Entering the Winter Meetings, reports had the Miami Marlins looking to move incumbent first baseman Logan Morrison in exchange for some kind of temporary solution to their vacancy at third base. Morrison was now expendable thanks to the signing of Garrett Jones, and the long-term solution at third base, 2013 first round pick Colin Moran, needs more time in the minors.
But Morrison was moved on Wednesday, sent to the Mariners for Carter Capps, a quality reliever to help solidify the Marlins bullpen, without having addressed the Marlins third base situation. There's still plenty of time left this winter, but because this is the Marlins we're talking about, there is one question that begs asking - does this increase the chances of seeing Moran in the Marlins opening day lineup?
Nothing increases those chances more than Moran simply being a part of the Marlins organization. Over the past year, the Marlins have shown an extreme aggressiveness when it comes to promoting prospects. Sometimes it works out splendidly, like in the case of Jose Fernandez, who dominated the National League en route to a Rookie of the Year award. Still, it's an easy argument to make that despite Fernandez's dominance, he did the Marlins no good being in the majors all season and essentially accomplished nothing but getting closer to free agency a year sooner than was necessary. He was more than ready for the majors, and the baseball fan in us loves the story, but the Marlins long-term plan would have been better off had they held him off in the minors for at least a few months.
In the case of players like Jake Marisnick and Marcell Ozuna, it was an unmitigated disaster, as both players were raw, inexperienced and over-matched. Both moves, as well as some others, were made with public relations in mind, or perhaps were made at the behest of owner Jeffrey Loria, who, as it turns out, was pulling more strings on the baseball decision-making side than anyone wanted to let on.
The track record of these decisions means that anything is possible for the Marlins and Moran. They have spent the off-season looking for a third baseman to hold down the hot corner until Moran is ready, but to this point, they have been unsuccessful. Still, there is plenty of time to fill that hole. Morrison, however, was considered to be their biggest trading chip this winter, so his departure means that any third base stopgap will have to be from the free agent market, where the crop is thin.
Moran, for his part, should not be in the majors to begin the 2014 season, and perhaps not at all during the year. Moran is a solid prospect and was one of the most polished bats available in the 2013 draft, but there wasn't a lot of projection in his bat and still isn't. He has a plus hit tool but below average power for the third base position, and he'll be an average defender there at best.
It's his hit tool that will make or break his career. If the Marlins choose to rush him to the majors, whether it's in April or August, they run the risk of messing up the one thing Moran does better than the average player.
Moran played at an advanced college level, hitting well in the ACC at the University of North Carolina. He held his own in the Low-A South Atlantic League last season, but we've seen college hitters dominate it to a much larger extent. The Marlins will likely place Moran in High-A Jupiter this season, and if he hits, he could move quickly. The decision to move him along, however, must be dictated by Moran's bat and not by the Marlins need to avoid 100 losses or create fan excitement for a week.
Moran could easily come out swinging this season and dictate a move up the organizational ladder. It's not necessarily a terrible thing if he ends the season in the majors, assuming he earns it. It's imperative, however, that the Marlins don't rush him and let his hit tool fully develop, because without it he'll be a below-average player.
The Marlins lack of a third base option should in no way dictate Moran's future in 2014. The two should be totally unrelated. These are the Marlins, however, and they have shown a negligence towards their prospects over the past few years, failing to wait until they are fully developed before throwing them to the National League wolves. Hopefully this off-season ends with a temporary solution at third base for the Marlins to keep them from doing the same with Moran.