Tonight is the MLB deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players, and the Miami Marlins have a few decisions to make on its players in the eve of the midnight deadline. The Marlins have nine players available to earn arbitration, many of whom are getting raises for the first time in their careers. The Fish are capable of keeping all of these players and remaining well under budget for their estimated mid-$40 million mark, but the team could also make some wise cost-cutting moves to make room for a free agent or trade possibility.
What should the Fish do with their arbitration-eligible talents? Let's break down the nine players into multiple tiers and determine the likelihood of them receiving a contract, in order from most likely to least likely.
Franchise Game-Changer Tier
Stanton is the future of this franchise, whether he signs on for the long haul or is traded this season or next. Either way, there is no chance the Marlins simply let Stanton go for nothing. Next question.
Too Good Tier
Cishek is not the franchise cornerstone that Stanton is, but that will not stop Miami from treating him that way thanks to his success in the closer role. Cishek is set to earn a lot of money over the lifetime of his contract, and the Fish seem adamant in having him be a part of the next competitive Marlins team despite the salary concerns. Given that he has the 28th-best ERA among relievers with at least 100 innings since 2011, this does not surprise me, but it does raise concerns about the Fish overpaying relievers again.
Favorite Son Tier
At the estimated $0.8 million, there is no reason to non-tender Coghlan anyway, but there is hardly a chance that the Fish send the 2009 Rookie of the Year packing. The team loves Coghlan irrationally despite his piddling .242/.307/.352 batting line since 2010. The Fish have considered trying him again in the infield after years of miscasting as him as an outfielder, so this may be the last chance for him to find a place to play.
Bullpen Reliability Tier
Despite the fact that Webb is slated to make $1.5 million next year with years of mediocre performance to back that up, the Fish are very likely to tender both these players contracts. Dunn looks to be another reliever who will earn a lot of cash from Miami in arbitration, while Webb is on his way out of the system and Miami for good. The Fish retain relievers for arbitration, but they never re-sign them.
Trade Bait Tier
Neither of these players have a significant shot at being non-tendered, but that has more to do with their trade potential than their performance. Both Ruggiano and Morrison struggled last year, but both are heavily being considered trade options. This is especially true for Morrison, who has drawn trade interest during the General Managers meetings. The Marlins should consider trading Morrison, but an outright non-tender should not be in the cards given that the Fish have no suitable first base replacements as of now.
Likely Gone Tier
Hill is far more likely to be gone now that the Marlins have four catchers at the Triple-A or higher level (and none that are Major League starter-worthy). Slowey is a more interesting question, as he can still provide answers and depth to the Marlins' rotation. But last year's poor performance coupled with an elbow injury that ended his season will likely lead to Miami non-tendering him despite his usefulness. He could be a candidate to be brought back in again on a lesser contract, or he could draw free agent interest elsewhere.
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