Give them credit for fighting the good fight into late August, but it’s clear now that the Miami Marlins are done. Having won just one of their last 11 games, and fallen to three games below .500, the Fish are six games back of the Cardinals for the last Wild Card spot in the National League, and would have to leap over the Pirates and Mets to get there. With 23 games to go, that simply is not going to happen.
Increasingly desperate, the Marlins have reactivated their best player, Giancarlo Stanton, from the disabled list, just three weeks after he went on it with Grade 3 groin strain. He was initially expected to miss six weeks. The move kind of stinks of interference by Jeffrey Loria, demanding that the slugger rush back, but we certainly don’t know that.
Presumably, Stanton will mostly serve as a pinch hitter for now, like he did last night in the Marlins’ 4-3 loss to the Phillies. Don Mattingly said after the game that Marlins doctors and trainers told him that, “We don’t need to pinch run for him.... We’re not talking about him in right field three days from now. That’s not going to happen. But we do expect it to happen at some point.”
On the one hand, I can see why they’re doing it. No one in baseball has more ability to change the course of a game with a single swing. Stanton’s power is alarming and devastating. Even if he’s only able to take one cut per game, the Marlins can deploy him in high leverage situations.
But the risk seems unacceptable. For one thing, the Marlins really are done. Baseball Prospectus gives them a one percent chance of making the postseason. And Stanton, talented though he is, has only avoided the disabled list in two of his seven Major League seasons. Quite simply, Stanton gets hurt, and running him out there every night only increases the chance that he will hurt himself further.
Right now, it’s a grade three sprain, but what happens if it gets worse? Does Stanton require offseason surgery? And what do all these nagging injuries do to his long-term outlook, especially with the Marlins on the hook for potentially another $309.5 million through 2028. Protecting their investment is more important than chasing the pipe dream that went away when Adam Conley and Wei-Yin Chen hit the disabled list, and Andrew Cashner flopped.
Despite a disappointing end to 2016, there’s no doubt that the Marlins made major progress this year. And, with the exception of Martin Prado, the entire core is going to return next year, and should include a full year of Jose Fernandez and Dee Gordon (note: at this point, while Dee’s hitting .249/.290/.308, that may not seem like a good thing). But their only chance of doing that, given how bereft the Miami farm system is of talent, is to have a healthy Stanton to go with Christian Yelich, Jose Fernandez, and Marcell Ozuna. It’s nice to have the big man back, but it would be even better, in the long run, to let him have the rest of the year off.