007, the Marlins kept the same core of players until 2011. In those six years, the team was exceedingly competitive, topping out with an 87-75 record in 2009. The team’s best players were also very young, from Josh Johnson to Dan Uggla to Hanley Ramirez. Those six years contained one-third of the winning seasons in Marlins franchise history, as well.
I see many comparisons that can be made between these two teams (other than Miguel Olivo, who strangely enough reappeared this season). This current Marlins team is poised to have a similar six-year run. As older players are being shipped out, newer players have replaced and will be replacing them. While irrelevance may be the case in the short term, relevance may not be too far away.
But while excitement (rightly) bounds with the selection of prospects from the minors, a bit of hesitancy (rightly) accompanies it. How long is this player going to be a Marlin? Is he going to be traded when he gets “too expensive?” It is difficult to have total faith in an organization that has done nothing but abuse you. I cannot say what will be the case in six years, but, for the foreseeable future, this team has a real chance to compete.
Preston Michelson is a freshman at the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism and is a graduate of Palmer Trinity School. He is a frequent contributor to this newspaper and the opinions he expresses are his own and not necessarily those of the editors and publishers. Contact him on Twitter at @PrestonMich or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org