Five questions, 11 perspectives, one article. Welcome to the first installment of the Fish Stripes Staff Roundtable (working title ‘til we come up with something more clever). Every few months, I’ll cook up some compelling topics concerning the present and future of the Marlins—or baseball in general—and ask the crew to weigh in.
The following responses have been lightly edited. —Ely Sussman
1. Will the Marlins get outfielder Víctor Víctor Mesa?
David Phillips: Given that I’m writing this after the Barraclough trade, I’d have to say yes. The team seems motivated to get it done.
Mitch Custer: If the money is right, then yes. Miami seems like more of a natural choice for him than Baltimore.
Red Garcia: Yes, but i don’t believe they get all three unless they agree to take a cut to play together.
Luis Davila: I believe the Marlins will have to make a choice. They are currently trying to add him along with his brother and fellow Cuban Sandy Gastón. The price tag for all three combined has been reported to be beyond their Marlins’ current bonus allotment. While it isn’t clear what the price tag would be, the Marlins would probably have to add a significant amount of allotment in the trade market to make the deal they desire. That would involve parting with several players they may not want to part with.
Jason Banta: I’ll say yes, and take it a step further that the Marlins make the necessary moves to land his brother and Gastón as well. One would assume Miami won’t move their better controllable big league pieces for IFA cash, but there are other avenues worth pursuing to garner the necessary allotment to land all three, which would be a massive win for the front office.
Ian Smith: Going into this week, I was I was Luis in thinking the Marlins needed to make a choice between the three Cuban free agents. That is no longer the case, with trades of Ryan Lillie and Kyle Barraclough this week for international pool money. That now reportedly puts the Marlins at around $6 million. I believe the Marlins now make one more trade for pool money to close the gap with the Orioles and land all of them.
Cornelius Thomas: Despite the differential in slot bonus money, I do believe the Marlins will land Víctor Víctor and Víctor Mesa Jr. When any player evaluates a signing decision, they must take into account the whole experience as a player. The “experience” includes weather, level of comfort within the community, and the organization’s attitude toward making the player feel “at home”. With no GM and the baseball operations program in flux in Baltimore, this could be an extremely hard sell to the Mesa brothers.
Ethan Budowsky: Yes. I don’t know if the Fish will be able to get all three, but I imagine their top priority is Víctor Víctor. With the recent moves the Marlins have made to add more pool money, it is clear what their intentions are and what they need to get this done. I think he has wanted to be here all along, but considering how much movement the Marlins have done, he’s going to go where the money is. It seems the Marlins know this and are doing what they can to get their finances into place to make the push for him.
Alex Carver: Short answer: yes. Longer answer...Before we even started adding pool money, I’d have said Gastón was close to a sure thing. He’s been very vocal and visual about wanting to be a Marlin.
Sandy Gastón ready to sign on the dotted line pic.twitter.com/zyi7TS7wfS— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) October 7, 2018
The crowned jewel of the three is Víctor Víctor. Watching him swing the bat and considering his age, I think he’d be the guy to build a team around in the future. Good market for all three of them too considering location. It’s obvious the Marlins are trying to go all out for all three with the trades we have made. I’m not against it at all; I just wish we would have committed to this sooner and added some complimentary pieces to the pool money in the event our bid fails, especially with Barraclough. These next few weeks should be really interesting.
Colby Olson: Yes. I believe the Marlins will do anything necessary to land Víctor Víctor. This is their chance to replenish their farm system without going through the draft. I think landing all three is the true goal for the Marlins though. These are very exciting times for the Marlins as their future weighs heavily on signing the Mesa brothers and Gastón.
Danilo Santos: Initially it seemed like a long shot that the Marlins were going to get all three. However, after trading Barraclough and Lillie it seems more likely. The Marlins are still roughly $700,000 short of the Orioles, but there should be a trade in the coming days to make up the gap. This new ownership group is making a strong push at acquiring all three and if they succeed it’ll be one of the first step in mending a relationship with the fanbase.
