We are about one quarter of the way through the season and the Marlins are off to their worst start since they lost 108 games in 1998. At that time, the Marlins were coming off of their first World Series title in their fourth season as an expansion team. The 2017 season has a slightly different precursor, the Marlins having entered the season in the midst of a 13 season playoff drought and having showed few signs of trending in the right direction.
Now 44 games into the season, the Marlins are at an all-time low with yet another potential fire sale lurking on the horizon. I can hear you all muttering to yourselves, “here we go again,” but should the Marlins decide to sell off pieces, it would be different this go around because there really is no other option.
In 1998, 2005, and 2012, key players were dumped for supposed cost-effective reasons; something that rightly infuriated Marlins fans. The three fire sales created a level of distrust between ownership and fans so strong that only a sale of the team could change the perspective of those who root for the Fish. This time, however, it’s a different set of circumstances altogether and as a fan you should be rooting for the front office to hit the “reset” button.
The Marlins currently sit at 16-28, good for the third worst in the MLB, ahead of only the Phillies and Padres. Before you go talk trash to all of your friends who are Phillies and Padres fans, keep one thing in mind; the Marlins have one of if not the worst farm systems in the MLB. Meanwhile the Phillies and Padres both rank around the top third in Minor League talent. Marlins fans should be uneasy at the fact that their Major League team is dreadful but should be terrified at the fact that the team’s farm system is paper-thin.
The Marlins have sent out basically the same line-up the last three seasons, a line-up that many praise for its young talent and power. But in each of the last three years the Marlins have ranked in the bottom third for offensive production. The fact that such a talented line-up on paper could underachieve so much is a head-scratcher to many, including the Marlins front office. The underperformance could be chalked up to Giancarlo Stanton’s inability to stay healthy, the line-ups struggles to walk or get on base, the high volume of strike outs from the middle of the order, or a combination of all. Whatever the reason for the Marlins struggles at the plate, the offense has only proved one thing in three years and it is that it cannot perform at the level the Marlins front office envisioned.
All of this about the offense and I haven't even gotten into the pitching. The Marlins rotation, put simply, is abysmal. The Marlins opening day starter, Edison Volquez, is 0-6. Tom Koehler and Adam Conley have both been sent down to AAA, and Wei-Yin Chen’s elbow troubles have continued. Entering the season the Marlins knew that their rotation wouldn't be what it was when they lost a generational talent in Jose Fernandez so the team made a panic signing, overpaying for Edison Volquez and a trade for Dan Straily, the latter perhaps the only bright spot of the Marlins rotation. The Marlins also tried to bolster their bullpen to compensate for the below average rotation, but the lauded “super bullpen” has been no better. The Fish invested $12 million into Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa, who have combined for an ERA just below seven, a huge reason why the Marlins are ranked 26th in bullpen ERA.
If the Major League team isn’t performing at a competitive level and talent is scarce in the minor leagues, the answer is clear: rebuild. Building from the ground up is not the most exciting or quickest path to success, but it is the safest.
Marlins fans have had little to be excited about other than the impending sale of the franchise. The potential of the sale has given many fans hope for the future, however a barrier in the sale has been the amount of money the Marlins have committed to underperforming players, specifically Giancarlo Stanton and Wei-Yin Chen which totals to just under $400 million. While Chen may be nearly impossible to move, a suitor for Stanton may not be impossible to find and could expedite the process of the sale while bolstering the farm system. Another player the Marlins could benefit from moving is Dee Gordon, though with an unappealing $50 million committed to him over the next few years, Dee is going to need to start swinging the bat better if the Marlins are going to find a buyer for him. Guys like Justin Bour and Marcell Ozuna could also net nice returns but are under team control for the next couple seasons so the Marlins would need to be blown away by an offer.
It’s time for the Marlins front office to realize that this team just simply cannot compete and to remedy the farm system issue. Yes, rebuild is an ugly word, but sometimes it is the only option especially for a team that is struggling at all levels. If there is any silver-lining, it is the fact that the Marlins have enough talent to net a several nice returns should the team make some moves, and there could be a nice influx of young talent making its way to the Marlins organization. Don't blame the Marlins front office for trading key pieces this time around, blame them for putting together a team that has been nowhere near competitive.