The 2015 year has come and gone, and in terms of the Miami Marlins, it has done so with minimal fanfare. After all, the Fish came into the season with modest expectations and failed to meet them, but the truth is that this affected no one outside of the Marlins' fanbase. Not a whole lot of outside media predicted a Marlins playoff berth, and no one was surprised when the team bungled their way to another losing season, their fifth in a row.
Still, there were lessons to be learned about the 2015 squad and the performance and off-field antics of this ballclub. With the new year coming and a brand new season months away, there is much to learn from the lessons of the 2015 Marlins.
1. No manager is safe.
Mike Redmond could not have been more safe as a Marlins manager after taking an overachieving Marlins club in 2014 to a 78-win season. The Fish were riding high and feeling good about their ex-catcher ballcoach, so much so that they gave him a three-year extension to replace the last year of his initial deal. The Marlins trusted Redmond enough to handle the Fish for three more seasons.
Literally seven months and 30-plus games into the next year, they thought he was such a hindrance as to warrant a firing.
Then the Marlins sent general manager Dan Jennings down to the clubhouse to manage the team. It took less than one season for the long-entrenched Jennings to receive a pink slip for his managerial work and not be re-invited back to the front office, where he made most of his living.
Under Jeffrey Loria, no manager is safe. Don Mattingly may be a good hire or not, but any deviation from expectations set by Loria can and will lead to a swift firing. Loria fired one guy a year into his multi-year gig, so he will not hesitate to do the same to another, especially if Mattingly crosses him on on-field decisions. The only good news for Mattingly is that he is a former Yankees player, and Loria loves his former Yankees.
Yes, that last sentence does not make any sense when it comes to managing a coaching staff. It's the Marlins. (sigh)
2. The Marlins have a stars-and-scrubs approach.
The team failed to develop enough prospects to match their payroll commitments, so unlike teams like the Cubs and Astros, the Marlins were stuck primarily with the stars they had. The team got two regular contributors (questionable ones at that) out of their last major trade, the Toronto Blue Jays deal that sapped Miami of big league, expensive talent. The minor leaguers they got have either failed to develop (Justin Nicolino), are not being played (Derek Dietrich), or were traded away (Anthony DeSclafani).
The Marlins really felt this lack of depth last season. Giancarlo Stanton missed more than half of the year with a broken hamate bone, and the Fish played Ichiro Suzuki for 438 plate appearances as a result. That was never a part of the plan, but with the Marlins short on outfield depth beyond their starting three, Miami was forced into this unfortunate circumstance. Meanwhile, Jose Fernandez, Jarred Cosart, and Henderson Alvarez were injured for much of the year, and the Marlins' pitching depth was tasked in a big way. The team failed there as well.
It is difficult to run a stars-and-scrubs approach in baseball, but the Marlins only have just enough starter-caliber talent to field almost a full lineup. With no depth purchased at the big league level or developed in the minors, any injuries for significant time will be devastating.
3. The Marlins don't like Scott Boras.
The Marlins and Scott Boras seem to have a tenuous relationship at best, but the club definitely took it up a notch last year. After all, Miami failed in the offseason to negotiate a deal with Boras client Marcell Ozuna, then baited Ozuna and Boras into a conflict by manipulating Ozuna's service time to buy themselves another cheap season with him. Then this offseason, rumors began to swirl that the Marlins were a bit unhappy with Jose Fernandez and that Fernandez and Boras refused a long-term contract. Then the trade rumors came up and all hell has broken loose between the two parties.
Give Boras credit, he has at least sounded like the sensible one in public. He recently said that he has been in communication with the Marlins and that there are no plans to trade Fernandez. David Samson, on the other hand, notoriously told Boras to buy his own team and run it himself before handing out any advice to Miami's front office. These sides don't like each other, it seems.
4. The Marlins still haven't learned their closer lesson.
The Fish haven't learned anything, have they? Last year, they failed to trade Steve Cishek while he was still an "elite closer," despite the fact that the Marlins had a closer candidate in A.J. Ramos behind him. They were forced to trade him for nothing instead.
This was a lesson they should have learned with Juan Carlos Oviedo and Heath Bell before Cishek, but they failed to do so. Now, instead of trying to develop a closer internally or finding cheap bullpen options to help bolster Ramos and Carter Capps, the Marlins are doing the polar opposite and actually pursuing an expensive closer in Aroldis Chapman. To be fair, Chapman is more of a guarantee than anyone else in the closer market, but the Fish are all too willing to spend way too much money on a closer they probably don't need.
Will the Marlins ever learn that a closer is the last piece of a contending team, not among the first? The answer is probably "no," and I'm not content with that.
5. The Marlins don't know where they are on the competitive spectrum.
The team has failed to plan out an offseason of effect based on where they are on the spectrum. If the Marlins thought it would be a few years for contention, they could at least send away a few players like Martin Prado who are not going to be on the next competitive Marlins team. If they thought they were ready to compete next year, they should have signed a free agent starter, maybe two of them, and actually went after a playoff berth.
So far, the Marlins are dangling in the middle, having made no serious moves to improve the roster's current or future production. Miami is slated to enter the 2016 year with the same roster that struggled last year, except without the presence of guys like Mat Latos or Dan Haren to fill in empty rotation spots. They neither bolstered their farm nor improved the big league roster enough to claim contention. The team, like always, appears to just be floating in the wind.