Even the game’s largest Covid-19 outbreak couldn’t derail the Marlins’ Cinderella season, as the Fish surprised the league with a 31-29 record and went on to topple the Cubs in the Wild Card round of this year’s expanded postseason format. With a slew of young talent bubbling up to the Majors, newly minted general manager Kim Ng will be aiming to bring the club back to October baseball in 2021.
- Starling Marte, OF: $12.5MM through 2021
- Corey Dickerson, OF: $9.5MM through 2021
- Miguel Rojas, SS: $5.5MM through 2021 (includes $500K buyout of 2022 club option)
Note on arb-eligible players: this year’s arbitration projections are more volatile than ever, given the unprecedented revenue losses felt by clubs and the shortened 2020 schedule. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, who developed our arbitration projection model, used three different methods to calculate different projection numbers. You can see the full projections and an explanation of each if you click here, but for the purposes of our Outlook series, we’ll be using Matt’s 37-percent method — extrapolating what degree of raise a player’s 2020 rate of play would have earned him in a full 162-game slate and then awarding him 37 percent of that raise.
- Jesus Aguilar – $3.9MM
- Jorge Alfaro – $1.7MM
- Brian Anderson – $2.2MM
- Adam Cimber — $800K
- Garrett Cooper – $1.5MM
- Yimi Garcia – $1.4MM
- Ryne Stanek – $800K
- Richard Bleier – $1.1MM
- Exercised $12.5MM club option on OF Starling Marte
- Declined $4MM club option on RHP Brandon Kintzler (paid $225K buyout)
- Kintzler, Francisco Cervelli, Matthew Joyce, Brad Boxberger, Adam Conley
Much of the Marlins’ surprising success in 2020 can be attributed to the team’s enviable collection of young pitching. Right-handers Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Elieser Hernandez and Sixto Sanchez each gave strong performances, with Alcantara and Lopez soaking up the most innings. Alcantara, Lopez and Hernandez are all locked into next year’s rotation, manager Don Mattingly said after the Marlins’ postseason run ended. Sanchez’s omission from the mix may surprise some, given his strong rookie effort, although he’ll surely have the opportunity to cement his spot in Spring Training.
Behind that quartet of righties is a mix of intriguing but still unproven arms. Righty Jordan Yamamoto had some success in 2019 but was clobbered in 2020. Prospects Nick Neidert, Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers all struggled in small samples of work as well. Veteran righty Jose Urena is out of the mix after yesterday’s DFA, although that’s hardly a surprise given that he stood out as one of the game’s likelier non-tender candidates. The Marlins have some intriguing yet-to-debut options (e.g. Edward Cabrera), but their pitching depth was thinned out a bit when they sent Caleb Smith and Humberto Mejia to the Diamondbacks in this August’s Starling Marte trade.
Beyond Alcantara and Lopez, Marlins starters have at best limited track records of MLB success. Even Hernandez, whom Mattingly proclaimed as a member of the rotation, pitched just 25 2/3 solid innings in 2020; in 2018-19, he posted an ERA north of 5.00. The youth and years of team control are obviously appealing, but the Marlins would still be well served to bring in a veteran both to help mentor the staff and to provide some stable innings. Names like Rick Porcello, Martin Perez and south Florida native Mike Fiers are all available if the team’s priority is dependable innings, and there are plenty of interesting names looking for bouncebacks from injured seasons (e.g. James Paxton, Jose Quintana, Corey Kluber).
With Kintzler and Boxberger both returning to the market, the Marlins will have some work to do to round out their bullpen. Miami could’ve retained Kintzler at a seemingly reasonable $4MM price point, but there were quite a few solid reliever options declined this year. Perhaps the hope is that recently acquired righty Adam Cimber, another ground-ball specialist, can provide similar production at a fraction of the rate. Miami picked him up from the Indians in exchange for cash, and he’s projected to earn $800K via arbitration. Even with Cimber aboard, it’s likely that the Marlins will talk to Kintzler about coming back at a lower price than his option would have guaranteed.
More intriguing bullpen options will become available after the non-tender deadline. The Marlins seem likely to again look for affordable veteran help to complement their in-house options, particularly with an unsettled mix at the back of the ’pen. Two offseasons ago, the Marlins did quite well on a low-cost, one-year deal with Sergio Romo. Last winter, it was Kintzler. It seems reasonable to expect a similar approach this time around, even with a new GM at the helm.
Turning to the offense, the Marlins have plenty of intriguing youngsters on the cusp of Major League readiness, but struggles behind the plate could lead the club to look outside the organization for upgrades. Jorge Alfaro was a key piece of the trade that sent J.T. Realmuto to Philadelphia — along with the aforementioned Sanchez — but he’s yet to solidify himself as the team’s long-term replacement for Realmuto. In two years as a Marlin, Alfaro has a .256/.306/.410 batting line, and both his offense and defense took marked steps back in 2020. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Miami was starting the light-hitting Chad Wallach over Alfaro.
