March 21, 2013
Turnover in Miami
The July 2012 trade between the Marlins and Tigers, which sent Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to Detroit, brought three players back to Miami. Jacob Turner, the Tigers’ top-ranked prospect entering the 2012 season, was the centerpiece of the return package, which also included Rob Brantly, now the Marlins’ starting catcher, and Brian Flynn, an intriguing but still raw pitching prospect.
In late August, the Marlins promoted Turner—who had struggled in his first two big-league stints with the Tigers—back to the majors, and he performed well, allowing no more than three earned runs in all but one of his seven starts. Turner collected only 29 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings, but he also issued only nine walks, surrendering less than one base runner per inning, with the benefit of some batted-ball luck. All in all, it was a strong showing for a 21-year-old, and Turner was widely expected to retain his spot in the starting five heading into 2013.
Turner might cede spot in Marlins rotation
The official depth chart on the Marlins’ website still lists Turner as the team’s number-two starter, but as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro pointed out on Wednesday, the information presented there does not necessarily match what first-year manager Mike Redmond and Beinfest are currently thinking. In fact, while Nolasco is indeed expected to garner the Opening Day assignment, Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi are ahead of Turner on the totem pole, at least from the standpoint that both of those northpaws are now assured of spots in the starting five. Left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who has tossed nine shutout innings without walking a batter this spring, is now in line for the number-four slot. Suddenly, instead of sitting pretty with a scheduled assignment in Washington on April 3, Turner finds himself in a three-way battle with minor-league signings John Maine and Kevin Slowey to avoid a ticket back to Triple-A.
And, in some ways, the polish that Turner showed on his way up the minor-league ladder might now be working against him. After being selected with the ninth-overall pick in the 2009 draft, Turner signed a major-league contract and rocketed through the system to reach The Show on July 30, 2011. Along the way, the Tigers burned their usual allotment of three minor-league options, which—under typical circumstances—would have forced the Marlins to make room for Turner in their 2013 plans, since they would have needed to expose him to waivers in order to stash him in New Orleans. But, because Turner’s three options were used within his first five professional seasons, by rule, the Marlins are granted a fourth option, enabling them to dodge an otherwise troublesome roster crunch.
Thus, the decision for Beinfest and Redmond rests on two factors: 1) whether they believe Turner could benefit from another stint in Triple-A, and 2) whether they feel that slowing the righty’s service-time clock could help the squad in the long run. Turner’s contract carries club options for 2014 and 2015, valued at $1 million apiece (or $500,000 if he spends the year in the minors), but the Marlins could gain an additional pre-arbitration season if they can justify sending him to New Orleans for the majority of 2013.