Winter Meetings Blow in Blockbuster Proposal

According to ESPN Dallas and the Rangers’ official site, Texas offered highly touted prospects Neftali Feliz and Justin Smoak for the Florida Marlins’ studly young starter, Josh Johnson.

The deal seemed excellent for both teams.  Josh Johnson’s contract comes up following the 2011 season and it’s hard to imagine the ever-stingy Marlins meeting his demands.  Selling him now for a pair of the best prospects baseball has to offer would be a big boost to their future.  On the other hand, the Rangers are looking for that immediate boost to push them ahead of the declining Angels.  Gaining an ace in Josh Johnson would certainly help accomplish that.

The fact that Florida not only declined this deal, but also sent it back to Texas faster than Josh Johnson can throw is reason to raise your eyebrows.  In an attempt to explain that lack of interest, we have to start off by examining Neftali Feliz.

Feliz is one of the most intriguing prospects in baseball.  A consensus elite youngster, Feliz stands at 6’3″ and boasts a heater that tops out in the triple digits and is constantly in the mid-90s.  The 21-year old rapidly moved through the minors, starting in Atlanta’s system at the end of 2006 before being one of the jewels that headed to Texas in the Mark Teixeira deal.  He got the call last year and in 31 innings out of the pen, he posted a 1.74 ERA, 0.68 WHIP with 39 K to just 8 BB and a devastating .129 average against.

However, there is concern about Feliz’s chances of becoming a starting pitcher in the big leagues, let alone reaching his full potential.  Last year, he threw that fastball I mentioned earlier an unhealthy 70% of the time and has yet to acquire the complementary pitches to consistently carry him 6+ innings deep in the majors.  But if last year is any indication, he is at worst a dominant closer and that alone gives him a pretty high basement to go along with his incredibly high ceiling.

The other minor concern with the return for the Marlins is that it would create a bit of a logjam at first base.  The Marlins already have a 1B for the future in Logan Morrison, a young left-handed hitter who has displayed a tremendous eye and emerging power.  Morrison reached AA last year and in 79 games, he posted a .411 OBP.  They also have former 4th rounder Gaby Sanchez who has the potential to be a below average but serviceable first baseman in the MLB.  Neither has been held in as high of regard as Smoak, but Justin hasn’t exactly smashed his way through the minors either.  In 104 games between AA and AAA last year, Smoak hit just 10 home runs, including a .244 AVG and .723 OPS in 54 AAA games.  Surely that isn’t enough to wave away Smoak, but it could have been enough to give Florida cause for concern.

Of course, Josh Johnson being an established ace could be enough for the Marlins to decline this deal as well.  At 25-years old, the towering righty enjoyed the best year of his career, going 15-5 with a 3.23 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 191 K in 209 IP.  The Marlins finished just 6 games behind the NL West champion Philadelphia Phillies and were 5 games out of the wild card.  Making a deal to lessen their current major league roster might not be their best play.

With these three names involved, we will be able to look back on this proposal a few years from now and think what could have been, good or bad.  We can already conclude a few things from this exchange.  The first being that the Marlins are ready to make their run, and will surely do everything possible to retain Josh Johnson’s rights.  The other is that Neftali Feliz is still very much a question mark in the baseball world.

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2 Comments on “Winter Meetings Blow in Blockbuster Proposal”

  1. trecker987 Says:

    Thank You! Per usual you covered all the bases and by writing this you made our most loyal fan happy.

  2. Owner Says:

    Beautiful. Thanks bro.


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