2. Which Marlins rookie(s) from 2018 do you think have the brightest future?
David Phillips: Have to go with Brinson. It may take a few years till we see it. It may happen on another team, but he has the highest ceiling. Alcántara is a close second and can be an impact reliever at the very least.
Mitch Custer: Lewis Brinson was my bet for Marlins RoY at the beginning of 2018. He didn’t meet expectations, but he came back at the end of the year having made significant adjustments and showed some serious improvement.
He is still so toolsy, and I think he’s one good hitting coach away from taking the league by storm. And if he had two natural outfielders in right and left, he could easily win a Gold Glove. Write that down. After that, I’m looking to Pablo López to be the bell-cow in the rotation next year. He’s big and he’s smart, and once that shoulder mends, we should begin to see him come into his own.
Red Garcia: My heart says Brian Anderson, my fanhood wants me to say Brinson, but my eyes tell me it will be one of the starting pitchers.
Luis Davila: I’m between Lewis Brinson and Pablo López. While many have abandoned the Brinson bandwagon, his toolset and previous professional success should not be ignored. 2019 will be a decisive year for me on Brinson. With Pablo, I think he has a much higher ceiling than many evaluators have cared to give him. He‘s flashes a very nice breaking ball in this previous season and if he can find consistency with that pitch it will help keep hitters off his two-seam fastball and allow him to be more aggressive up in the zone. His pinpoint command is what has me the most excited. The fact that his breaking ball could become a legitimate third pitch really seals the deal for me.
Jason Banta: Fans saw flashes of upside in the form of three rookie pitchers in Sandy Alcántara, Pablo López, and Trevor Richards and it’s quite possible that it’s one of the three, but I’m going to go with Lewis Brinson. The tools are loud and he’s made adjustments at every professional step along the way. The strikeouts have to decline and the walks have to rise, but I believe in the 24-year-old’s ability to find his way. López and Brian Anderson look to be the type of solid contributors that aren’t necessarily flashy, but do their jobs well.
Ian Smith: I’m quite torn here between two starting pitchers who are vital to the Marlins future, Trevor Richards and Sandy Alcántara. To some surprise, I’m leaning towards Richards. He finally entered the MLB rotation this season and tossed quite possibly the best changeup in the majors. 15.1 wCH (changeup runs above average) ranked second in the MLB (min. 100 IP) along with a low 90s fastball that he can put anywhere. Wins weren’t there in 2018, but who counts wins anymore? The 126 innings were the most he’s pitched at any level while tied for the team lead in strikeouts at 130 was more then encouraging. An effortless, repeatable delivery paired with a rotation spot going forward offers Richards a quality career.
Cornelius Thomas: Austin Dean and [not a MLB rookie, but new to the Marlins organization] Jorge Guzman are my favorites. Dean’s metrics scream a flat out hitter and I think a guy that can hit for average and power is the hardest thing to find today. Dean has shown that his hit tool is legit but where I think he stands out is his advanced plate discipline and bat to barrel skills. His consistency in these areas will lend him to limited slumps and higher acumen at bats if given the chance in the future. Yes, I know he’s extremely unathletic but bats of that proficiency are huge for a team in the rebuild phase.
Jorge Guzman natural arm strength entices me to believe. Because his delivery is clean I think he can over come the command issues he experienced in High-A this past season. Even in a terrible season for him, batters hit under .240 against him which speaks to just how explosive his stuff is. There’s a real advantage to having an 80 grade fastball starting the game for you and even in an age of “bullpenning” to have a guy with this type of velo puts a strain on hitters that have to face him for multiple turns in the lineup.
Ethan Budowsky: There are two options that come to mind and they are Lewis Brinson and Pablo López. I understand that Brinson struggled in 2018 and the start to his career was very discouraging, but he has too much talent stored somewhere in that athletic build of his to not bring it out and be a good player. He played pretty solid defense out in center this year and I think that is something to build on. Even though the numbers at the plate weren’t good, we saw improvements in his approach and just the way he was making contact. He can drill the ball at times and will continue to do so in the future. Brinson may not end up being the superstar we expected, but I think you can rely on him being a good center fielder in the bigs going forward. López is the obvious answer based on performance, though. He was great after earning a spot in the rotation in July and was probably the biggest surprise in the system this year after coming over from the Mariners. I love Pablo and have since we acquired him and he started dealing, and I think he slots in well as the Marlins No. 3 or No. 4 starter in the future.
