“Aggressive Right to the Point of Stupidity”

We all knew that Ozzie Guillen was nuts. That Logan Morrison has been known to say some crazy things. That Carlos Zambrano has thrown out his share of zingers in the day. But none of them can hold a torch to Marlins team president David Samson:

 “Aggressive right to the point of stupidity, but not quite there,” said Samson, characterizing the club’s planned pursuit [of Cuban ballplayer Yoenis Cespedes]. “We think he’s a perfect fit for us, but it has to be sane. [We’ve] expressing interest, going to visit, making it very clear to his representatives and to him and his family that we think he should not be anywhere other than Miami. As a Cuban and someone in the DR, it makes perfect sense. We have a perfect position for him to play. It would be great.” (Juan Rodriguez, Sun Sentinel)

When I first read that quote, my immediate thought was that it’s a perfect way to summarize the Marlins’ entire off-season: aggressive to the point of stupidity, but not quiiite there.

I don’t trust my memory, though, so is that true? Have the Marlins generally stopped themselves this year before crossing the line into poor decision making, or are have they been “aggressively stupid”? Let’s check it out, deal by deal.

Jose Reyes

There’s no doubt that the Marlins weren’t aggressive in pursuing Jose Reyes; they met with him the very first night that teams were allowed to talk with free agents, and they were pushing for a quick deal from the very beginning. In the end, they signed Reyes to a six year, $106 million deal just before the beginning of the Winter Meetings. Aggressive? With Reyes’ injury history, oh yes, surely. But stupid? That’s up for debate.

As Dave Cameron pointed out back in November, Jose Reyes shares some remarkable similarities with another recent speedster free agent: Carl Crawford. Although Reyes came with more injury concerns than Crawford, both players have a similar skillset — speedsters, good defenders, mediocre plate discipline, middling pop — and both of them became free agents at 28 years old. Crawford then signed a 7 year, $142 million deal, while Reyes got a contract worth around 75% that.

That’s not to say that Reyes is a bargain; the injury concerns around him are valid, and you could make the argument that Crawford’s deal was a bit over the top in and of itself. But in paying Reyes an average of $17.5 million/year, they are essentially hoping he can average around 3.5 WAR/season over the length of his deal. That’s not too difficult to imagine Reyes doing, as he has produced over 5.5 WAR in four of the previous six seasons.

So was the Reyes deal aggressive? Certainly. But that doesn’t mean the deal was a bad one, and it’s quite possible that this ends up being a favorable deal for the Marlins. They picked a good winter to go after the big guns on the market, as the only team they were seriously bidding against was the poverty-stricken Mets.

Mark Buehrle & Heath Bell

The Marlins started the offseason with three main targets: Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell. Bell was actually the first free agent that the Marlins signed this offseason, and I think his deal may have colored people’s overall view of their offseason. There’s no doubt that Bell is getting overpaid due to his status as a “proven closer” — three years, $27 million — and the Marlins could have nabbed someone like Ryan Madson if they were a bit more patient. This was probably their most suspect move of the offseason thus far…but even then, they’re only committing $27 million to Bell. It could be worse, right? After all, they didn’t show any sort of inclination to toss Jonathan-Papelbon-type money at a closer.

Mark Buehrle was the next free agent to sign with the Marlins, and his 4 year, $58 million deal comes with its share of risky. While Buehrle has been Mr. Consistent over his career — he’s thrown over 200 IP eleven years in a row, and posted at least 3.0 WAR in each of the past five seasons — he’ll be 33 years old next season. The Marlins are paying him like he’ll be a 3.0 WAR pitcher (on average) over the length of his deal, which is probably a bit optimistic. Still, Buehrle will be moving into the National League, and the Marlins’ new ballpark looks like it could become the new PETCO. It’s another aggressive deal, but I don’t think the risk is great enough for us to call it a horrible deal.

Albert Pujols & C.J. Wilson

The Marlins didn’t sign Albert Pujols or C.J. Wilson, but they did make a serious runs at both of them. There were all sorts of reports that came out about the Marlins and Pujols, but once the dust settled, it seems the consensus was that the Marlins were willing to offer him around a $200 million deal, but they tapped out once the bidding went much higher. (I’m sorry, but I didn’t buy the somewhat implausible rumor that the Marlins actually offered Pujols the highest bid.)

And as for Wilson, the Marlins offered him a very fair deal — six years, $16-17m per year — but he chose to sign for below market rate and go to the Angels. Again, I’m noticing a distinct trend: the Marlins were aggressive, but still staying within the upper realm of what’s considered a smart deal.

