2016 was another year where Miami was right in the thick of the playoff race until the final few weeks of the season, when injuries and inconsistency finally dealt the knockout blow on September 28th.
This led to a flurry of winter moves in an attempt to improve the squad and finally get over the postseason hump for the first time since winning it all in 2003. While it could be argued that not all of the trades and free agents signings greatly improved Miami’s playoff potential, the signing of catcher A.J. Ellis was the worst move that the Marlins made this offseason.
The Marlins agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract with Ellis on December 7th. At the time, it was speculated that they move was made, in part, to try and lure former teammate and All-Star closer Kenley Jansen to south Florida. That obviously didn’t happen, although the Marlins still managed to shore up their bullpen with the signings of Junichi Tazawa and Brad Ziegler.
As for Ellis, a soon-to-be 36 year-old, he will serve as a backup for emerging star J.T. Realmuto. A .239 career hitter, Ellis is more known for his presence in the clubhouse and close and successful relationships with pitchers.
The main problem with this signing was the unnecessary expenditure, as Tomas Telis could have been promoted from Triple-A full-time in 2017. Telis, acquired from the Rangers at the Trade Deadline in 2015, has hardly been given a chance at the Major League level by Miami.
At 25 years of age, Telis owns a .311 career average over 210 games at AAA, demonstrating great potential at the plate. However, the Marlins have only given him 40 at-bats in a year and a half. The weakness in his game is his defense, but that is something he has been working hard on since he arrived in Miami.
It was about time that the Marlins gave Telis a real shot at being a Major League player, but instead they signed a veteran who will be very one-dimensional for the team this upcoming season. This was Miami’s worst move of the winter because they already had a viable option at their disposal, but chose to spend money on a low-impact player instead.
There are a couple of moves that deserve honorable mentions: The Jeff Locke signing for one, as he may function as little more than depth. That being said, Locke will have more of an impact if he is to become the team’s lone lefty reliever.
The other move worth noting is the Dan Straily trade. The Marlins traded away a few promising prospects for a starter with only one decent season under his belt, but prospects are notoriously hit and miss when it comes to big league success, and Straily may have just turned a corner in his career at the right time for Miami.
If it turns out that the Marlins now lack the funds to sign a player to enter a platoon with Justin Bour at first base to combat his troubles against left-handed pitching, then the move will look even worse in retrospect.