The final part of this two-week long process that has been the 2014 Fish Stripes Marlins Offseason Plan is to predict how well the plan has gone for Miami. Under the plan, the team has made a number of moves aimed at acquiring players to fill gaps in the lineup and at the same time grab at least one talented piece for future seasons. In doing so, the Marlins have dipped into their reserve of pitching prospects, and trading away one established starter was a necessary evil to shift the talent pool towards hitters.
But how did this franchise's moves help the team? Today, we will use Steamer projections to estimate just how much better the club should be this season versus last year. I provided rough estimates on playing time.
The number on the offensive side may seem small, but it would be a drastic improvement over last season. By last season's mark, the Marlins were just replacement level as a team on the position player's side. The addition of 2.5-win players like Kendrick, Conger, and Uribe added major points to this side. Even if you do not believe that Uribe would be close to a three-win player, however, there is still wiggle room to make the roster play to about the same mark. Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna may prove better than these paltry projections have them at, primarily on the defensive end. In fact, I had to tinker with the numbers slightly to better represent the defensive capabilities of Marcell Ozuna and Chris Coghlan, who went up and down based on their defensive duties respectively.
Speaking of defense, this club looks like a powerhouse on the defensive side of the ball, which may be critical when considering the expansive Marlins Park. The outfield theoretically has rangy defenders with Yelich (a capable center fielder), Ozuna (great last season), and Stanton (great before last season). The infield is much improved, with Uribe manning a Gold Glove-caliber third base, Hechavarria likely playing better, and Kendrick playing solid defense. Conger is an acceptable receiver with potentially strong pitch-framing skills.
This result also seems disappointing, but understandable given the Marlins' transition from a staff led by the old guard and one led by the incoming crop of prospects. Henderson Alvarez would have provided about 2.5 wins to the rotation, making him the team's second-best starter, but it also would have left Miami without a competent catcher, so it is an even trade-off. I considered Heaney for some September starts, but he may even grab a spot earlier in the season depending on how Slowey or Koehler do in filling in for various injuries or missed starts.
More importantly, the rotation has the potential for a lot better performance. At least one of Turner or Eovaldi should develop into a passable second or third starter, and I am optimistic that Fernandez will perform better than the four wins he is being credited here, though it is unlikely he will repeat that magical 2013 season. You could easily see each of those pitchers playing up another half a win, making the club's pitching staff worth closer to 12 wins.
How does this group compare to last year? The improvements on the position players far outweigh the decreased pitching production. The Marlins put up 14 WAR for pitching last season but essentially no wins from their overmatched hitters. The projected pitching staff in 2014 is about 3.5 wins worse than the 2013 model, and some of that comes from natural regression to the mean that goes beyond the loss of Alvarez and Cishek.
But the franchise makes up for a good deal of that with their improvement on the other side of the ball. According to WAR, this would be a 16-win improvement on offense when combining the new additions and regression for players like Stanton and Morrison. Last year's club totaled 13 WAR and won 62 games. This 2014 projected roster is expected to put up 26.4 WAR, putting the total improvement at 13 wins. If you just added that to last year's paltry total, we would expect a 75-win season.
How does that hold up with comparisons from last year? Teams from 2013 within five wins of the Marlins' expected WAR total won between 63 (Chicago White Sox) and 85 (New York Yankees) games last season. The range, of course, is extremely high, as season-to-season variance is expected. But among the teams with very close win totals, the Brewers, Mets, and Blue Jays all serve as examples of teams with wins around the mid-70's. The average number of wins among those eight teams closest to our WAR total was 73, so it is a very similar estimate.
All of this is to say that Miami would be much improved in 2014 with the addition of these pieces. The Fish essentially sacrificed some extra long-term assets for a short-term piece and filled in some holes with temporary stopgaps. A 70-win Marlins team would be something upon which to build once the remainder of the prospects do come around to fill out the rotation, and a return of a superstar (and healthy) Giancarlo Stanton would spell even better things in Miami. But the important thing to note here is that not every problem has been solved. What this process does do is secure a slightly better foundation for 2015.
What do you guys think about this projection? Should the Marlins win 70-plus games? Should the goal be different for this offseason? Where can we improve? Let us know in the comments!