Carlos Zambrano

He may be insane, but Carlos Zambrano has the potential to be an above-average to ace starter — 3.71 FIP in 2010 — and the Marlins are only paying him $3 million in 2012. They had to give up three years of Chris Volstad to make the deal happen, but if Ozzie Guillen is able to harness Zambrano, I don’t think anyone in Miami will miss him.

Yoenis Cespedes

Now we’re back where we started. Judging by the Marlins’ history this off-season, I have no doubt that they truly intend to be “aggressive right to the point of stupidity” with Cespedes; it’s what they have done all off-season long, and I see no reason why they would change that now.

The big question is: what exactly would be a “stupid” amount of money to throw at Cespedes? He’s 26 years old and has been compared to Adam Jones, although he will need some time in Triple-A to start 2012. His upside is tremendous, but as we’ve seen with other prospects, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll attain his peak.

The common assumption is that Cespedes will get a deal somewhere in the $50-60 million range. If that’s spread over the standard six year period of team control for prospects — so around $8-10 million per season — I could see that fitting the Marlins’ current strategy. It’d be an aggressive offer and more than many other teams would be willing to pay, but even if Cespedes never developed into more than an average center fielder, he’d be worth the contract.

So there we have it. “Your 2012 Miami Marlins: Aggressive to the point of stupidity.” If that’s not a winning season slogan that’s sure to drive in the fans….well, then I don’t belong in marketing.*

*…Which I probably don’t.

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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.

27 Responses to ““Aggressive Right to the Point of Stupidity””

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  1. Kyle says:

    I love it. Someone put that shit on a T-shirt!

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  2. Kampfer says:

    Only time will tell how they did, but in my opinion it was a really good off-season for the Marlins. They accomplished all their goals, including making THE splash (quick strike on Reyes) that put some ass on the seats, getting media coverage (Ozzie and Big Z! as if HanRam+Morrison is not enough drama) and building a arguably contending team (Maybe 2nd WC?). I like how their team looks and if JJ can pitch 200 and the youngsters develop as expected, Marlins can be a high octane offensive team with pitching that is just enough to beat any teams in baseball(sounds like Red Sox 2011)

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    • rbt says:

      How can Johnson pitch 200 innings? He’s only done that once in his career and that was three years ago. If the Marlins let him go 200 innings after only 60 last year they are agressive past the point of stupidity.

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    • Boblob says:

      They didn’t make THE splash of the offseason; I think the Angels win that pretty handily.

      Great offseason for Marlins fans though, as it inevitably is when you suddenly have $100M to spend.

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      • Adam says:

        Within the baseball industry, the Marlins have definitely been the talk of the town. Simply being involved in every major name and signing more than their share is shocking enough, but combined with the huge re-branding campaign and the almost inconceivable nature of the financial risk Loria and the team is taking, the Marlins will have the extra focus inside baseball.

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  3. deadpool says:

    I’m still more curious about ’13 than ’12. If the team is successful, but the fans don’t show up right now, what do they do? They need a massive uptick in revenue to cover the team now, are they patient and hope sustained success brings fans? Or do we see another fire-sale?

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      Even when you don’t field a good team, a new stadium almost guarantees a huge attendance for the year. 2012’s attendance should be able to pay for it. Although when 2013 rolls around and people realize “wow, a bunch of guys who have already had great careers don’t usually have a second great career, but instead decline, we’re screwed” that’s what I’m interested in.

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  4. Preston says:

    For everything the Marlins have done or will do this off-season their success or failure in the coming years will hinge on the how two of their incumbents play. If Hanley Ramirez is one of the best players in the game and Josh Johnson is a top five starter they have the supporting cast to compete. If JJ can’t stay healthy and Hanley Ramirez is less than he was pre-2011 they will remain behind the Phillies and Braves. By 2013 if Strasburg and Zimmerman stay healthy and Harper joins the show, the Nationals might be the better team. If in 2013 they finish 4th in the NL East all this spending will indeed look stupid.

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  5. Bobby Ayala says:

    When I saw this headline I thought this had to be about the Pineda/Montero trade.

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  6. Phils_Goodman says:

    This was probably their most suspect move of the offseason thus far…but even then, they’re only committing $27 million to Bell. It could be worse, right? After all, they didn’t show any sort of inclination to toss Jonathan-Papelbon-type money at a closer.

    The Bell deal was as risky or worse than the Pabelbon contract according to fWAR, bWAR and WPA, plus Bell is 3 years older with an alarming dip in K% last year.

