Last week, we spent much of our time here at Fish Stripes reviewing the weapons at our exposure this year to help the Miami Marlins improve in 2014. Here is what we examined, in review:
- Arbitration values and budget
- Roster evaluation by positional strengths and stability
- Trade assets
- Trade targets and free agent targets
All of those resources have lent to what follows, the official 2014 Fish Stripes Marlins Offseason Plan! This plan was hatched with the goal to help improve the team's dire needs while at the same time fielding a perhaps passable product on the field in the second year of a rebuilding campaign.
The Marlins of 2014 are set for a high-loss season this coming year in the second post-fire sale year. But the team has already discussed trying to fill roster spots that they recognize are currently devoid of talent. Unlike in 1999, when the franchise was not trying to improve significantly out-of-house, this team still has room to grow and a budget that might work in their favor.
The plan outlined below should provide the best of both worlds. For one, it gives the Marlins a better team next year, one that should easily avoid 100 losses. At the same time, the team will not significantly mortgage the future under this plan for a mediocre present. The plan still recognizes that 2014 will not be a competitive year, and it maintains enough of a future presence in terms of prospects and cost-controlled players to keep the team's competitive core for 2015 and beyond. The team is taking a middle-road approach between outright concession in 2014 and an unrealistic attempt to compete next year.
There actually has been a budget change since last week. Initially, this is what we wrote (with a Friday edit due to poor math):
The Marlins, according to this projection, figure to have a little more than $7 million in payroll room to use to fill out the roster. The team could make that closer to $5 million if they non-tender Webb.
But in a recent article by MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, he mentions that the Marlins may actually push their payroll up past the $40 million mark.
In figuring out how to bring in additional pieces, money is an object. Miami is not expected to be in the market for high-priced free agents. But Hill noted there is flexibility to sign players if the deals make sense.
Team owner Jeffrey Loria gave Hill a payroll range, which hasn't been publicly disclosed. In 2013, payroll was around $38 million, and the belief is the maximum mark for '14 would be in the low to mid-$40 million range.
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.
The Marlins have a decent amount of room to play with, but they need to use this salary room wisely. More importantly, the Marlins should use it rather than pocketing the extra cash, as it would help Miami play better next year.
The plan involves one obvious move, but from there it gets more complicated and depends on some factors.
1. Re-sign Giancarlo Stanton to a long-term extension.
This has been the very first thing in the plan for each of the last two seasons, but the 2014 offseason may very well be the very last time the team can negotiate a reasonable extension for Stanton. In a way, his struggles in 2013 were lucky because they deflated his expected first-year arbitration salary. At the same time, the Marlins will still likely have to pay at least $18 million for his final two arbitration years after this one, and free agency would be another beast entirely.
Signing Stanton this season is critical because, beyond this year, he and his agent are much more likely to seek free agent prices and not give a discount. In the past, favorable long-term extensions have usually come before first arbitration years. By the time you sign contracts starting on second or third arbitration seasons, players are looking only to sign through their arbitration years or sign a massive, free agent-like contract. Examples of the former include players like Tim Lincecum, while the latter include Joey Votto.
If the Fish want to keep Stanton long-term, it would be best they negotiate a deal this offseason or expect him to either walk or get paid in a big way after 2016.
2a. Trade Henderson Alvarez, Steve Cishek, and a pitching prospect to the Los Angeles Angels for Howie Kendrick and Hank Conger
This is a perfect example of what this offseason plan is about. Kendrick is under contract for two more seasons at more than reasonable prices, but the Angels are trying to skirt the luxury tax and get value for him. They also would like to turn one of their catchers into a valued commodity. The Angels are looking particularly for pitching, as the bottom of their rotation seems bare and their bullpen was among the worst in baseball last year.
Enter the Marlins and their vast pitching depth. The Fish can offer one of their three tradable cost-controlled young starters in Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, or Jacob Turner along with one of their five pitching prospects and throw in one of their better relievers in return for help at two positions of need. In Hank Conger, the Marlins would get a cost-controlled, 25-year-old catcher with good defensive skills. In Howie Kendrick, they will get a solid second baseman with a skill set that fits the park. Meanwhile, the club does not significantly eat into its pitching depth, but instead uses it to buy value.
2b. Marlins trade for Chris Iannetta/Hank Conger
There is only one problem: Kendrick has a limited no-trade clause for six teams this year. While it is unknown which teams he has listed, the Marlins could be one of them. If that is the case, the franchise would be unable to acquire Kendrick and would have to aim lower. Trading a prospect closer to the majors like Brian Flynn or Adam Conley along with a relief option like Mike Dunn for two years of Chris Iannetta seems short-sighted, so the better alternative would be to pursue Hank Conger. Would dealing a starting-caliber player like Jacob Turner be enough to entice the Angels to deal Conger?
3. Sign Juan Uribe to a one-year deal worth $6 million
If you did not pay attention, you might not realize that Juan Uribe just put up a season that was rated between four and five wins in 2013. Much of that was thanks to stellar defense at third base, and if you look at various defensive metrics, he has proven quite valuable in that regard for some time. The bat may not be able to recreate the .278/.331/.438 (.330 wOBA) line he put up this season, but if he provides a little power and good defense, the Marlins can squeeze out 1.5 wins out of him and possibly trade him to a contender once the deadline rolls around.
Uribe is a signing much akin to the Javier Vazquez pickup from 2011. If he fails, it is only a one-year deal, so it neither keeps the Marlins from developing Colin Moran nor straddles them with a hefty salary. A two-year deal could also be in the cards for a lower yearly value.