The Miami Marlins are already trying to discuss a long-term contract extension with Giancarlo Stanton, with the goal of having Stanton around as the team's front-and-center superstar for the long haul. In that endeavor, it sounds as though the Fish are making some positive headway at least. But the Marlins have set their sights apparently on more than just Stanton and his long-term future. As we reported here yesterday, the Marlins have opened initial contract extension talks with young starters Christian Yelich, Jose Fernandez, and Adeiny Hechavarria as well. The goal is for Miami to build a core for sustained success, and it is clear that the Fish think that these three players are a part of that core.
Your thoughts on whether those players (or one of them in particular) should be a part of the core around Stanton are moot at this point. The Marlins have targeted three players they feel are most important to try and build around Stanton early. But how likely are each of these players to sign a long-term deal in the next year or so? Let's examine the odds, starting with the largest name.
Fernandez is represented by super-agent Scott Boras, who generally encourages his players to avoid cheap, early extensions in favor of free agency. This already makes Miami's chances of pulling the trigger on a deal low, and that is considering Fernandez's significant south Florida ties. He is not only a Cuban immigrant, but he grew up in south Florida and has ties to the community and burgeoning fan base here. Fernandez would probably love to stay in Miami for the long haul, but you can bet that a cheap, early extension will not be the way he does it.
This is especially true given Fernandez's unique service time situation. Miami's impatient style cost the team an extra year of team control over Fernandez; in 2013, the Fish could have waited three weeks (essentially skipping two starts) and promoted him then and gotten an extra year of service time. By promoting Fernandez at the beginning of the year, he now has two full seasons of service time, one of which was spent primarily injured. This both advances his service clock and makes him expensive sooner, but it also depresses his arbitration value by making him appear as an injury risk. This makes signing him for a deal to buy out his arbitration campaigns would come out cheaper, but also less likely to be signed.
Fernandez's injury depressed his early earnings potential. That makes it even more likely that he waits out free agency with Boras whispering in his ear.
Chances of Extension: 2 percent
Yelich is the most important of the three candidates. He is coming off a near-four-win season for the Fish, just won a Gold Glove award, and is a potential breakout position player star for Miami. That is the sort of player the Fish had not seen since, well, Stanton.
What makes him more important than Fernandez, however, are the odds that he would be secured. Yelich has some time left to go until free agency, as he is not capable of making that decision until before the 2019 season. But unlike Fernandez, Yelich does not have a super-agent behind him, nor does he have the flashy style and clear and evident value that Fernandez boasts. Yelich's value is based on balance, and balanced play is extremely difficult to see in the box scores. He is not likely to hit a lot of home runs, steal a lot of bases, or bat .330 every season, but he may do just enough of each of those things to be a great, underappreciated player.
The Gold Glove makes his defense a little more evident, but Yelich's value may still remain hidden for his career. That might make it easier to sign him to a deal that buys out a few free agent years at affordable prices.
Chances of Extension: 35 percent
Hechavarria's defense is not hidden, in the sense that that is what he is best known for. The question of whether it is good defense does not weigh heavy on the Marlins' minds. After all, why else would they consider a career .251/.286/.331 (.272 wOBA) hitter as extension-material?
The Marlins would obviously be following a clear guideline on how to try one of these deals. The Atlanta Braves signed Andrelton Simmons to a seven-year, $58 million extension that paid him from his second pre-arbitration season (and depending on his service time, potentially his last) through his second free agent season. Simmons is a perfect comparison to Hechavarria for Miami because he is not a good hitter either (career .252/.297/.372, .294 wOBA) but has a tremendous glove. Simmons is the proud owner of two straight Gold Glove awards.
The Marlins think highly of Hechavarria's defensive capabilities, as they have said before that they believe he is every bit as good as Simmons. But with the rest of the league recognizing that Hechavarria is at least above average (he was named as a Gold Glove finalist in a weaker year this past season), that defense cannot be hidden. The bat is what would drag the value of a deal down, and that would be good for Miami. If the deal is sold as signing the poor man's Simmons, it could be affordable enough even now that Miami could shrug off Hechavarria's poor play if (and when) he falters. And Hechavarria would be foolish not to sign a multi-year contract if offered, as his bat just is not going to buy him much in free agency otherwise, especially with his inability to win hardware in the Simmons NL era.
Both sides have every reason to sign a deal together at some point. The only losing party is the Marlins fan base which might like to see offense (or competence in general) from their shortstop.
Chances of Extension: 80 percent