Alex Carver: If I had to pick one, it’d be Trevor Richards. Coming from virtually nothing this guy has risen to the occasion and then some as a minor leaguer and as a Marlin. With one of the best changeups in baseball to work off of and also adding in respectable heat due to good late bite, he’s a third pitch away from becoming ace material. Limits damage, knows his limitations and stays composed. Also has the beginnings of a nice tight spinning curve with good downward action. That pitch should be his main focus this offseason and in camp. If it shows improvement in camp, I think he starts Opening Day. And considering what he did this year, I’d bank on him rising to that occasion as well.
Colby Olson: This is a very difficult question. Trevor Richards seems like the correct answer. He has the best changeup in baseball and one of the best pitches in baseball period if you go off of FanGraphs pitch values, but I am not sure if there is much to be excited about with Richards—he is always going to be a guy with a high floor and I can see him producing 2-3 WAR for the foreseeable future. I don’t think you can ignore the upside with Lewis Brinson. He has the tools to be a superstar and if everything clicks for him, then he could be among the top 20 players in baseball. That’s something to be excited about, so the answer is that Richards will definitely produce quality seasons for the Marlins, but Brinson has a chance to completely change the Marlins.
Danilo Santos: I’d love to pick Lewis Brinson, but I don’t think he’ll come close to matching his potential, therefore I think Brian Anderson and Pablo López will have the brightest future. If Anderson is able to develop a little bit more power, he appears to be Miami’s third basemen of the future. Pablo López’s season ended on a sour note [shoulder injury] but he made strides on the mound and had flashes of brilliance. While he may not possess ace talent, I think he does have number two pitcher potential.
3. Fill in the blank: J.T. Realmuto signs an extension with the Marlins if they offer at least $__ million.
David Phillips: I don’t think the Marlins would be wise to extend a catcher, but if I were J.T. Realmuto, I’d take anything five years and $90 million. It’s such a volatile position, how could you not accept?
Mitch Custer: If he takes a one-year renewal, he should get $5.6 million. The only decent comp I could find through a pretty cursory search was Yasmani Grandal. Yaz got $5.5 in an almost identical Arb 2 platform year. With an average fWAR of 3.575, using a conservative $/WAR estimate of $8 million per 1.0 fWAR, a long-term contract with an AAV of $28.6 million is theoretically a fair offer for J.T. However, no catcher has ever even gotten close to that—Yadier Molina holds the highest current AAV among catchers with $20 million, followed by Buster Posey just shy of that. If the Marlins want to convey to J.T. that he truly is the cornerstone of this franchise, I think they offer him $72 million over four years ($18M AAV).
Red Garcia: Best catcher in baseball deserves best money—$160 million should do the trick.
Luis Davila: $150M for six years is where I’d think Realmuto would take a deal. Do I think the Marlins should offer anywhere near that? No. I don’t like the idea of committing to that type of contract at this stage of the rebuild. Realmuto is currently in his prime and likely will become an expensive player. In my opinion, the Marlins should have made the [rumored] deal with the Nationals for Víctor Robles at the trade deadline this year. I’d say Houston will be the favorites to land Realmuto in the current trade market.
Jason Banta: Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball and likely deserves an extension somewhere in the $150-$170 million ballpark. With that said, I don’t believe the Marlins will be the team to offer that to him. It’s certainly plausible that we’ve seen his last game in a Marlins uniform as he could return quite a package of impactful talent in the form of prospects this winter.
Ian Smith: The deal I would offer is six years, $118 million: first four years annually at roughly 16mil, with 20+ the last two years. This deal is firmly between the Yadier Molina and Buster Posey extensions. I feel it benefits both sides greatly, giving the Marlins the chance to have Realmuto through majority of his prime while still giving him the ability to get another lucrative deal after.
