The Miami Marlins are on a tight budget for the 2015 season, and Fish Stripes has gone over all the chances and opportunities for the team. We also have gone over all the threats the franchise faces. For the past week, we have discussed various options and moves that the Marlins could undergo.
The only thing that is left is for us to discuss the Fish Stripes Marlins Offseason Plan in full now! This is a multi-step plan with a goal to improve the short- and long-term goals of the roster, beginning with the 2015 season. This plan I feel sacrifices the least amount of resources for Miami, stays under budget, and improves the roster next year.
It is important to note the above goals. I am not going to pretend like we can make the Marlins a prime contender for a playoff spot in 2015 with just $60 million in payroll, as is currently being projected. The Marlins are going to have to depend in part on internal improvement in order to "make a leap" into contending status in 2015. But I do believe that these roster moves will lay the groundwork for a competitive club in the near future. The Marlins can improve next season, while still maintaining flexibility for the future.
Keep in mind: these are things that I would do given Miami's budget. My thoughts on whether the Marlins would perform these moves are different.
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1. Sign Giancarlo Stanton to a long-term contract extension.
The Marlins will have to either sign Stanton or trade him this year. The two sides sound as though they are having promising discussions, which is a positive indication. However, both sides, particularly the Marlins, know what is at stake. The franchise is in need of a player who will help carry the load and provide guaranteed wins for a long period of time. The Marlins want a franchise face, and Stanton has accomplished that task by putting up an MVP-level campaign this past season. He is a bona fide star hitter and the Fish want that on their team for the long haul.
Unfortunately, the Marlins also know that such a contract might end up being extremely long, extremely expensive, and/or include a no-trade clause. It is unknown just how much of this the Marlins would be willing to give up, but the Fish are adamant about signing Stanton, and for the first time in what seemed like ages, Stanton may be in agreement. He has liked what the team has done to improve since last year, and he finally appears to be happy with his situation in south Florida.
If Miami can secure him before they move on to other matters, the Fish can freely make moves that are necessary to extract value without worrying about how those plays may affect Stanton's desire to stay with the team. If the Marlins sign a contract, expect it to either last five years and put Stanton back on the market right after his prime or 10 to 12 years and have it buy out the majority of his career.
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2. Trade Steve Cishek to the Detroit Tigers
I know, a Detroit Tigers trade, every conceivable thing possible could go wrong here. But the Marlins have something the Tigers have lacked for years: a top-flight, young closer. The Tigers thought they had that in Bruce Rondon, but after Tommy John surgery left him out all year last season, the team once again struggled in the back of the pen. Dave Dombrowski recently said that the Tigers would not enter the late-bullpen race, but the market is for sellers with only two options (David Robertson and Rafael Soriano). The Marlins would be offering a player who is under team control for three seasons and would be making arbtiration salaries; essentially, Cishek is under a three-year contract worth about $31 million, or about $4 million less annually than you might owe someone like Robertson.
The Tigers are willing to spend on players, and they are in a win-now situation, which makes them acquiring a reliever when in need a very ideal situation for Miami. The Marlins do not have great options behind Cishek, but one of A.J. Ramos, Mike Dunn, or Carter Capps figures to be good enough to close games in 2015. Furthermore, the Fish can actually build depth at needed positions by trading from a position of strength.
Who would Miami be acquiring for their "needed positions?" We'll find out in a couple of days when I discuss this move in-depth.
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3. Trade pitching for Alexei Ramirez
The Marlins are once again uniquely qualified as a trading partner for the Chicago White Sox and Alexei Ramirez. Ramirez is a perfect win-now buy candidate, much like Howie Kendrick was last year, when we advocated to acquire him. Ramirez is a shortstop who plays good defense and is a passable hitter for his position. Miami has no such player on their entire team, including the vaunted Adeiny Hechavarria. The Marlins would never replace Hechavarria, but the Fish could move the 33-year-old Ramirez to second base to accommodate.
Ramirez is a known quantity at the plate and on the field, but for $10 million a year, that is a good known quantity. And he is also under a team option for 2016 worth $10 million, with just a $1 million buyout otherwise. If Ramirez plays second base defense well enough to retain his defensive value, he could be at least a two-win pickup for Miami for the next two years.
For that, the Marlins would trade from strength and offer pitching prospects near the Majors. Knowing that Miami would not deal Andrew Heaney, Henderson Alvarez, Jose Fernandez, or Jarred Cosart at this point, that leaves the team with a number of names it could turn to for a deal. The Fish could trade two of their pitching prospects, but which two might surprise you!
This plan roughly fits the Marlins's desired budget. Essentially, the Fish would be signing Stanton to a long-term contract that would pay him his equivalent arbitration salary next season, then swapping Cishek's expected $7 million deal with Ramirez's $10 million salary. That would put Miami at just about $61 million in salary and add maybe two wins or so to the team, while at the same time adding a nice future prospect piece and replacing Cishek's arm with a capable pen arm as well.
Does that get the roster to contention? Probably not, but it gets the wheels in motion for a couple of other in-roster tweaks that could make Miami a threat for 2016 as well. It keeps a talented player in a place where the team had little hope, and if the club remains confident in players like Derek Dietrich, it still leaves the door open for them at other positions of need.
What do you Fish Stripers think? Does this sound like a reasonable plan to you? Let us know!