The Miami Marlins face an offseason in which their roster is dotted with problems and they have very few resources to utilize in order to help them. The team from last season likely is not good enough to compete in 2016, and even with the full health of guys like Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins may not have what it takes to make 2016 a winning season.
However, the Marlins are not without their strengths. The front office and ownership are not terribly delusional when they say they have a great set of core players on the team, and that is where the strength of the Marlins lies. While the periphery of the roster needs filling, Miami has strength in its core assets.
1. Giancarlo Stanton under a long-term contract
No matter what you might think of the Marlins signing Stanton to the richest contract in American sports history, there is no denying that he is worth that kind of a deal. The Fish were wise ultimately to make this move. Star players cost lots of money, especially in free agency, and Stanton likely would have earned this and much more had he reached the open market in before the 2017 season. Superstar-caliber players hardly ever reach free agency at the age of 27, which is exactly what Stanton would have done this year. Jason Heyward is about to earn nearly $200 million in salary over the prime of his career, and his game is heavily based on his award-winning defense. Imagine what would happen if a slugger of Stanton's caliber with his defensive capabilities hit the market.
Miami has the best of almost all worlds with this deal. It has a cheap first six years of the contract, totaling just $107 million. It has a player opt-out clause that could see Stanton leave after he has given his best years to Miami, with the Marlins having a built-in excuse for his absence. It offers the possibility of a truly generational talent sticking with the team over the long haul.
But for the 2016 season, Stanton is locked in at a cheap rate at just $9 million, allowing Miami some salary space to tinker around him. The contract is a boon in 2016 still, and having a near-guarantee four to five wins in the bank is a nice start to a team.
2) Christian Yelich under a long-term contract
Similarly, the Marlins having secured Yelich to a long-term deal is of major importance. Miami's pact with Yelich has six years left of cheap money for good production. Yelich had an awful start to his 2015 season and still ended the year at about the same offensive level that he hit in 2014. He also finished as a runner-up for the Gold Glove award in left field after winning the thing last year. Very few 24-year-old outfielders are this consistently excellent, and the Marlins have him locked in through 2022 if they would like.
Yelich's deal does not afford the Marlins any real extra room on their salary space, but it does offer the security of a second All-Star caliber player and designated core member locked in for a long time. Miami can take solace that they have a part of their core attached for the long haul, and that appeals to not only outside players but guys on the roster like Stanton who want to play with winners.
In 2016, Yelich is a strength because he is one of the team's three best players, plain and simple. He is expected to put up a three-win season, and given that he has done better before, it could be an even greater campaign, especially if he continues to refine his game.
3) Jose Fernandez
Jose Fernandez is not under contract like the other two above him. He is likely to be paid $2.2 million this season in his first of three arbitration years. However, the Marlins can certainly take solace that Fernandez, despite the rumors of his impeding trade and difficulty in the clubhouse, is under control for at least three more years. Those three years are expected to be of major value to Miami.
Fernandez is the best pitcher the Marlins have developed since Josh Beckett, and he is set to take over the ace role for the team in 2016. The club needs him to perform well, as he may be the only competent pitcher on the roster to start the year. Luckily, the 23-year-old proved in 2013 that he has all the skills to pull off the feat, having finished second in the Cy Young award voting and put up an impressive ERA (2.40) and FIP (2.52) to start his young career.
A lot of stuff is going on with Fernandez right now, but Miami could hold onto one of the best starters in the game if it plays its tenuous cards right before the 2016 season.
For the first time in what seems like forever, the Marlins' defense appears to be a strength of this team. Reinforcing the roster with additions Dee Gordon and Martin Prado to flank Adeiny Hechavarria has boosted the roster's infield run prevention to great heights. Few teams could claim a better left side of the infield this year than the Marlins in 2015, and if the same cast and crew returns in 2016, the team might be ready to vacuum up more and more grounders en route to defensive success.
These new defensive additions added on to what was already a stellar cast in the outfield. Marcell Ozuna regressed in 2015 and struggled both at the plate and on the field, but the two men who flanked him played up to their standards. Christian Yelich was a Gold Glove runner up in left field, while Giancarlo Stanton has always shown skills in the outfield when he is healthy. The trio has done an excellent job traversing the deep dimensions at Marlins Park, and the club may lower those dimensions as well, making their jobs a little easier.