Miami doesn’t figure to spend particularly aggressively in free agency. A Realmuto reunion is off the table, but any of the market’s second-tier options — James McCann and Yadier Molina headline the group — could seemingly fit into the budget for a team whose current payroll projection check in shy of $60MM now that Urena no longer factors into the mix. Additional trades or non-tenders could yet lower that mark.
The trade market could offer myriad other possibilities. Many Marlins decision-makers have Yankees roots and are familiar with Gary Sanchez. There’s bound to be speculation about the Cubs moving Willson Contreras as they look to cut costs. MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently explored the reasons that San Diego might move Francisco Mejia. The Blue Jays have a glut of catchers on their 40-man roster.
Looking up and down the rest of the lineup, the needs aren’t as palpable. The outfield should be more or less set with Corey Dickerson’s contract locking him into left field and Starling Marte set to return as the primary center fielder. Garrett Cooper hit well in 2020, but if he falters in right field, the Marlins are rife with corner-outfield alternatives; any of Jon Berti, Monte Harrison, Harold Ramirez, Magneuris Sierra, Jesus Sanchez or Lewis Brinson could earn an increased role there.
If somehow that entire bunch struggles, the club could always consider moving third baseman Brian Anderson back to right field. Between Berti, Miguel Rojas, Isan Diaz and Jazz Chisholm, the Fish should be able to cover third base, shortstop and second base even if Anderson is needed in the outfield. It’s possible the Marlins still bring in a versatile veteran infielder, if only so they have the option of allowing both Diaz and Chisholm to continue to develop in Triple-A without compromising their bench mix.
Over at first base, the Marlins got a big rebound performance out of Jesus Aguilar and will surely tender him a contract after he raked at a .277/.352/.457 clip with eight long balls in 216 trips to the dish. Should he sustain an injury or see his 2019 struggles recur, the Marlins could turn things over to Cooper or dip into the farm and call on prospect Lewin Diaz to get an earnest look at first base.
Given the wealth of young options in both the infield and the outfield, a major addition at any position other than catcher seems unlikely. Minor league depth signings and a veteran bench piece to add to either the infield or outfield mix — possibly both, if the target is someone like old friend Enrique Hernandez — make plenty of sense for the Marlins. However, this is a club whose collection of position players simply needs some time to audition for the front office.
The pitching side of things presents a bit more of an opportunity for some veteran pickups, but again, there are several key young players in place and others who are ready for a chance to show they belong in the conversation as long-term building blocks.
Had there been a traditional season with expected revenue streams and ample time for said young players to get their feet wet in the Majors and upper minors, the Marlins’ outlook might be a bit different. They’d have a better sense of who is and who isn’t vital to their long-term competitiveness and would perhaps have a better idea of where they need to spend in the long run. Given that they remarkably don’t have a single guaranteed dollar on the books for the 2022 season, the Marlins might have been considered a dark horse to again splash around with some notable free-agent spending.
That doesn’t seem as likely now with a year of zero revenue and with so many young questions to be answered. Still, that blank slate on the 2022 payroll is worth bearing in mind both as the 2021 trade deadline approaches and as next offseason looms. If the organization’s younger options aren’t cutting it, this is a team with such a wide-open financial outlay that they could take on salary either via trade or (next winter) free agency. The Fish have reached the point where they’ll look to rise from NL East cellar dweller to a legitimate threat in what could be the game’s most competitive division race for several years to come.
Eye can C.
I think the Marlins 2020 season was a bit of a mirage. They were better than expected, no doubt, but I think several of them played above their heads, kind of like the Twins on offense in 2019. I’ll be interested to see how aggressive the front office is this year or whether they’ll be patient with their young talent. I expect a little regression this year, provided they don’t make a couple big splashes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Either way, the problem is they are in the same division as the Braves and Mets, so a playoff spot if we go back to the old format is going to be tough.
The season was two months long. Pretty much everything was a mirage.
password is tacko
Definitely not worried about the Mets. They will continue to be the Mets no matter how much money the new owner spends
People like you don’t understand that it was never the “Mets” it was the the wilpons… regardless if Cohen was worth 2 billion just being stable would make a huge difference…
Yeah, the Mets spent more under the Wilpons than many playoff teams, League Champions, and some World Series Champions.
Spending was not a valid excuse.
Don’t sleep on Jerar Encarnation… dudes got some skills as does Rafael’s cousin Jose Devers whom them plucked from the Yankees
But will his skills pay the bills?
Marlins are moving in the right direction. However, over 162 games, they remain a sub-.500 team.
yep. i think they could contend for a WC spot on a lesser division but they are probably 4th place at best right now. (5th if the Nats add someone like Realmuto or DJ)
Me thinks your Philly bias is showing through. 🙂
ive also already said that I think the Phillies might only be the 3rd best team in the East, and the rest is fairly reasonable. i think the Mets have the edge on the 2 spot and the Nats will need to find someone who replaces the production of all the great performers they had as rentals in 2019. the Marlins are a strong young team but i feel they took advantage of s Phillies/Mets/Nationals combo that were all playing under their actual talent levels. i think they can push for 3rd or 2nd, but i just see the Mets and Phillies as better right now.
