The Miami Marlins have a lot of issues facing them in 2016, and the team needs to build on any success it can find from last year. It also needs to set some goals for the 2016 season as we move into the new year; after all, it's resolution time! To show respect to this time-honored tradition, here are five resolutions for the Marlins for their new year, knowing full well that they may not accomplish some or even all of these this year.
1. Stay healthy!
The Marlins are a stars-and-scrubs team, full of a select group of good players with minimal depth behind them. The position players are in better shape, but their replacements on the bench are not very impressive. Giancarlo Stanton missed a significant amount of time last season with a broken hamate bone. Jose Fernandez missed more than half the year recovering from Tommy John surgery. Christian Yelich spent time injured with two separate disabled list stints.
This team cannot afford significant injuries to its best players because it simply does not have the minor league or bench depth to manage that kind of problem. In the short term, the team could help remedy that issue by bolstering its bench with a versatile platoon option for Justin Bour like Steven Pearce, but with the team looking to spend money potentially on a starting pitcher, the club will probably head into the year with the bench it has. Any injury to the outfielders or to J.T. Realmuto may lead to significant playing time for Ichiro Suzuki or Jeff Mathis, two limited veterans with little left in their treads. It is imperative for the Marlins to not only get in shape like the rest of us, but to stay healthy and in shape for 2016.
2. Make smarter decisions
The Marlins supposedly worked to bolster their analytics department this year, and this bolstering may help them make different decisions in the 2015-2016 offseason. So far, the only decisions Miami made were to re-sign Jeff Mathis (ugh) and go after a few expensive names via trade options. The Marlins have been linked to several free agents, but nothing has come to fruition.
The Fish only just started talking about adding a more robust analytics system to their decision-making this past year, and the hope is that the franchise actually does this. Miami is well behind in the thinking of the rest of baseball's top front offices, with only a few other teams behind the times as badly as the Marlins. The club has resisted in the past due to its strong scouting ties at the top of the organizational ladder, but at least some lip service is being paid towards it this year. Here's hoping the Marlins actually follow through on this plan and add some new, forward-thinking minds to an organization that has been stagnant for years.
3. Take care of family
The Marlins have a very select group of people they care about, but one of those people is Jose Fernandez, ace starting pitcher and Cuban sensation for the Fish. The Marlins want Fernandez to stick around, and there is a part of Fernandez who probably wants to stay in south Florida. He has already been a revelation for Miami, and the fan base in Miami would readily embrace him as a second star supporting Giancarlo Stanton.
Of course, Stanton is here for a while, as he signed a 13-year, $325 million contract that will keep him in Miami for at least the next five years. Fernandez could be a part of the next great Miami team by signing long-term, but a lot of work has to be done on both ends for this to happen. The Marlins and Fernandez have to repair a damaged relationship, and the Fish would have to pony up a significant amount of cash to keep him here. Fernandez has to prove his health throughout 2016. And in the shadows of all of this is super-agent Scott Boras, who may not like his client signing an extension unless it is a lengthy, trend-setting one.
But right now, Jose Fernandez is family for Miami, and they should work to lock him up, if only to add to his trade value if things do sour.
4. Develop a new skill
Very few of the Marlins' players are what one would call "complete" by any means. But while guys like Martin Prado are who they are this point in their careers, there are three players who could serve to develop and add to their games and hopefully find a new skill to take them over the top.
For Christian Yelich, that would be discovering how to hit fly balls effectively. Yelich no doubt hits the ball hard, which is why he rarely pops up and hits grounders through the infield at such a strong rate. But he also gets a reasonable number of home runs off of the fly balls he does hit. Could he sustain more power by leveling off his batting plane more and developing more drive on pitches? It would be a huge boon to his already spectacular overall game.
For Dee Gordon, power will never be an option, but could he be better at drawing bases on balls? It seems hard to believe that he can survive entirely on hits on balls in play to sustain his on-base percentage. An extended slump may knock his value down severely if he does not have walks to support his game. The problem is that he had to be more aggressive at the plate in order to accomplish the success he did last season. Can that be replicated in 2016?
For Marcell Ozuna, a lot of different things have to happen, but beyond re-discovering the power that helped carry him in 2014, it would be nice for Ozuna to figure out how to make contact like he did in 2013. If he can combine those two seasons into one conglomerate, three to four wins is well within reach.
5. Organize a plan
The Marlins are notorious for switching plans on a dime. In 2012, they went from contending to, a horrible June later, selling off parts. That plan continued only until Miami played well enough in 2014 to be on the very fringes of the Wild Card race, after which the Marlins switched to buy mode and traded their previous top-10 draft pick to acquire a back-rotation starter with potential in Jarred Cosart. Now, in a season in which the Marlins are probably close to .500 but not quite there yet for contention, the front office has failed to make any moves to better the roster's present or future.
The Marlins have to come up with one unified plan and stick with it. If they do, they can be like the Chicago Cubs and let that plan simmer over several seasons before bursting forth, and the team can switch the plan when success is imminent. Right now, the Marlins think they might succeed, but do not want to risk the money to find out. They are depending on luck to carry them to contention, even though they have players who will not be a part of the next great Marlins team.
The biggest resolution, and perhaps the most important thing for Miami to do, is create a plan and set it into motion, and let that plan continue to work. They just have not accomplished this task after all these years, but maybe 2016 will be the time they learn.