9:54PM: Marlins CEO Derek Jeter backed up Ng’s comments, telling Bally Sports Florida that “For the first time really since we’ve been here as an ownership group, I expect to be pretty active” in the offseason. Jeter also said the focus will be on adding hitting to augment “one of the top pitching staffs in baseball.”
7:35AM: The Marlins are wrapping up their 11th losing season in the past 12 years, with last year’s shortened-season playoff berth looking like an aberration. Miami’s young but promising pitching staff actually put together an above-average campaign, but they were let down by a lack of run support. The Marlins’ 615 runs scored is the third-lowest tally in the majors, with the team’s .241/.308/.387 slash line (excluding pitchers) checking in sixth from the bottom.
Bolstering the lineup will be an obvious priority for the club this offseason, and general manager Kim Ng acknowledged as much Friday afternoon in an appearance on the MLB Network. Most notably, Ng suggested ownership is prepared to support at least some measure of activity in free agency. “We are going to have some money to spend. … We feel that we are primed to do very well with the pitching set up as it is and with us being able to spend some money on bats this offseason.”
Miami typically runs one of the lowest payrolls in the league, but their ledger is fairly open. Miguel Rojas’ $5.5MM option recently vested, and Anthony Bass’ $3MM salary is the only other guaranteed deal on the books. (Miami also owes the Yankees $3MM as part of the Giancarlo Stanton trade). The Fish will have one of the game’s more significant arbitration classes, with Jesús Aguilar, Brian Anderson, Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López and Elieser Hernández among those in line for raises. Even then, Miami should have a bit of spending capacity before closing in on this year’s estimated $63MM payroll (via Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez).
Ng was unsurprisingly vague about precisely how much money the front office will have to play with, but they’re seemingly at least considering one of the more notable players likely to be on the market. On his Swings and Mishes podcast, Craig Mish of the Miami Herald suggested the Marlins could be in the market for South Florida native Nick Castellanos, who is expected to opt out of the remaining two years and $32MM on his current deal with the Reds.
On the surface, the Marlins certainly seem a long shot to wind up landing Castellanos, as Mish acknowledges. The 29-year-old placed tenth on MLBTR’s most recent free agent power rankings, with a four or five-year deal worth $20MM+ annually seemingly within the realm of possibility coming off a season in which he’s hitting .308/.362/.570 with 33 home runs. For a Miami team that balked at meeting Starling Marte’s reported four-year, $50MM asking price this summer, an earnest Castellanos pursuit would require a significant change in direction, although it’s at least theoretically possible ownership and the front office would be willing to make an exception for one of the younger potential free agents on the market.
While a Castellanos deal would register as a major surprise, the team agreeing to an extension with Alcantara seems entirely plausible. There’s reportedly growing optimism the two sides can get a long-term deal done this winter, and Mish adds that such talks could result in a more team-friendly arrangement than one might expect. MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently broke down the factors that could go into an Alcantara extension, although Mish hears the first-time All-Star might be willing to settle for a bit less than his maximum earning power in order to lock in some financial security before the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement on December 1.