There is an infamous screenshot floating around the internet of a 2013 poll the MLB Network ran. It was part of a series encouraging fans to vote for the "face of the franchise" of their favorite team. 2013, you may recall, was fresh off the heels of the disastrous 2012 season and subsequent fire sale therein, so when it came time to reveal Marlins’ fans selections, the results were sadly predictable:
I have what may be fairly described as a dark sense of humor, so a portion of that screenshot has served as my twitter profile background for quite some time.
There are some franchises who can point to ten, even twenty year stints for their own face of the franchise candidates. The Yankees come to mind with Derek Jeter, the Red Sox with David Ortiz. The Braves had a virtual Mt. Rushmore with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Chipper Jones all on hand at the same time.
The Marlins, due to the nature of how they’ve been run over their 24 year existence, have had many faces, but none for too long. You want your face to be a player, since at a minimum it is indicative of the individual player’s success. We could point to the Miguel Cabr-Era. The Hanley Ramirez Era. The José Fernàndez Era. Many Marlins fans would point to Giancarlo Stanton and say that it’s his time now.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, though, we’ve been in the midst of one long era since 2003: The Jeffrey Loria Era. You ask any non-Fish fan to name the first thing that pops to mind when they think of the Miami Marlins and it’s probably the notorious owner. For better or worse, he has earned his place at the forefront of people’s minds when it comes to the Fish.
That is all about to change, however. Jeffrey Loria is selling this team, not a matter of if, but when. The Miami Marlins will have a new face at the head of the helm, and a new opening as the coveted face of the franchise. Giancarlo Stanton is clearly the man of the present, at the head of the line if not standing shoulder to shoulder with Loria. When you ask the question of who that man will be in five years time, the question gets a lot trickier. This is a franchise, after all, with a long history of short careers in Miami. We quickly approach the dawn of a new day for the Marlins as ownership is going to change over for only the third time in it’s quarter century existence, so perhaps we can successfully utilize the crystal ball to ascertain who that guy will be.
Yelich is, more and more, being widely recognized as one of the premier young outfielders in the game today and is only being helped by his solid World Baseball Classic performance to date. He is on a very team-friendly deal that has him with the club through 2022, at which point he’ll be 30 years old. Say what you will about Marlins front office operations over the years, but everything about Yelich from his development to his contract is a clear win for them.
Daniel Smith wrote a couple weeks back that Yelich might already be the face of the franchise, but I think this is Stanton’s team for a while yet. Five years from now, with Yelich under contract and with the strong possibility of a renegotiated deal that keeps him in Miami even longer, you could say that Christian Yelich is a top candidate to be the face of the franchise in the not-so-distant future.
This might be laughable in short order, but if you canvass the Marlins’ poorly ranked farm system for the next face, no one stands taller than the 6’3 lefty taken seventh overall in last year’s draft.
Garrett projects as a #1-#2 starter eventually, with a killer curveball that he has shown ability to locate with precision. If he advances quickly, there should be plenty of room in the rotation for him as early as 2018, but it’s far more likely that we don’t see him until 2020, after he’s gained a little bit of experience (and logged some valuable minor league innings).
It’s risky to even project Garrett ever reaching the majors with the Marlins let alone becoming the face of the franchise by 2022, but if any of Miami’s minor leaguers have a shot at such a role, it’s him.
Yes that’s right, the current face could still be the face in 2022. Stanton is about to become very expensive starting next season ($25 million in 2018, or roughly half of what Yelich will make over the life of his present contract). By 2022, Stanton will be making $29 million a season, and at that point will have five years remaining on the deal that will max out at $32 million a season.
Many have suggested that Stanton will never reach those years as he has an opt out after 2020. I will just say this: Winning is going to have to mean an awful lot to Stanton for him to leave the Marlins (and all that money on the table). There has always been a presumption that the Marlins would fire sale the current group if they failed to capitalize, as soon as this season, and given the history, who could blame anyone for thinking that? Loria wont be at the helm to make the decision with this group, however, and that should give rise to the notion that Stanton could indeed be around in 2022, still flexing muscles and bashing long balls.