The Miami Marlins only have about $13 million and change available to them this offseason if everyone from the 2015 season sticks around who is not a free agent. The Fish have options in terms of keeping them aboard, but there may be benefit in allowing some players to leave if they become too costly to the roster. Miami may want to make moves to improve the roster next season, and they may need the salary space that some players could afford them. Let's look at some non-tender options the Marlins have.
Henderson Alvarez ($4M)
One year ago, no one would have expected the Marlins to consider releasing Henderson Alvarez outright. He had come off a 180-plus inning season and put up a sub-3.00 ERA, posting a 2.65 mark with a 3.58 FIP along with it. He forced grounders on 54 percent of balls in play, avoided walks at a reasonable rate, and upped his strikeout rates to at least barely passable levels. At worst, he was a league average pitcher that season, and such guys have value in arbitration.
One year later and the Marlins are considering simply letting Alvarez go thanks to a year lost due to shoulder problems. These shoulder issues crept up again for the third season in a row for Alvarez, and he was forced this time to miss the vast majority of the year despite having seemingly no definitive structural damage. One can see why the Marlins may be skeptical of the odds of Alvarez returning on time, even with a schedule to start throwing again starting December 1. The Fish have seen two previous shoulder injuries go poorly and take a long time to recover in full, and the team would have no interest in paying $4 million to a guy who may not even pitch until the middle of next season and did not exactly look like a star the last time out.
The problem with this is that Miami has such limited options at starting pitcher that the team may have to retain whatever depth it has, even if that depth is injured or questionable. Alvarez is under team control for another two years, and the Marlins do not have obvious strong replacements for him in the near term. If he can regain any value, he may still be worthwhile as a trade piece, but releasing him only provides Miami salary relief with no trade value. I wouldn't put it past Miami, but I don't think it happens.
Chances of non-tender: 10%
Tom Koehler ($3.9M)
You would be surprised to see that Koehler is slated to earn so much in just his first arbitration year. However, that is what happens when you are on the mound all the time and have one average season under your name. Koehler had a poor 2015 that saw regression in his strikeout and walk rates, but his average 2014 campaign should bring his resume up alongside that of the post-2014 version of Alvarez. Like Alvarez before him, Koehler has had one bad year and one decent year, and unlike Alvarez, those seasons have never been interrupted by injury. In each of the last two years, Koehler has made it to 180 innings, the only Marlins pitcher to accomplish this.
This is the exact reason why the Marlins would not simply let him go. He likely has some mild trade value if the Marlins ever pursue that avenue, but the most important thing for the Fish is that he remains healthy enough that the team probably wants his consistent innings in the back of the rotation.
Chances of non-tender: <1%
David Phelps ($2.5M)
Had Phelps not performed well, I imagine he might have been a mild non-tender candidate. Alas, he played well enough and the Marlins are in such dire need of starting pitching that he is in the exact same boat as Koehler. The odds of him getting retained are high just for depth purposes alone.
Chances of non-tender: <1%
Aaron Crow ($1.95M)
Crow was supposed to help anchor the bullpen with his experience, but he ended up experiencing some throwing elbow troubles and eventually landed on the disabled list for Tommy John surgery. He was acquired from the Kansas City Royals in an ill-fated deal for Brian Flynn, who himself got hurt and missed most of last year. Either way, the Fish are unlikely to retain an injured reliever for real money, especially since they have a good number of decent players in the minors to fulfill a similar role. Crow should be headed to free agency.
Chances of non-tender: >99%
The Marlins are very likely to open up the salary space allowed from Crow's deal. The 10 percent odds that the Fish have of relieving the injured Alvarez from his duties make it so that the expected added amount of salary space from non-tender candidates is about $2.4 million. It could be, were Alvarez to be released, up to $6 million. Either way, the Marlins are not looking at much added space to their roster based on these numbers; $2.5 million will buy the team a mediocre bench or platoon player on the level of Jeff Baker. It would, however, open up the club's $13 million in potential space into just enough room to squeeze a mid-level starter from free agency or otherwise onto the roster.