It is looking more and more like 2016 will extend Miami’s playoff absence drought by another year, as the Marlins have lost nine of their last ten games and dropped below .500 for the first time since late April.
So, it might be about time to start looking ahead to 2017 and beyond. Upper management has made it clear that they want this club to succeed, as they were one of the most active teams looking to add talent before the Trade Deadline this summer.
At this time, it appears as though their efforts might have been in vain as Miami is five games back of the second Wild Card and struggling on both sides of the ball. The Marlins have lacked the depth this season to remain competitive once the slew of injuries hit and held key players on the sidelines for extended periods of time.
If the Marlins are to finish anywhere near the postseason spots in 2017, they need a much deeper rotation, as that has been their Achilles heel all year long. Miami has used 13 different starters this season and struggled to find consistent success, just like they did in 2014 and 2015. In comparison, the 89-48 Cubs have only used nine different starters, and all five main members of their rotation have made at least 25 starts (only Tom Koehler and Jose Fernandez have achieved that feat for Miami).
Just how will the Marlins bolster their rotation and add starting depth for 2017? With the lack of MLB-caliber pitching prospects in the farm system to call upon or use as trade bait, Miami’s only option is to hit the free agent market.
With the likes of Doug Fister, Jeremy Hellickson and Ivan Nova set to be on the market this winter, there are options out there to improve Miami’s starting pitching core. It is just going to be a case of how much Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is willing to spend. Another everyday first baseman would not go a miss either, and there are various free agent options at that position as well.
The Marlins have put themselves in a difficult position. The big league roster needs another piece or two to transition from ‘good’ to 'great’, but the lack of a farm system means that acquiring those pieces is limited to the expensive and treacherous free agent market.
If the injury bug did not decide to reside in Miami all season long, then the Marlins would have had a serious chance to punch their postseason ticket for the first time since 2003. However, injuries are a part of baseball, and the team was simply not prepared to deal with them.
Alternatively, the Marlins could start again and trade away anyone not signed to an extension to restock the farm system and let it develop into a World Series team, just like the Cubs have done. I hear that the (probably) un-extendable Jose Fernandez would bring in quite the haul.
Less ‘fire sale’, and more ‘tactical re-modelling’. It would not yield immediate success, but it would probably lead to more championships down the line.
That’s what we would have to tell ourselves, anyway.