The Miami Marlins have just signed their catcher of the near future, as Jarrod Saltalamacchia agreed to come home last night for three years and $21 million in total, pending a physical. The Fish secured their catcher position for three years, but Miami has to know that catcher was one of many weaknesses on the roster. The team recognizes that second and third base are concerns at the moment, and Logan Morrison's name at first base has been surrounded by trade rumors. While Miami might like what Adeiny Hechavarria does defensively, his bat has always been a question mark and his defense may not have been spectacular last season either.
So the Marlins have a lot of work to do to fill out their roster with competent players. One part of that job is complete, but can they do the rest? MLB.com's Joe Frisaro heralds the coming of a series of moves.
with Salty in fold, I'm hearing to "stay tuned" for more #Marlins moves. Looking for a couple of more bats— Joe Frisaro (@JoeFrisaro) December 4, 2013
This is an interesting point because we here at Fish Stripes have always felt that Miami had limited flexibility this offseason. But with the payroll in the mid-$40 million mark, the club actually has some money to play with. When I concocted the Marlins Offseason Plan, I was surprised at how much budget room was available. Here is what we discussed at the time.
My initial figure had the Marlins at $30.7 million before any non-tenders for the entire roster, presuming 13 players earning pre-arbitration salaries. With three non-tenders for strategic players, that number could go down to $26.9 million. If the payroll can be pushed up to $42 million, the Marlins may have $15 million to play with, which could be used to acquire two decent stopgap players in free agency.
Considering that Miami had no need to tender contracts to Kevin Slowey or Koyie Hill, who were free agents after being designated for assignment, Miami had closer to $17 million in payroll to play with before the signing of Saltalamacchia. Let's examine where the franchise stands after the signing.
|Player||2014 Salary ($mil)|
Miami structured Saltalamacchia's contract with some backloading, so that Salty will make just $6 million this season, $7 million next year, and $8 million in the final 2016 season. That does allow Miami to open up a small bit of extra room in the budget this year.
|PLAYER||SERVICE YEARS||ARB EST ($MILLION)|
|Steve Cishek||2.143 (Super Two)||3.2|
That $12.9 million figure is about $2 million shy of what it would have been had Miami tendered contracts to former Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan and reliever Ryan Webb. Without those deals, Miami is committed to just $23.1 million to players under essentially guaranteed expensive deals.
Miami would have $23.1 million tied up in nine players at that point. Adeiny Hechavarria is set to earn about $3 million in his final pre-arbitration season because Miami cannot pay less than 80 percent of his previous $2.75 million deal. That leaves the Fish at around $26 million for 10 players.
If the Marlins filled out the rest of their roster with pre-arbitration players or guys on minor league-type deals, Miami's payroll would go up to $33.6 million with Saltalamacchia's signing. That would leave the Fish between $7 million and $12 million in remaining salary space with which to make a move. Let's assume a middle ground of $9 million to be sure.
What to do?
What could the Fish do with $9 million available to them? One part of our Offseason Plan that could still be accomplished is the Juan Uribe signing. Uribe is said to be looking for a three-year deal, but Miami would not come close to offering that length of contract for such a volatile skill set. But a two-year deal would be a decent middle ground for what both sides need. Miami would get their short-term stopgap at third base and still could move Uribe to second if Colin Moran develops faster than expected. Uribe would get a medium-term commitment coming off of his strong 2013 season. A deal worth $5 million or $6 million annually would fit well under Miami's budget.
The Fish could also look to smaller stopgap options in free agency if Uribe does not fit their fancy. Miami has looked at Mark Ellis as a second base option, and it is unlikely that the veteran second baseman would have cost Miami more than $4 million. Eric Chavez at third base would also be an option if he were interested in an expanded role at less than $5 million per season. Neither of those players would be more than slight upgrades of around a win or so over the incumbents, but they might hold marginal value as trade fodder midseason as well.
The more attractive and high-upside option is for Miami to trade from their starting pitching surplus to acquire talent. The Fish still have $9 million to play with, and a trade for players like Mark Trumbo and/or Howie Kendrick could boost the franchise's win totals close to what we discussed in the Offseason Plan. But the Fish, in that scenario, would gain no long-term, cost-controlled talent, and ultimately Miami is more interested in acquiring players of that kind rather than two-year rentals like Kendrick. The original appeal to a Los Angeles Angels trade was acquiring Hank Conger, but with Saltalamacchia in the fold, catcher is not an immediate concern.
Miami would have to look for a long-term replacement at any infield with the possible exception of third base. Looking at the current MLB.com Top 100 Prospects list, there are very few infield players who appear close to Major League ready and in positions where they are blocked at the big league level. Mike Olt appears perennially blocked, though his path to the bigs with the Chicago Cubs appears clearer. Still, he may be pressured from behind by top pick Kris Bryant and he is unlikely to shift to first base with Anthony Rizzo there. Rougned Odor of the Texas Rangers' organization could be an option, as he is heading into Double-A this year and has smoked each and every level before him. The Rangers are still presumably set in the middle infield with Jurickson Profar and Elvis Andrus.
The trade market for what the Marlins want is fairly weak at this point. The players who are available are not long-term solutions, and the Marlins would prefer not to trade prospects to bolster their 2015 team into the 70's win totals. Unless an out-of-left-field option like Starlin Castro or even a long-term catcher like Austin Hedges or Yasmani Grandal from San Diego becomes available, Miami's pitching depth is likely to remain just that for at least another season. If the Fish are to make moves, it may have to be minor ones from the free agent market.
What do you Fish Stripers think? What is the next move for the Marlins with $9 million in budget room left?
- Reactions to Miami Marlins signing of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia
- Fish Bites: Entering the Saltalamacchia era
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia signing: Marlins cover present, future with free agent signing
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia signing: Marlins make reasonable three-year deal
- Marlins news: Miami signs Jarrod Saltalamacchia to three-year, $21 million contract