Now that we have examined the Miami Marlins' SWOT analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, we can make a decision as to what direction the team should go. After a difficult 2015 season, the Marlins were left with very little in their farm system, holes in their major league roster, and serious concerns about where to go from here. The Fish could opt for an aggressive strategy to try and add more talent for 2016 and 2017 and hope that those seasons go well. Alternately, Miami could go in another direction and add future pieces rather than someone who might be of more immediate assistance to the team. Alternately still, the Fish could opt to do less and not go aggressively into one route or the other; a more cautious approach may keep both options open for the team heading into 2016 and could buy them more time to elucidate the team's situation.
So, which of those options could Miami pursue? We briefly went over this earlier this year, so let's look into it one more time.
The Aggressive Case
The Marlins could try to improve drastically in 2016 and go for it in a big way this year. The club tried to do that last season and failed, but the option presumably would still be present. The Fish tried that last season mostly via the trade in order to save money, and they did acquire a reasonable amount of talent, specifically Dee Gordon and Mat Latos. Not every move panned out, however, and combined with other problems, the Fish dropped near the cellar of the NL East division.
This year, the Marlins would have a lot less to trade, so if they were to go aggressive, it would have to be in the free agent market. The Marlins' trade assets include only Major Leaguers like Martin Prado and Marcell Ozuna, and all of those options would involve taking talent away from the big league crew. So a trade seems unlikely. However, the team is interesting in starting pitching and, if it had the money and were willing, could go after guys like David Price and Johnny Cueto to long-term deals to immediately boost the starting talent.
The problem with that plan is that it involves money, something owner Jeffrey Loria does not want to spend. The club is unlikely to shell out big bucks for players like Price or even position player talent like Yoenis Cespedes, even if it would bolster the team's chances this year. And with the trade route out of the picture, the likelihood of this method seems very low.
The Sell-out Case
The Marlins could dismantle the relatively unsuccessful, if not cheap, roster that they currently have in order to bottom out and retain only the obvious core members of the team. Depending on whom you ask, that core would include Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and perhaps Jose Fernandez and/or Dee Gordon. The rest of the Marlins, however, would be available if they did not come cheap.
That would mean finding value in the trade market for guys like Martin Prado, Ozuna, Henderson Alvarez, Tom Koehler, and A.J. Ramos among other names. Not all of the Marlins' salaried players would provide huge benefit, but the team could move a number of these guys to restock the farm system as much as possible and give the team its best chance for the future. In the meantime, it would also provide a challenge for the few remaining Marlins prospects like Justin Nicolino, Adam Conley, and Jose Urena to give them time in the bigs and see if they stick. Finally, it may afford the Marlins some higher draft picks in the next two years before the Fish recover enough talent to get back to contention.
The problem with this plan is that it engenders despise from a fan base that has already been tortured by losing talent in the past. The Marlins are too well known for "fire sales" to do something like this and not have it look bad, even if the intentions are good. In addition, the Fish have only five guaranteed seasons of Giancarlo Stanton left on contract from his 13-year deal, as he has a player option after the sixth season. The team really needs to be certain he will want to stay through the end of this time period and may want to be competitive earlier.
The Wait and See Case
The Marlins could wait and see with this current roster, making only minor additions to the fold. The team recognizes it has some issues like starting pitching, and it could opt for a mid-tier option in free agency to help anchor the rotation. It may add depth either in the infield or outfield for insurance against injury. It could keep as much of the current talent on the team and see what sticks. Essentially, this plan defers any ultimate directional decision until either midseason or next year.
The problem with this idea is that Miami just does not have the tools right now to compete, even if they acquired a small piece like Doug Fister or Ian Kennedy. There is too much uncertainty on the roster that a small, incremental move like this will yield little significant difference from last year
The Marlins are in such a tough position with a barren farm system and questionable big league talent, but they are not in the same spot as teams like the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros were when their rebuild started. Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant had to be acquired via the draft; the Marlins already have a superstar in Stanton signed long-term, and another potential star in Yelich, plus a third big-name talent in Jose Fernandez. They are at least a step ahead, but need more help.
A median approach between the wait-and-see and the sell-out would be best. The Marlins are not going to compete in 2016, and they need to recognize that this offseason and offload players who will not be useful for their next run. That includes players who will not be under contract by then or guys who may be too expensive for their services by that point. In the coming days, we are going to reveal the plan for the offseason and display just who those players may be and what the Marlins should try and target.