The Miami Marlins have been toying with their fans’ emotions for most of the 2014 season. Heading into Spring Training there was not much room for optimism or any kind of miraculous turnaround following their disastrous 62-100 campaign in 2013. Sure, the starting rotation anchored by the lovable Jose Fernandez was supposed to be a bright spot, but the lineup, at least on paper, left much to be desired sans Giancarlo Stanton.
But the Marlins busted out of the gates, guns ablaze, and actually fielded one of the most productive offenses over the first couple months of 2014. Bargain-bin pickup Casey McGehee has been a base hit and RBI machine batting behind Stanton, Christian Yelich has been as good as advertised and the likes of Marcell Ozuna and Garrett Jones resurged to form a very dangerous lineup. The National League East has been a cluster all season and, with help from the ailing Philadelphia Phillies and, until recently, down years from the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, the division race appeared wide open.
Then, Jose Fernandez fell victim to the Tommy John surgery epidemic and the hearts were collectively ripped from the Marlins faithful. The surprisingly bright season was sure to be lost and there’s just no way this team could survive without their young ace, right?
Well, somehow the bruised Fish have kept their heads above water, and currently sit in an intriguing spot with the trade deadline looming less than a month away. They are 41-43, 5.5 games behind the division-leading Braves who have just recently caught fire and stretched their NL East cushion a bit.
As unlikely as it previously seemed, the Marlins have continued to swing the bats and put runs on the board. And it’s a good thing because of inconsistencies to the rotation which has included such names as Randy Wolf, Kevin Slowey and Brad Hand. Miami’s starting staff has been a revolving door which now includes young prospects Andrew Heaney and Anthony DeSclafani.
The 2014 Marlins remain an interesting conundrum. They were supposed to be shoe-ins for the basement of the NL East, and they have taken their lumps — inlcuding an eight-game losing streak back in April. But with no one in the division seemingly emerging as the favorites, the Marlins are still very much in the race — which poses a unique trade deadline approach. This team is built around youth and competing in the future, but many of its top prospects are now at the MLB level and the farm is a bit dry.
With the Marlins sitting right in the middle of the division race — and just two games below .500, a feat that no one saw coming — should they go all in and try to make a surprise playoff push, possibly at the expense of their future prospect inventory? Or should they play it safe and sacrifice their potential first postseason appearance in 11 years with respect for the long run?