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In aftermath of Christian Yelich trade, Marlins need to sign major league free agents

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Flipping Yelich for top prospects was a justified move. Now, the club has to protect its long-term investments and resist the urge to rush them to the big leagues.

Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

It’s a staggering list. Updated with the four additions from Thursday night’s Christian Yelich trade, these are all the players acquired by the Miami Marlins this offseason who will enter 2018 with rookie eligibility (age as of Jul. 1, 2018 in parentheses):

  • RHP Sandy Alcantara (22)
  • OF Lewis Brinson (23)
  • RHP Daniel Castano (23)
  • 1B Garrett Cooper (27)
  • SS Jose Devers (18)
  • 2B/SS Isan Diaz (22)
  • RHP Robert Dugger (22)
  • RHP Zac Gallen (22)
  • RHP Brett Graves (25)
  • RHP Jorge Guzman (22)
  • OF Monte Harrison (22)
  • RHP Elieser Hernandez (23)
  • RHP Nick Neidert (21)
  • OF Magneuris Sierra (22)
  • LHP Caleb Smith (26)
  • SS Chris Torres (20)
  • RHP Jordan Yamamoto (22)

Please note that this does not even include minor league free agent signings, waiver claims or pick-ups from the Double-A/Triple-A phases of the Rule 5 draft. Instead, we’re grouping together newcomers under club control who are either projected to receive MLB playing time this season or were directly exchanged for veterans (like Yelich) who had defined major league roles.

In the process, the Marlins have dramatically brightened their future. After beginning the winter with a consensus bottom-five farm system, MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis acknowledges that the quality of their prospects is now firmly in the “middle of the pack.” And shopping catcher J.T. Realmuto would bring back even more young talent.

Realmuto and Justin Bour are the remnants of the Marlins’ once-promising core.
David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/TNS via Getty Images

Of course, tearing down the active roster merely represents Phase I of a lengthy rebuilding process. There are still a myriad of ways to screw this up.

Scouting evaluations serve as vague approximations. Player development is such an inexact science, affected heavily by luck, coaching instruction and each person’s intangibles. Some of the onus also falls on upper management to find the appropriate role and level of competition for these individuals, giving them the best opportunity to reach their potential.

With a few exceptions, the prospects listed above do not belong in Marlins Park on Opening Day. They aren’t ready. The new Miami ownership group must green-light the front office to reinvest a portion of this winter’s payroll relief to plug several glaring holes.

Fish Stripe’s Thomas Bennett made his nostalgic suggestions earlier this month, nearly all of whom remain available in the stagnant free-agent market. These signings wouldn’t necessarily be geared toward winning more games, but rather, allowing the next generation reasonable time to adjust to the adversity that every player initially faces.

At the moment, Derek Jeter and company have over-compensated in the cost-cutting department. Although there’s validity to the claim that previous owner Jeffrey Loria ran the Marlins in the red, the new administration was already poised for a highly profitable 2018. That was before unloading Yelich’s $7 million guarantee for the upcoming season.

For the sake of its fans and its future, this franchise should be adding several major league veterans, even if they—gulp—command more than a minimum salary.

Lewis Brinson will be fun and productive, but he’s whiffed in 31 percent of his MLB plate appearances. Magneuris Sierra also showed flashes of excitement in his 2017 debut...while also swinging a wet noodle. Would it be the worst thing in the world to hand Miami’s own Jon Jay a two-year deal so they can pick his brain about getting on base?

Prior to the Yelich trade, the top Marlins prospects were primarily pitchers, none of whom have ever been stretched out to last six months in the starting rotation. What’s the risk to allocating a couple million dollars (plus incentives) toward, say, right-hander Chris Tillman? Flip him for a decent prospect at the trade deadline if he rediscovers his old form! Somebody needs to work those innings in April and May, anyway.

Many fans understandably want to hibernate until 2021 when the core of the next competitive team hopefully begins to reach maturity. In the interim, it’d be refreshing to see the Marlins operate with some dignity (for once).