In a crushing blow for the Miami Marlins, Giancarlo Stanton will miss the rest of the season because of a groin injury.
It hasn't been a great season for Stanton. After a big April -- his OPS was over 1.000 on May 6 -- he fell into a deep slump. He hit bottom on June 21, with a .211/.311/.427 line. Since then, however, he hit .288/.356/.589 with 12 home runs and 38 RBIs in 41 games started. The Marlins are second-to-last in the National League in home runs, so losing their main power source is a concern.
They do have Ichiro Suzuki ready to step in, and he's hitting .316/.388/.386 and scored a run and drove in another in Sunday's 5-4 win over the White Sox. As well as Suzuki has played coming off the bench, keep in mind that when forced to play every day last season, when Stanton went down in June, he was terrible, hitting .229 with a .289 OBP. It has been a different Suzuki at the plate in 2016, with a career-high walk rate, but it still seems prudent to not overuse him. He is 42, after all.
The Marlins do have some flexibility with third baseman Martin Prado, who has played more than 200 games in the outfield in his career, though almost all of that was in left field. When Suzuki needs a day off, Prado could move to the outfield, with Christian Yelich sliding over to right field if necessary and Derek Dietrich or Miguel Rojas playing third.
There's another option: The Marlins clearly seem interested in Alex Rodriguez. President of baseball operations Mike Hill admitted that the team has discussed reaching out to Rodriguez, though he doesn't know how eager A-Rod is to keep playing. With all the interviews surrounding his final game with the Yankees, Rodriguez never once said he is retiring. It seems that he wants to play.
I don't think he has much to offer -- even against left-handers, he was hitting just .211/.265/.382, but that was in just 82 plate appearances. He can't play third base at this point and has played nine innings at first base in his career. Then again, with Justin Bour out until September with an ankle injury, Chris Johnson has been the primary first baseman, and he has been awful. I could see the Marlins signing A-Rod and giving him some games at first base and a chance to hit his 700th home run in his hometown.
None of these maneuvers, whatever the Marlins decide to do, are going to replace Stanton. Still, that doesn't mean their playoff hopes are doomed. Sunday's win put them in a tie with the Cardinals for the second wild card, though they're 4-8 in August. FanGraphs rates the Cardinals as the favorites to take that second wild card, but the Marlins' schedule the rest of the way is pretty soft, with just four series remaining against teams currently in playoff positions (Indians, Dodgers and two versus the Nationals). The bigger key will be the performance of the rotation, which also took a hit when Adam Conley landed on the DL with finger tendinitis. At this point, it's unlikely that they're going to find pitching help via a waiver trade, so Andrew Cashner and the rest of the rotation will need to step up behind Jose Fernandez.
As far as Stanton goes, his reputation as injury-prone just cemented a bit. When the Marlins signed him to that 13-year, $325 million extension that was heavily backloaded, many assumed that the Marlins calculated that Stanton was a good bet to exercise his opt clause after 2020, figuring he could get more in free agency than what would be owed on the rest of his deal. That meant the Marlins would get him while he was relatively cheap and let another team sign him as he reached his 30s. If Stanton can't stay healthy, however, it becomes less likely that he will opt out, which sticks the Marlins with annual salaries starting at $29 million in 2021. You can only imagine what Jeffrey Loria would deal with the rest of the roster if that's the case.