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Marlins links, 10/2/18: J.T.’s future, ex-Marlins in the playoffs, top prospects in instructional league

Day 2 of the offseason. Are you missing Marlins baseball yet? Tuesday’s updates here.

Toronto Blue Jays v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Miami must make a decision on J.T.

Was Sunday the last time J.T. Realmuto will wear a Miami Marlins jersey? Derek Jeter and Co. must either convince him to accept a contract extension—locking up their best player—or trade him and continue to improve the minor league system in what The Athletic’s Andre Fernandez considers the Marlins’ most pressing decision of the offseason.

The 27-year-old just earned his first career NL All-Star selection. He hit a career-high 21 home runs and drove in a career-high 74 runs. Before struggling in the second half of the season, not only was he the best hitting catcher, but one of the top hitters overall.

The Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants set recent precedents for catcher extensions. In 2016, the Royals signed Salvador Pérez to a five-year, $52 million, and in 2013, Buster Posey signed for nine years, $167 million. J.T. figures to land somewhere in between on his next deal, whether it comes from the Marlins or another team.

Tested in 2018

Miami Marlins v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Entering the 2018 season, the Marlins were expected to struggle and secure a high draft pick. True to those low expectations, they ended the season 63-98, the fourth-worst record in all of baseball.

Don Mattingly expressed as much to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro.

“You see the guys you lose, and you know trying to replace that production in the first year of a build is going to be hard, realistically.”

After the Marlins traded the NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, the future NL MVP Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon, there wasn’t much hope for a winning season, let alone playoff baseball. Instead, the main objective of the summer was evaluating top prospects and gauging their long-term potential.

Marlins in the playoffs

Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

With the Marlins excluded from the playoffs for the 15th year in a row, fans could have a tough time choosing whom to support. Each of the 10 remaining teams have players who used to be Marlins! Ely breaks it down.

If all of them would’ve stayed on the Marlins, is it possible to assume that the Marlins would’ve made the playoffs by now?

Updated top prospect reports

The Marlins assigned many of their most talented minor leaguers to the instructional league in Jupiter.

Adam McInturff of 2080 Baseball was there to watch them in exhibition games. He wrote up detailed updates on right-hander Brady Puckett, shortstop José Devers and outfielder Thomas Jones.

Water under the bridge

Not only is Christian Yelich a slam dunk for 2018 NL MVP after having a breakout season with the Milwaukee Brewers, he flirted with the Triple Crown. Yelich finished with a career-best slash line .326/.402/.598 to go along with 36 HR and 110 RBI.

So why did the Marlins let him get away? The relationship between Yelich and the team took a bad turn last winter when the other stars were traded, so he made it known that he wouldn’t cooperate with the long rebuild (despite being under contract).

It was an uncharacteristically selfish move by Yelich. Craig Mish reports that he has since apologized for taking his frustration public.

With no more bad blood between them, does this allow Yelich to one day return back to Miami?