Jose Fernandez Will Make Giancarlo Stanton Expendable
The day after the San Francisco Giants locked up Buster Posey through 2022 (option included), the Miami Marlins announced uber-prospect Jose Fernandez would serve as the team’s fifth starter. After living in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area during both Marlins World Series runs, the irony is palpable.
Why? The graphic below begins to tell the story.
Buster Posey and Giancarlo Stanton are two of the game’s brightest young stars. In addition to nearly identical offensive production, service time for both players total 2.1 years and change. Give Posey the nod on defense as a catcher is more valuable than a right fielder, but few would argue Stanton isn’t deserving of an eight year, nine figure deal of his own.
When the Marlins signed Jose Reyes to a six year, 102 million pact only to trade the shortstop a year later, it’s difficult to envision their locking up Stanton to a posey-like extension. Especially when a contact believed Stanton was worth Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt, Martin Perez and a couple of low level Rangers prospects in return.
Cue Jose Fernandez.
With a 14-1 recording including a 1.75 ERA and 158/35 strikeout to walk ratio, it’s easy to wrap the Cuban prospect up in a bow and deliver him to the Marlins fan base as the next Alex Fernandez or Livan Hernandez. Give Fernandez a year to establish himself as the face of the franchise and it becomes easier to deal Stanton to the highest bidder.
Pair this with Fernandez’ remarkable back story as a Cuban defector whose family failed to reach American soil three times before a fourth successful attempt, and the dots become even easier to connect.
Having moved to Miami at the height of the Marlins World Series run in 1997, I never understood why every conversation began and ended with Alex Fernandez when Kevin Brown, Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla and Moises Alou were on the roster.
And when the Cuban-American pitcher went down with an injury during the playoffs, the obituaries being written about the ball club’s chances made even less sense.
At the time, I was familiar with Fernandez’ background as a University of Miami pitcher who transferred to Miami-Dade Community College to enter the draft a year early. He was also a very good pitcher with the White Sox (3.7 average WAR from 1993-1996). But was he a franchise savior? Only in the minds of Marlins faithful.
The longer I lived in Miami, the more it became obvious the Marlins Cuban and Cuban-American fan base lived in a baseball bubble. The politics of Castro’s regime created a fiery level of nationalism which influenced baseball allegiances. This rabid support trumped rooting for the actual team. Had Fernandez gone 32-0 in 1997 and the team finished 32-130, it would have been a success to some.
This is exactly what the Marlins are banking on.
Prior to the attendance bump every team receives when opening a new stadium, the Marlins spent thirteen consecutive seasons in the bottom-three for National League attendance. This includes six straight seasons bringing up the rear broken only by their 2005 World Series run and enough of an attendance bump to rank 15th.
On the flip side, the Marlins have been a middle-of-the pack television draw, ranking 17th in Major League Baseball in 2011.
With second year attendance expected to plummet and a stadium nestled in Little Havana – 15 city miles further away from more than half its pre-stadium fan base (Broward/Palm Beach County residents), the Marlins need to be creative for turnstiles to move.
In other markets, inserting a pitcher from High-A into the starting rotation would be viewed as an act of desperation. For the Marlins, this move throws its Cuban and Cuban-American fan base a bone in the hope they turn on the television or come to the park once or twice a home stand.
It also casts Jose Fernandez as a cult hero in Miami. The faster the city accepts Jose Fernandez as the future, the easier it becomes to deal Giancarlo Stanton to the highest bidder.
24 Jan 2014 / Mike Newman /
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