The Marlins fanbase—for the most part—is still celebrating the additions of Cuban outfielder Víctor Víctor Mesa and Víctor Mesa Jr. The club controls the highly regarded Víctor Víctor through what figure to be his prime years, while attempting to develop his 17-year-old brother from the ground up.
On the surface, it looks like an amazing value:
Signing Víctor Víctor Mesa and Víctor Mesa Jr. ($6.25M total) costs less than Junichi Tazawa’s 2018 salary ($7M)— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) October 22, 2018
If you don’t use your international bonus pool, you lose it, and the Marlins didn’t have many realistic targets in Latin America. Relationships with those amateurs typically require years to build; the lack of international involvement under previous ownership put them at a disadvantage. So to lock up legitimate talent during the 2018-19 signing period comes as a very pleasant surprise.
However, let’s note that, beyond the $6.25 million paid to them in signing bonuses, the Marlins made several other sacrifices to get the Mesas. This should be viewed as an eight-player transaction that might take a decade to fully evaluate.
Trade No. 1 (July 31)
Leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline, reports trickled out, including from MASNSports.com’s Byron Kerr, that the Orioles were making a “huge push” for the Mesas. They hadn’t been declared free agents by MLB yet, but this indicated that the Marlins would need to be prepared for a bidding war.
Cameron Maybin conveniently found his groove in July after a lack of offensive impact for much of the first half. Miami found a willing trade partner in the Seattle Mariners, who had not totally fallen out of postseason contention at that point.
The Marlins unloaded the rest of Maybin’s salary and picked up $250,000 for their bonus pool and added breakout infield prospect Bryson Brigman.
They now had a total of $4,319,500 saved up.
Trade No. 2 (October 6)
The Mesas became eligible to sign in mid-September and wasted no time scheduling a showcase at Marlins Park in front of representatives for all 30 MLB teams.
The Fish took advantage of the access, arranging for them to meet Derek Jeter and other front office executives, customizing uniforms and lockers in the home clubhouse, and reportedly taking them out to dinner afterwards.
During that information-gathering process, the club must’ve came away with the understanding that, “Yup, we need more money.”
Trade No. 3 (October 10)
It’s one thing to lose a pending free agent and a fringy pitching prospect (MLB middle relief ceiling), but quite another to cash out on controllable major league assets.
The Marlins sold low on Kyle Barraclough. Just months removed from a sparkling earned run average and thought to be worth a substantial package of young talent, he became just another log thrown into the fiery Mesas pursuit. The Washington Nationals forked over $1 million in pool space...and nothing else.
That’s when the Orioles began to sense impending doom, with a source telling The Athletic’s Dan Connolly that their financial advantage had all but disappeared.
Trade No. 4 (October 16)
Not wanting to leave anything to chance, the Marlins got creative. They plucked outfielder Adonis Girón and left-hander Brayan De Paula from their Dominican Summer League affiliate, both so young and raw that the odds are stacked against them ever reaching the highest level. The Houston Astros valued these lottery tickets at $500,000 total.
Finally, they climbed the mountain (with a little help from the O’s spending on other international amateurs):
#MLB teams with the most money remaining in this international signing period:— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) October 16, 2018
The Marlins hoarded $2.5 million in recent months, and needed every bit of it to get the Mesa deals across the finish line. The alternative, more precise description of this process would be...
Marlins acquire Víctor Víctor Mesa, Víctor Mesa Jr. and Bryson Brigman for Cameron Maybin, Ryan Lillie, Kyle Barraclough, Adonis Girón and Brayan De Paula
Even I have been quick to label this a “win” for Miami given everything that the Mesas are expected to bring tangibly and intangibly. But considering all these variables, the final verdict is still many years away.