After completing an eleven game road trip, the Mets head back to Citi Field to meet up with the Miami Marlins. Since they last met nearly three months ago, Miami has seen their much hyped inaugural season at Marlins' Park go south and they currently sit in last place in the NL East with a 49-60 record. They also sold off a number of key parts at the trade deadline, waving the white flag now in an effort to improve themselves for the future. To get a better look at the Marlins, I sent some questions over to Michael Jong of SB Nation's Fish Stripes and here's what he had to say about the team. (I also answered some Mets questions over at Fish Stripes).
Amazin' Avenue: The Mets and Marlins haven't faced off since May and since then, the Marlins' roster has undergone a radical makeover. From a baseball perspective, how do you feel about the moves they've made over the last month?
Fish Stripes: The moves, from a basebal perspective, were more than reasonable. The Marlins traded a starting pitcher in Anibal Sanchez whom they were not likely to re-sign. They traded Hanley Ramirez, who had fallen so far from grace that the team felt more comfortable using the money remaining in his contract in free agency rather than in paying Ramirez for another two years. The only major trade asset the Marlins gave up was Omar Infante, who was signed to a cheap deal and is an above-average player. Still, in return for a guy they were not going to have next season, an above-average second baseman, and a player whom the team felt was overpaid at this point, the Marlins received two pitchers who could be major-league contributors starting in 2013.
AA: Considering all of the hype coming into the season with the new stadium, new uniforms, new name, etc, how have the fans reacted to the team selling off parts?
FS: It depends on the type of fans. More reasonable fans realized the Marlins were not going to compete at this point in 2012 and saw the moves for what they were: baseball moves that were made with making 2013 and 2014 better in mind. The pessimistic fans or the ones who thought poorly of the team's struggles felt that it was more of the same in terms of the "fire sale" talks, even though the Marlins made more than reasonable baseball moves. It has yet to affect attendance significantly, but the Marlins were definitely concerned about perception even as they were making these somewhat controversial moves.
AA: A day after the trade deadline, a rumor about a discussed Jason Bay for Heath Bell and John Buck trade was leaked by Ken Rosenthal. Met fans seemed pretty split on the idea so how would you feel about this hypothetical deal from the Marlins' perspective?
FS: I reacted to the trade when Rosenthal reported it, and basically figured that it was a decent deal for both teams. For the Marlins, they cleared some salary and consolidated all of it in 2013 while helping to fill a potential open slot in left field. For the Mets, they would take on a little more salary over time, but they would get to fill two potential holes by picking up another reliever who has a chance to be decent and a catcher to assist Josh Thole. Still, ultimately this trade would be a "change of scenery" deal that would hope to get the best out of all three players just by having them move to other locations, so either way, the moves were at best going to leave their teams with the same problems they had before.
AA: 30-year old center fielder Justin Ruggiano has been outstanding since his acquisition in May. What do you think of him and do you think he can help the team beyond this season?
FS: Justin Ruggiano has been a surprising revelation since coming over from the Houston Astros. In June and July, Ruggiano was masterful, and he dragged his projections up from typical Quad-A outfielder status to league average hitter in just a two-month span. The Marlins have to be happy with his work thus far and will keep an eye on him for the rest of 2012 to see if he will be a useful piece in 2013. If indeed he has become at least a league average hitter, the Marlins should be more than content with his defense and bat in left field and should allow him at least a chance to win a starting job in 2013.
AA: Which Marlins players have been playing well over the last few weeks and which players have been struggling?
FS: Jose Reyes and Carlos Lee have had to do a lot of heavy lifting for an otherwise empty lineup for the last few weeks. Reyes is carrying a 24-game hit streak and Lee is sporting an 11-game hit streak as well as the duo bats 3-4 in the Marlins lineup. Since the start of July, Reyes is batting a very robust .326/.364/.538 without a very large BABIP, so as far as hot streaks go, this has not been the most luck-induced streak I've seen. Since being acquired from the Houston Astros in early July, Lee has hit .305/.404/.379, so Marlins fans are hoping he can just tack on a few more home runs to supplement a very good approach at the plate.
As far as cold hitters are concerned, just look at the rest of the lineup. The rest of the lineup for the Marlins has not been "cold" so much as it has been "normal for their bad talent level," as injuries and trades have ravaged the lineup and left the team with few options at the plate.
Thanks again to Michael Jong for helping us to preview this series! Here are the upcoming pitching matchups: