Fans want the Marlins to win now. They have done since the first pitch was thrown way back in 1993—this is Miami we are talking about. They are as desperate as they have ever been, though, after a 57-105 record in 2019 marked the 16th consecutive year that the team did not make the playoffs. With a roster comprised of inexperienced youngsters and journeymen veterans, struggles were predicted, but seeing the team exceed 100 losses for just the second time in franchise history still hurt.
With a vastly replenished farm system, help is on the horizon, but the projected competitive window for the Marlins is around 2022. Complete rebuilds like this one do not happen overnight. As evident by the well-documented attendance numbers this past season—although there was a slight up-tick over 2018—casual fans are currently not satisfied. They are seeing the Marlins racking up the losses and thinking that, despite the ownership change in 2017 which brought so much excitement and promise, nothing has changed. They want the team to spend big money on good players so that they win now.
Speaking of money, Miami will have some extra cash to spare as Starlin Castro's and Martn Prado's combined $26 million salary in 2019 will be off the books for 2020. However, even if they choose to re-invest all of those funds and more, it would still be a tall order for the Marlins to break their playoff drought next season.
One or two big-name signings will not shift Miami's competitive window forward, so spending over $20 million a year on a power bat like José Abreu, for example, does not make much sense. Yes, Abreu would make the team slightly better by filling an area of need and would possibly entice a few more fans to the park considering that he is Cuban. He would also potentially take away valuable at-bats from prospects like the recently-acquired Lewin Díaz, and raise the expectations—and pressure—for the rest of the roster, most of whom are still trying to find their feet at the major league level. For rebuilding teams, big free agents are perfect for putting the finishing touches on an already competitive roster, not building one.
While they may not be looking to make a huge splash this winter, one signing which the Marlins may entertain is a relatively low-profile veteran starting pitcher in the one-year, $5 million/two-year, $10 million range. With a current projected Opening Day rotation of Sandy Alcántara, Caleb Smith, Pablo López, and Jordan Yamamoto/Robert Dugger (one will potentially land in a long-relief role), there will probably be a final place up for grabs given that the Marlins are seemingly waiting to see just a little more from some of their top prospects before giving them the nod.
A prime candidate in this situation would be Gio González, who went 3-2 with a 3.50 ERA over 87 1⁄3 innings as a 33-year-old in 2019. The Hialeah native was playing on a one-year deal for the Brewers worth $2 million. With 12 years of major league experience, he would be a mentor for all of the young arms on the team, just like how Prado was to the young hitters over the past few seasons.
All of this is not to say that the Marlins will—or should—be sitting on their hands all winter. They have an entire coaching staff to build under Don Mattingly, decisions to make regarding pending free agents and arbitration-eligible players, and they have to somehow fit a number of their top prospects onto the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 Draft. While this series of internal moves will not gain much attention or overly excite casual fans, they are pivotal pieces of the long-term rebuilding effort.
The time will come for big free agent signings, but not just yet.