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Marlins Payroll: 2020 arbitration eligibles, Castro’s club option

The Marlins head into the new year with a relatively cheap arbitration class and only two veterans locked in to substantial contracts.

RHP José Ureña is due a slight raise in arbitration despite missing half of the 2019 season with a back injury.
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The best MLB teams tend to be those with relatively large payrolls and elite players signed to efficient deals. The Marlins have a long way to go to reach that point. In the meantime, on the 15th day of each month, we will check in on their current commitments and upcoming decisions, and bring in some historical perspective as well.

Last Wednesday, MLB Trade Rumors published their annual arbitration salary projections. Marlins who are arb-eligible for the 2020 season have been listed below, along with MLBTR’s projections (2019 salaries in parentheses):

  • José Ureña—$4 million ($3.2 million)
  • Adam Conley—$1.6 million ($1.125 million)
  • Héctor Noesí—$900,000 ($800,000 pro-rated)
  • JT Riddle—$900,000 ($560,000)

Perhaps the safest pick in the world of MLB betting is that Noesí will not return to Miami. He posted an 8.46 ERA and 6.39 FIP in 27.2 IP as a late-season call-up and turns 33 years old this winter, so he offers little upside. Also, parting ways with him would create much-needed space to protect prospects who are vulnerable to the Rule 5 Draft.

I am not as sure about Riddle’s status. Seems like ancient history, but the University of Kentucky product entered the 2019 season in a shortstop platoon with Miguel Rojas. From there, though, his strikeout rate swelled dramatically and he still doesn’t demonstrate the kind of defensive versatility that teams covet from non-full-time players. The potential pay raise would not scare the Fish—it’s more about the temptation to search for an alternative who better complements their roster.

Though the sexy fastball velocity is still there, Conley never had any significant stretch of above-average performance during the entire year. Even adjusting for some bad luck (.337 xwOBA vs. .379 wOBA), his arbitration salary wouldn’t be justifiable.

Expect the wiry lefty to be non-tendered.

As unsteady as Ureña looked in September, his track record—league-average starter in 2018, no serious arm injuries—makes him worth retaining.

In any case, the Marlins will be spending less on arbitration-eligible players than they did the previous year with Conley, Ureña, Miguel Rojas and the since-released Dan Straily.

2020 Guarantees

  • Wei-Yin Chen—$22 million
  • Miguel Rojas—$5.125 million*
  • Starlin Castro—$1 million buyout

*Assumes that Rojas’ extension pays him the same salary in 2020 and 2021 (still unconfirmed)

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

To clear up any confusion about Chen, his contract contains a 2021 vesting option that requires 180 innings pitched in 2020 or 360 combined in 2019 or 2020. Chen has averaged just 89.5 innings per season as a Marlin, including 68 13 last season. In other words, this ain’t happening—it’s more likely that he’ll be released prior to Opening Day (Chen would be owed $22 million regardless).

Shortly after the World Series, the Marlins will formally decline Castro’s $16 million club option. Despite being the best hitter on the roster over the final three months of the season, he wouldn’t have the leverage to negotiate a salary that high in free agency. Besides, he’s an awkward fit in Miami considering that Isan Díaz and Brian Anderson are viewed as everyday players at second base and third base, respectively.

Pending free agents: Curtis Granderson, Bryan Holaday, Martín Prado, Neil Walker, Castro (buyout)

RosterResource factors in $13.875 million to be used to fill out the Marlins active roster with pre-arb players (Díaz, Anderson, etc.) and notes that $3 million is headed to the Yankees as part of the Giancarlo Stanton trade. I’m assuming Ureña and Riddle will be tendered contracts while Conley and Noesí will not.

Of course, the Marlins are prepared to make some investment in the free agent market, but in the meantime...

Estimated 2019 Marlins payroll: $77.0 million

Projected 2020 Marlins payroll (as of Oct. 15): $49.9 million