The latest edition of Joe Frisaro's Miami Marlins inbox is on the official website, and as always, I aim to answer questions from a fan and analytic perspective to contrast Frisaro's more connected takes as a beat writer. Let's dive into the questions this week.
Now that Dee Gordon had a breakout year, do you think the Marlins will sign him to a long-term contract?
-- Derrick S., Coral Gables, Fla.
First off, it seems obvious that one would not extend a player directly off of a "breakout year" when there is no strong guarantee he can repeat that campaign. Dee Gordon is not Christian Yelich, who was in pre-arbitration and whose contract would have cost the Marlins a light amount. Neither is he Giancarlo Stanton, who has an established track record. Gordon's level of performance is no guarantee, especially for a guy who has a highly variable skillset.
Still, the Marlins are probably interested, as they are enamored with slap-hitting speedsters who match the profile of Juan Pierre. Gordon is no Juan Pierre as a hitter, but he did have an excellent season in 2015, and if the Marlins could buy out a free agent year or two on the cheap, it would not be unreasonable. However, as I discussed a few months ago, it is difficult to project how well Gordon will play in 2019 and 2020, when he will be 31 and 32 years old. Would it be worth extending a player like that with this much uncertainty? It really depends on the price the Marlins get for such a deal.
However, the notion that Gordon might get a contract akin to Yelich's seven-year, $50 million deal, as Frisaro puts it, is completely out of the question. Gordon is in his second of four arbitration seasons, so he will naturally be earning more money. Signing a seven-year deal would take him through age 34, which is an extremely long time for the Marlins. My suggestion would be to exercise caution and take a yearly approach with Gordon, as it may be difficult to get a discount on such a high-variance player.
Can we trade (Marcell) Ozuna for (Roberto) Osuna?
Ozuna should not be traded, and I agree with Frisaro that his trade value is off compared to the value he has to the team. The Marlins got him for an extra cheap season with their service time manipulation, they might as well use that extra year to their advantage to either rebuild his trade value or see if he is a long-term piece for the roster.
You think Johnny Cueto is on the Marlins' radar, since pitching is a high priority for the offseason?
The Marlins are going to have rumors swirling around them about all the top pitchers, save maybe David Price, but they will not pursue anyone with a significant salary commitment. That would include guys like Zack Greinke, whom the latest rumors mentioned, as well as guy like Cueto.
The most "realistic" free agent target is someone like Yovani Gallardo, who put up around an average campaign over 184 1/3 innings for the Texas Rangers this season. An average pitcher like that might expect a fairly decent-sized contract in free agency, however. Consider that Ervin Santana, who was a bit better than league for the previous two years, earned a four-year, $55 million contract from the Minnesota Twins. The year before, Ricky Nolasco earned a similar deal and was worse. Gallardo is around Nolasco's age and has been better, and with free agent prices increasing, you might expect him to earn something around $15 million a season for two-plus wins a year for the next two or three years. Will the Marlins pony up for a potential four-year, $60 million deal or higher?
What do you see for the Marlins' payroll?
I guess that depends on what the answer to this question is. Frisaro suspects that the answer is around $80 million for the 2015 campaign, and that of course includes the team's necessary extra costs associated with arbitration and other problems. The Fish have $31 million in guaranteed salary commitments next year already, including $8 million in dead money from Jarrod Saltalamacchia's release. The team's expected salary with just arbitration commitments, at least according to Baseball-Reference's estimates, puts them at $77 million, and that is with fairly unrealistic average arbitration salary updates. We will go through arbitration and expected payrolls shortly, but if $80 million is the intended target, the Marlins would have to make some clever moves in order to fit a player like Gallardo into the picture.