The Miami Marlins have been in contention for a wild card spot all season as one of the surprise contenders in the National League. But they got some bad news involving slugger Giancarlo Stanton — who stumbled going into second base just a few days ago — he is on the disabled list and done for the season. That’s a huge problem for Miami, a team that already has first baseman Justin Bour on the DL. However, despite losing Stanton and being a half-game behind St. Louis for the final playoff spot, there are still three reasons to believe in the dark horse Marlins. Here they are.
3. The rest of the competition
Right now, the rest of the competition for the second wild card spot isn’t all that great. It’s a four-team race between the Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and New York Mets. The Cardinals hold a slim lead over Miami, with the Pirates a game behind and the Mets two back of the Marlins. At one point earlier this season, the Mets were 28-19 and tied with the Washington Nationals for first place in the NL East. Since then, they’re just 31-39.
It’s not as if the Mets have had it easy. They’ve lost starting pitcher Matt Harvey for the season and just lost Yoenis Cespedes to a stint on the DL with the offense already struggling to score runs. The Pirates have been a mess all year, with Andrew McCutchen having an uncharacteristically down season. Pittsburgh actually made some trades at the deadline, but the moves weren’t specifically designed to improve the team’s chances this season. They traded away Francisco Liriano, Jon Niese, Mark Melancon, and Arquimedes Caminero.
The St. Louis Cardinals are the toughest competition, but they’ve been hit with injuries lately, too. Shortstop Aledmys Diaz and left fielder Matt Holliday both just went on the disabled list with broken thumbs. The starting rotation has been bad, with Adam Wainwright bouncing back from a rough start but getting hit hard again lately (posting an 8.69 ERA over his last four starts). None of the competition from any of these teams is all that fierce, leaving the door open for Miami.
2. The rest of the Marlins
Another factor is the fact that Stanton hasn’t even been the best hitter on the team this season. While Stanton had posted a 158 OPS+ over the last four years, he was at just 122 at the time of his injury — tied for fourth-best on the team and just slightly ahead of Martin Prado. The point? While he’s a dangerous hitter and capable of launching a baseball a long, long way, there are other good hitters who have kept the Marlins afloat this year.
In fact, in the 14 games Stanton has missed to this point in 2016, Miami is 11-3. That’s a small sample size and shouldn’t be translated literally regarding this situation, but at the very least it shows that this team is capable of winning baseball games without their right fielder. Bour, who has been on the DL since early July with a twisted ankle, is actually having an even better season than Stanton with a 134 OPS+. Getting Bour back in the lineup with Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Prado is what the Marlins really need at the moment.
1. A-Rod to the rescue
There seems to be smoke to this rumor, and where there’s smoke there’s fire. Alex Rodriguez was just released by the New York Yankees and with the 40-year-old slugger being from Miami, he’d be a natural fit for the organization. The actual fit on the field is a bit more complicated, but they can certainly try to make it work.
A-Rod would need to be mobile enough to play first base, something he really hasn’t done this season. In fact, he’s only started a single game at first in his entire career — and he’s been the designated hitter for all but the third of an inning that Yankees manager Joe Girardi allowed him to play at third base in his farewell game. The skills for Rodriguez have declined to the point where he’s been a below-replacement-level player this season. But for all the reasons why it shouldn’t work, it just might anyway.
Playing A-Rod at first base — at least until Bour gets back, which is looking like early September at best — can’t be much worse than the production they have from Chris Johnson, who has a .329 SLG% in 225 plate appearances this season. When Bour does return, A-Rod can go to a part-time role. If, by some stretch of luck, Rodriguez is ripping the cover off the ball and you can’t spare taking him out of the lineup, Bour did play some left field (although very briefly) when he was in the minor leagues. You’d sacrifice on defense to do it, but it could be worth keeping the bats in the lineup to make a run at the postseason.
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