Cornelius Thomas: Three years, $90 million. That’s the only deal I can do. Catcher is such a high risk position, yet J.T is in outstanding condition, so I am secure with the commitment to JT. I theoretically am against long-term deals with players that are 28 and over, so this is not an indictment on his future capability, but a principalistic valuation.
Ethan Budowsky: I honestly don’t know enough about contract situations and how much a catcher at his age with his talent is worth to give you a figure here, but I really don’t think the Marlins can afford to overpay. I love Reamuto, but I’ve always been the conductor of the “Trade J.T.” train. The Marlins can get such a great haul for the catcher and could even possibly bring back a top 10-15 prospect. If the Marlins can’t get J.T. at their number, I say move forward and go on the pursuit of the haul that should have come back around deadline time.
Alex Carver: As much as I like J.T., headed into his age-27 season, I don’t think he’s viewed as the guy the organization is willing to build around. Similarly, if I’m J.T., I’m at the place in my career where I want to start winning, not stay the course with a rebuild that is going to take at least two more years. I think his name gets thrown around a lot at the winter meetings and a deal for a top 10 prospect plus gets done sometime around Christmas.
Colby Olson: Realmuto would demand somewhere around five years and $125 million. He can hit, defend and run, which is very impressive from the catching position. When looking at his career path so far, there are a lot of similarities to Yadier Molina’s career, who signed his own five-year deal with the Cardinals coming off his age-30 season. Realmuto is even younger and has shown he is as consistent as anyone in baseball right now.
Danilo Santos: I think a fair offer for J.T. is six years for $115 million. J.T. is one of the few Marlins that are irreplaceable because of how difficult it is to find a catcher who’s good defensively and offensively. I don’t see the marlins offering him such a deal early on because the team is still in the early stages of its rebuild.
4. In no particular order, what’s your projected 2019 Opening Day rotation?
David Phillips: Ureña, Alcántara, López, Smith and Chen. The first two are locks. Chen probably makes it because of his effectiveness at home and the money owed him. Smith was the Marlins’ best pitcher before he went down. López and Richards will be the leading contenders for the final spot, but López wins out because he has a better pitch mix and showed good control in the minors.
Mitch Custer: Ureña, Straily, Richards, López, Alcántara. Put Chen, Caleb Smith, and Dillon Peters in the bullpen and let them develop into our Collin McHugh and Charlie Morton.
Red Garcia: Trevor Richards, Sandy Alcántara, Pablo López, a veteran and either Gallen/Neidert/Guzman.
Luis Davila: José Ureña, Sandy Alcántara, Pablo López, Trevor Richards, Nick Neidert, Wei-Yin Chen. I think a six-man rotation makes the most sense for the 2019 Marlins and it would allow them to ride Chen’s success at home and avoid pitching him on the road. While I loved Caleb Smith early this season, I’m not entirely confident he’ll bounce back from shoulder surgery the same. Should he do so, he would be in the rotation and then Neidert continues his progression through the minor leagues in Triple-A New Orleans.
Jason Banta: I would expect Pablo López, Sandy Alcántara, and Trevor Richards to lock down three of the spots barring something unforeseen. José Ureña was stellar down the stretch in five September starts and I would expect him to be a part of the rotation as well. That last spot is up for grabs depending what the Marlins want to do. It’s likely a veteran for the Opening Day rotation, and I’ll default to Wei-Yin Chen for now. But we will see several dudes get opportunities in this rotation throughout the 2019 season.
Ian Smith: My hope is a six-man rotation: José Ureña, Trevor Richards, Sandy Alcántara, Pablo López, Wei-Yen Chen, and eventually Caleb Smith in May sometime. It gives three of your best pitching prospects a chance at 30 starts and gives Chen a chance to continue his tremendous Home success. The spring will be surprising with five or so more starters having a chance to make the rotation (Brigham, Peters, Gallen, Neidert, etc.), but expect those names later in the year. 2019 could be the year we see what we truly have in our pitching staff.
