Jose Fernandez never made it to the playoffs during his four years in the big leagues with Miami, but he always lived for the big games against the best in baseball.
Therefore, it was touching that Blue Jays phenom Aaron Sanchez became the latest player to make sure that Fernandez is in the postseason in spirit. Sanchez wrote 'JDF16' on the front of his cap before taking the mound in Toronto's ALDS-clinching victory on Sunday against the Rangers.
Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman paid a similar tribute to Fernandez during his first ever playoff save on Saturday night, as the public displays of remembrance on the field continue to pour in for a player who meant so much to so many people.
The Marlins have grieved, and will continue to do so for a very long time. Now, with the off-season upon them, Miami has to start the process of trying to fill the black hole left by the franchise's best ever starting pitcher.
Fernandez was the duct tape and super glue that held Miami's rotation together, almost ever since his first career start. Without him, the Marlins now have arguably one of the worst rotations in the National League, and the team cannot dream of the playoffs without acquiring a bona fide ace or number two caliber starter.
That will be difficult this winter, as the free agent market is thin, with one of the only attractive options being Gio Gonzalez, and that is only if the Nationals do not pick up his $12 million club option.
That means the Marlins are going to have to get very creative in the trade market, and not give up too much in desperation for someone like Andrew Cashner, who almost certainly will not be with the team next season after being closer to 'dreadful' than 'decent' following his acquisition at the Trade Deadline.
The likes of Marcell Ozuna, Adeiny Hechavarria and Derek Dietrich may be on the trade block, but those three alone will probably not demand a front-line starter in return. The Marlins will have to take what they can get, though, as they only have Wei-Yin Chen, Adam Conley and Tom Koehler on the payroll right now who have shown that they can succeed in the big leagues.
Replacing Fernandez will be impossible, as he was one of the best pitchers in baseball history over his tragically short career. However, the Marlins are not really in a position to add any starters capable of anchoring this rotation for more than the immediate future. With no internal candidates to fill the devastating void at the front of the rotation either, 2017 could be taxing on the bullpen to say the least.