I get it. You could put the four teams in a hat. I think Washington will finish ahead of the other three, but that might be my Nationals bias showing through.
Off-season Outlook: Actually doing stuff!
Hosmer for HOF
Maybe the team who won the most out of a pandemic happening.. Wouldn’t be surprised if they buy into this offseason like a mountainman on a trip to costco for the long term
Biggest looming question is not mentioned. What of the local/regional broadcast revenue?
Braves are taking in $86M annually. Marlins are at $20M in what was supposed to be the big renegotiation year.. The jackpot that new ownership was expecting just doesn’t appear to be on the horizon. The team is going to have to pull a Tampa Bay Rays and operate with smarts alone..
This is absolutely crucial for the actual long term success. Marlins new regime must nail the new Tv deal. $20 mill annually is bottom of the league level. They have to at least triple that figure
Enrique Hernandez (2 year deal), Jose Quintana (1 year deal), Danny Jansen or Reese McGuire in a trade (unless Yadi leaves the Cards for Miami), Liam Hendricks or Trevor Rosenthal to close (2 year deal), bring back Kintzler or Boxberger. Maybe even Sergio Romo (1 year deal)…Call it an off-season.
That’s not a bad plan, and it seems doable (especially if you take Rosenthal). Currently the Marlins’ payroll is about $26 MM less then last year (taking arbitration estimates into account), and I don’t think this batch of players will surpass that total salary by a huge amount.
Hendricks will cost too much and he will be high on many teams lists. Their best bet is Rosenthal, Holland or Treinen and telling them the closer job starts off as theirs with no contest. Some guys just really want to close and depends on their market for finishing games.
Kike doesn’t really fit since they have Anderson at third with way too many right field options, Chisholm, I Diaz, Berti and Rojas for the infield. I love Hernandez but the fish had him and (while he is better than the listed players) don’t have room for him.
I would definitely like a great game calling defensive catcher with “ok” offense while they try at least one more season of getting Alfaro right.
Kintzler loved it here but may be wary cause of the option thing. Will be interesting. I think they could get Boxberger back and would welcome it.
I love the idea of Quintana being like the 4th or 5th starter but I bet someone gives him a 2-3 deal worth something decent while the fish would do like 1yr/6. Doubt he would take it but who knows.
I Beg To Differ
Top priority should be bringing back Realmuto to guide the young pitching staff.
They need to clear their OF log jam. Maybe make a blockbuster move for Plesac of the Indians sending Harrison and Sanchez back to Cleveland in the package for Plesac. You can never have enough arms.
Realmuto ain’t happening… I could see Yadi or McCann at a reasonable rate… or maybe even Austin Romine.
I really like Yadi as a fit for Miami. They have a young pitching staff, mostly spanish-speaking, that could benefit greatly from having him behind the plate. I also think he would be a good influence on Alfaro. The Marlins can allow Molina to catch about 100 games, with Alfaro picking up the rest and seeing some time at 1B or DH (in interleague games) .
Did you just suggest trading Sixto Sanchez? That definitely is not happening.
He’s referring to Jesus Sanchez. Who the Fish will def not be trading, especially for Plesac
I don’t think Aguilar is nearly the lock to be tendered a contract as is suggested here.
On the subject of Alfaro: very rare for a hitter to succeed with that strike out rate… he’s likely just a place holder
The Marlins list a lot less revenue than most other teams, but trying to compete with a $60m payroll is shameful.
They were 2 games over .500 at full strength against other team’s covid depleted rosters who were trying to play 40 games in 43 days. All that being said, this lineup is horrible compared to almost every other lineup in the NL other than the Pirates. 2020 was an asterisk filled abomination that should never have been played in the first place. Any team can have a decent stretch in a 60 game season, but what happens to them in a 162 game marathon against other teams’ BEST 40 man rosters? They didn’t even retain their modestly priced closer!
I’m happy Marlins’ fans got to enjoy their team for a change, but be honest. Marte is traded as soon as they are 10 games out. No hitter is in a hurry to sign a free agent contract to play for that franchise in that park.
Yes, they have some really nice pitching prospects, but outside of Marte, what position player would even start for another NL East team?
At full strength? The Marlins were one of the hardest hit teams in the league. Pay attention please.
No. Not any team can sustain success over a 60 games span which is a decent sample size. It takes talent and results which the Marlins have shown. Not some fluke you’ve alluded to. They’re in full rebuild so I don’t know what you expect. Spending money like drunken sailors to gain a few marginal wins isn’t beneficial to the team long-term. Mattingly won MOY for a reason. This MLB fan is glad the season happened.
I still don’t understand why they traded Zac Gallen. Sixto and Gallen would of been a formidable 1-2 punch for the next 5 years.
Why is Francisco Cervelli on this list as a free agent? I thought he retired.
When your contract expires with a team you are automatically a free agent when the world series ends. It lists players that the team loses and technically he left the team a free agent. Then he happened to announce his retirement. You will always see that with a player who retires.