Marlins president Michael Hill to fans: 'There's a lot of reason for optimism'

ESPN logo
Friday, July 31, 2015

MIAMI -- Ace right-hander Jose Fernandez is unbeaten and perhaps stronger than ever after recovering from elbow surgery. Giancarlo Stanton remains one of baseball's top power hitters. Dee Gordon is among the game's leaders in batting average and stolen bases. Adeiny Hechavarria has become an All-Star shortstop.

And the Miami Marlins are still in the midst of a disastrous season.

"We need more," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said.

That's clearly the case. For now, however, there's only subtraction.

Michael Morse -- the cleanup batter in Miami's opening-day lineup -- and pitcher Mat Latos were shipped out Thursday to the Los Angeles Dodgers for three low-level minor league pitchers. And then Friday, the Marlins traded right-hander Dan Haren (7-7, 3.42, team-high 21 starts) to the Chicago Cubs for two more minor leaguers, shortstop Elliot Soto and pitcher Ivan Pineyro.

None of those five acquisitions has ever played in the major leagues.

As far as fire sales go, Marlins fans have seen worse. But the last few days has served as one big reminder that Miami -- which has not been in the postseason since Josh Beckett tagged Jorge Posada for the last out of the 2003 World Series -- may be a long way from getting another look at baseball's loftiest stage.

"Our goal is to be one of 10 (playoff teams) and play for a championship," Hill said Thursday, not long after telling Morse and Latos they were traded, a move that followed Miami's 1-0 loss to Washington. "That is our goal and that still remains our goal. In the process, sometimes you have to make adjustments."

These aren't little adjustments.

Miami entered Friday's game against San Diego at 42-60, the second-worst mark in baseball ahead of only Philadelphia. It's a far cry from what the Marlins envisioned after an offseason in which they signed Stanton to a record $325 million contract, ensured they could keep Christian Yelich with a new seven-year deal, and landed players like Ichiro Suzuki, Gordon, Haren, Morse and Latos.

Morse batted .213 and is gone. Latos went 4-7 and is gone. Haren knew there was a good chance he would be gone before Friday's 4 p.m. deadline, his suspicions ultimately being proven correct. And 14 Marlins have been on the disabled list already this season.

On to next year, again.

"We're extremely frustrated," Hill said. "The injuries happen. They're part of the game. Under-performance is part of the game. But we felt like we had enough depth to absorb that. And obviously that was not the case."

Just a look at the Marlins' opening day lineup shows how the master plan didn't work.

- Right-hander Henderson Alvarez was the starting pitcher. He won't win a game in 2015, and who knows what's in store for 2016 after he needed surgery this week to repair a tear in his throwing shoulder.

- Morse batted cleanup. He's now gone, and not only did he hit just four home runs in his 53 games but they were all solo. The Dodgers didn't even want him; they designated him for assignment shortly after the trade was finalized Thursday.

- Marcell Ozuna started in center field. He's currently in Triple-A and some wonder if the Marlins are doing that to keep him from being arbitration-eligible this winter, though Hill insists that isn't the case.

- Jarrod Saltalamacchia was the opening-day catcher. He batted .069 in nine games and was cut loose, even though the Marlins were due to pay him $7 million this season.

- Mike Redmond was the manager. He was fired May 17. Unless the Marlins go on some sort of tear, they won't spend a single day over .500 this season.

"A weird year for me," Morse said, "and a weird year for this team."

Hill said he's hoping Marlins fans realize that the core of the team is still intact, and that trading Haren, Latos and Morse -- as well as closer Steve Cishek, sent off to St. Louis last week -- doesn't represent a total reset of Miami's master plan.

It also can't be argued that the 2015 plan flopped, in a big way.

"There's a lot of reason for optimism and belief that this is a playoff, championship-caliber team," Hill said. "But we're not there and we have to keep working until we get there."