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    • jim says:

      it wasn’t alarming, there was no real worrisome cause to it; it was random fluctuation that you get with guys who pitch ~70 innings a year

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      • Phils_Goodman says:

        The cause was the lowest Swinging Strike % of Bell’s career, along with the highest career Contact %s both inside and outside the zone.

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  7. Lewis says:

    I have no idea why they ever went away from “Marlins Will Soar” as a slogan…


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  8. Antonio Bananas says:

    I don’t get the Cespedes love. At 26 (and there’s always the “is he really 26?” stuff), he’s not really a prospect is he? 26 is basically your prime as a player, with 27 as the peak. Why in the hell is a guy compared to Adam Jones seen as some amazing deal? At 26 no less. In other words, average to above average production for 2-3 years, then decline. Awesome, whoo hoo, better get my checkbook out for that one.

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    • Brad Johnson says:

      Cubans don’t come with the usual age related questions. One of the externalities of living on a small communist island is that they keep extremely good records. Communists are (were?) often joked to be the only people better at record keeping than bureaucrats.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        Okay, so even at 26, a guy who has never played above what’s a low minor equivalent, still isn’t much of a prospect to me. If he’s this good at 16, then there’s a story, but he’s not, he mashes bad (relatively speaking) pitching, awesome. Jose Constantza has done the same thing and is about the same age, no one is going to pay him a ton of money.

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  9. jim says:

    RE reyes and his “mediocre plate discipline”- he has great plate discipline, not posting a K rate above 11.5% since 2004. just because he doesn’t walk much doesn’t mean he doesn’t have good plate discipline.

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  10. Garrett says:

    Zambrano has no chance of being an ace. That is a ridiculous statement. Crawford has a better chance of going from replacement level to below replacement level.

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  11. caseyB says:

    “There’s no doubt that the Marlins weren’t aggressive in pursuing Jose Reyes”

    Steve, I think you mean: “There’s no doubt that the Marlins WERE aggressive in pursuing Jose Reyes”

    Whatever the outcome on the field, the Marlins certainly made themselves into one of the most interesting and potentially entertaining teams in all of MLB. That can’t be bad for ticket sales either. The only problem is that if you don’t follow that up with success on the field, the off-the-field hijinks get pretty tired real fast.

    I can see the team going either way as questions remain about JJ’s ability to bounce back from physical problems, Hanley’s ability to bounce back from two declining years, Hanley’s happiness, and Zambrano’s ability to recapture dominance and ability to stay sane. And will Guillen explode off and on the field? Will Morrison behave (how about that hot tub pic!)?

    I look forward to seeing how the drama on and off the field will go for them.

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  12. Larry says:

    RE: Cubans don’t come with the usual age related questions.

    The country may have good accounting but it is usually the player who fudges his age if he’s a little bit older and obviously MLB teams won’t be knocking on the Cuban government’s doors to verify actual ages.

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  13. dave says:

    I have a set of cuban baseball cards from 1994 featuring both livan and Orlando Hernandez. If memory serves Livan is listed as 2 years older and Orlando 3, same month and day older year.

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  14. Adam says:

    The part you aren’t considering is “can the Marlins afford these contracts?” Sure, they’ll probably be fine for a year or two with the new stadium and the resulting assured revenues, but they’ve committed to very large contracts for quite a few years down the line. The Marlins have been a pitifully revenued team since their inception and that isn’t set to change long term: there isn’t any new TV deal and not a single fan has demonstrated a newfound love of the Marlins other than seeing their new stadium. Can they turn Miami into a baseball town? Jeffery Loria seems to think so. If they do, it will be one of the greatest sports marketing achievements of all time. If they don’t, it could be a catastrophic financial and on-field disgrace.

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  15. Ralph Eherts says:

    The accumulation of ‘latino’ players and management for the sake of the ‘latino’ culture in the Miami area will be the reason that mainstream ‘America’ rejects the latino Marlins as a Major League Team. The US is a melting pot of many cultures, all of which have replaced their own nationality with that of the US.

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  16. nickcounty says:

    Ralph, What is mainstream America? White people? The “latino” (as you so anachranistically put it) demographic in this country is gigantic and growing, and I don’t know if you’ve been to Miami (I live here), but it might as well be a “latino” island in the Carribean. I think the marketing is smart/obvious, and it will go a long way to ingratiate the “latino” community, locally and beyond. Baseball is “latino”. “Latinos” love baseball and have been an integral part of the makeup of the culture of baseball for some time. If the Marlins lose a few hillbilly xenophobes along the way, well then good riddance says this half-french half-cuban! Watch Nascar if you want to see more white people on your TV~

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