On Saturday, the Miami Marlins suffered a loss to the Atlanta Braves that left them in a spot that seemed unthinkable when Fish fans were looking doughy-eyed at the 2015 season. The Marlins at the time dropped to 43-68, which at the time constituted the worst record in the NL East. Of course, the previous bottom-dweller of the division was the Philadelphia Phillies, who had spent the vast majority of the 2015 season as the worst team in baseball.
The Marlins won yesterday, but that did not change the problem. The Fish surpassed the Phillies and have since taken the role of worst team in baseball.
It has been a hell of a ride for this 2015 team. There was a lot of promise heading into the year. Realistically, the Marlins were likely not a playoff team, with most projections having them between 78 and 83 wins on the season. An otherwise average baseball team needs a few things to break their way in order to bust themselves into the upper 80's in wins and capture a Wild Card spot, so the Fish were truthfully always looking for breaks to win this year. However, those lucky breaks never happened, and indeed the polar opposite occurred: everything fell apart around Miami.
The Marlins are at the bottom for a number of reasons, but let us get the reason for which they are least at fault out of the way. The team has lost a significant number of wins due to injury this year. Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Jose Fernandez, and Henderson Alvarez have all spent time on the disabled list. Stanton, Fernandez, and Alvarez are spending significant time, and those wins have not been replaceable.
Of course, no one can expect Stanton or Fernandez to be replaced, but the Fish's complete lack of depth has hurt their roster badly in this injury-mired year. The team picked four seasons of Dee Gordon, but it had to get rid of a myriad of useful depth at various positions to do it. With all of the pitching injuries the Marlins suffered, it sure would have been nice to boast depth from guys like Andrew Heaney and Anthony DeSclafani while still having the depth at other positions to prevent disasters in case of injury.
Part of the reason why Miami had to make deals for players like Gordon was because they failed to improve their roster before the season via free agency. Free agency just is not a realistic option for a low-budget team like the Marlins, so finding a Gordon-like upgrade at second base just was not likely. Because the team is unwilling to spend cash on upgrades, the club was left with difficult trades to make.
Of course, when it did spend, it spent incorrectly. I was not against the Michael Morse signing, but the Fish were so unwilling to eat his eventually poor deal that they traded further value in Latos and their competitive balance draft pick (the third straight year in which they have dealt the pick) for the Dodgers to pick up the rest of his salary. The Marlins are so unwilling to spend, especially when they are proven wrong, that they continue to deal assets to get out of budgetary problems.
On top of all this, the players the Marlins expected to perform have underachieved, with the exception of Giancarlo Stanton, who had been gloriously great until he suffered yet another injury. Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna spent time struggling at the plate and on the field and have not been the top players the team expected to have. Jarrod Saltalamacchai was released less than a month into his second year of his reasonable contract due to poor play. About the only overachieving success story has been Adeiny Hechavarria this season.
The Marlins tried to acquire assets to make the playoffs this year, and not only did those assets struggle early on, but the rest of the team collapsed. A true .500 team probably does not get to become the worst team in baseball over a few injuries or a few disappointments, but it was the entire combination of it all that has led to this club boasting the league's worst record. And that is the story of how the Marlins messed up their contention year and set themselves back for the future at the same time.