We’re bringing back our “Three Needs” series, in which we take a look at the chief issues to be addressed for clubs that have fallen out of contention. We’ve already focused on the Mariners, Tigers, and White Sox. Now we’re on to the lowly Marlins, the National League’s worst team …
1. Give Away Fewer Corner OF/IF Plate Appearances
The Marlins are not good, and that’s not surprising. There wasn’t a path to being good in 2019 and there isn’t a path to being good in 2020, either. But that doesn’t mean the team ought to be plugging in replacement-level, low-ceiling players — especially in areas of the field where there’s opportunity.
There’s value in having some veteran clubhouse members and perhaps also in rewarding some hustling, marginal major leaguers. But the Marlins need to be maxing out their opportunities to dig up interesting talent and develop their own players. And in 2019, they dedicated a few too many outfield and corner infield plate appearances to less-than-promising players.
The Marlins did give chances to potentially interesting late-bloomers Garrett Cooper and Harold Ramirez with generally middling results. But it’d be nice to see the organization take chances on more and younger players with so many possibilities flying around the waiver wire. No doubt there are some underappreciated bats out there just waiting for an opportunity. In 2019, the Fish have handed over a thousand total plate appearances at corner positions to Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson, Martin Prado, Isaac Galloway, and Peter O’Brien.
2. Chase Upside With Extensions
We know the Marlins are willing to do multi-year deals with existing players since they just inked one with shortstop Miguel Rojas. But that was more about locking in a solid, internally valued veteran for a brief stretch than it was the pursuit of a value-laden contract with a young talent.
Not every rebuilding team is in a position to consider lengthy pacts with young players. The Marlins are. They’ve surely seen enough good things from Brian Anderson to pursue a deal. There’s a strong argument for talking with Jorge Alfaro, who’s also entering his final winter before arbitration. On the pitching side, Caleb Smith and Sandy Alcantara are interesting targets.
It might seem premature to begin committing future payroll space when the Marlins still don’t know when they’ll be able to compete again. But this isn’t just (or even primarily) about locking in pieces for this organization. It’s about attempting to make good assets even better ones — even if that entails some risk — whether for a future Miami contender or for trade bait.
3. Load Up The Bullpen With Interesting Arms
It took some doin’, but the Marlins managed to finish the season with the worst bullpen in the NL East — and the rest of baseball as well, if that needed to be specified — by measure of fWAR. And that’s including Nick Anderson and Sergio Romo, who logged 1.5 fWAR before being traded away. Absent those two hurlers, this was a remarkable -3.7 fWAR unit.
That’s not the be-all, end-all measure of relief work. Rebuilding teams don’t really need reliable bullpens. But it’s awfully dispiriting to a team (let alone a fanbase) to watch winnable games melt away. And, more importantly, it points to an opportunity.
The Marlins know the drill here. They already cashed in on the aforementioned Anderson, who was acquired for a song. And they just picked up lefty Josh Smith on a similar premise. There ought to be more where that came from. In addition to waiver targets, the Marlins can consider bounceback veterans with some degree of upside along with minor-league free agents.