Cornelius Thomas: Ureña, López, Alcántara, Richards, and Smith are my preferred rotation. This is entirely dependent on the health status of Caleb Smith. Caleb’s performance, for me, was the most effective as his K/IP ratio were strong and teams struggled to hit him. His upside may be moderate, but his stability presents the necessary piece to finalize a solid rotation. His reliability helps to alleviate the burden on Ureña and Richards to uphold the staff.
Ethan Budowsky: Ureña, López, Richards, and Alcántara are all locked in for next season. What the Marlins do with that 5th spot is gonna be the interesting thing to me at this point. I’m very high on Pablo and Alcántara, I think they have long term play in this rotation and are guys we could see on these hypothetical “2023 World Series Champions” rosters that we dream up everyday on Twitter. Richards has yet to prove that to me, but you can’t deny how fantastic that changeup is and even if he doesn’t play well long term as a starter, that changeup is so disgusting it could play incredibly well out of the ‘pen. I guess you give it to Chen, but at this point, I’d rather just DFA him and get him all the way away from this team. I think the Marlins could go with a guy like Zac Gallen as a holdover until Caleb Smith gets back, and I think that’s a good idea because I would really like to see what Gallen can do in the big leagues. I expected him to make an appearance there in 2018, but he never did.
Shout out Zac Gallen, Brady Puckett, Ryan Lillie, Josh Roeder, etc. https://t.co/g1edTtspqU— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) August 25, 2018
Also, if Nick Neidert has a good spring training I don’t see any reason to hesitate on bringing him to the big squad. He was so good in Double-A Jacksonville last year that I think he earned himself the right to pitch in the bigs. If he doesn’t have a good spring, give him some more time in Jax or NOLA, and let him find his way to the bigs over the course of the season.
Alex Carver: Richards, Ureña, Alcántara, López, Chen. Once Smith comes back, I put him at five and limit Chen to home and spot starts. Maybe even use him in a swing man role.
Colby Olson: Trevor Richards, José Ureña, Sandy Alcántara, Wei-Yin Chen, Pablo López. Look out for Neidert to enter the rotation at some point next season. Straily will be eating innings at some point because he is a very cheap option on a losing team. There is going to be a lot of movement in the rotation next season. There are a lot of guys competing for limited spots, so whoever stays healthy and performs is going to play.
Danilo Santos: Sandy Alcántara, Trevor Richards, Pablo López, Wei-Yin Chen and Caleb Smith if he’s healthy. If not, we could see Dillon Peters hold his place until Smith returns from injury. As well as Ureña was to end the season, I don’t think neither him nor Dan Straily will be with the Marlins come 2019. I think they should sign a low-cost veteran pitcher to join the starting rotation for 2019, but unless Nick Neidert or Zac Gallen have a phenomenal spring training, they’ll both be on the NOLA rotation to open 2019.
5. World Series prediction?
David Phillips: See 2017. Been saying it all year: no one is stopping the ‘Stros.
Luis Davila: Houston AL, Milwaukee NL, Houston WS.
Jason Banta: Astros vs. Dodgers in a rematch with the same result as the Astros repeat as World Series champions. Would guess that it doesn’t go the full seven games this time around.
Ian Smith: Starting the playoffs, this wasn’t my choice, but I see a Brewers/Astros World Series. Houston winning in 5 games becoming the first back-to-back champions since the Yankees three-peat (‘98, ‘99, ‘00).
Cornelius Thomas: Astros vs. Dodgers: Part Deux. Astros win, the GS Warriors Of Baseball.
Ethan Budowsky: Can I still say the Cubs? Ugh. Astros-Dodgers II. Astros in 6. They’re built for October, Verlander is one of the best of our generation, and their bats are beginning to come alive at the right time. As long as it’s not the Brewers, though, I don’t really care.
Alex Carver: Milwaukee vs. Boston. Milwaukee in 7.
Colby Olson: Red Sox vs. Milwaukee. Red Sox in 6 at home. Go Sox!!
Danilo Santos: In a rematch of last year’s World Series, I predict the Dodgers will finally win the World Series in 7.
Read Marlins coverage from David, Mitch, Red, Luis, Jason, Ian, Cornelius, Ethan, Alex, Colby and Danilo here on Fish Stripes. Their additional contact info is on the masthead.