Marlins fans have always been deprived of true “lifers” to root for. Imagine a high-quality player making his MLB debut, reaching his peak and riding off into the sunset as a crafty veteran, all while donning a Fish uniform. So simple yet so foreign to us! How about dialing it up another notch: What if the Marlins had a legitimate superstar to call their own from start to finish? They have been closer than you might realize to making that happen.
This article will revisit the careers of three special players who were once the gold standard at their respective positions. With so many variables involved, we won’t speculate about how their presence may have impacted the Marlins’ competitiveness and decision-making. But we can closely approximate what their individual production would’ve been by using Stathead to convert their stats to the South Florida run environment one season at a time.
Was he ever a Marlin? Nope.
Why not? The Giants (No. 5 overall) selected one spot ahead of Florida (No. 6) in the 2008 MLB Draft and Buster Posey was the best player available to them. Who was the Marlins first-rounder that year? Fellow catcher Kyle Skipworth (four career major league plate appearances, no longer active).
How could’ve things gone differently? The Marlins were a worse team than the Giants the previous season, as reflected by their run differential and head-to-head record. They deserved the higher pick! Inexplicably, though, the Fish surged to win five of their final six meaningless games—while San Francisco lost four of five—to finish with identical 71-91 marks.
What if Posey Played for the Marlins?
Stathead believes Posey’s offensive output would have improved across the board, thanks to more walks and extra-base hits, if he wasn’t confined to home games at the hitter’s hell of AT&T/Oracle Park. With these converted stats, the Florida State product would be the franchise’s all-time leader in hits, doubles, games played and innings caught (and very likely Wins Above Replacement, too).
Was he ever a Marlin? For a few minutes—Florida selected Johan Santana with the second pick in the 1999 Rule 5 Draft.
Why didn’t he stay?! A trade had been prearranged. The Marlins wanted right-hander Jared Camp, but because he was widely regarded as the best player available, they had to do business with the Twins, bundling Santana with $50,000 cash to get Camp.
How could’ve things gone differently? All these Rule 5 guys are fringy, anyway. What if the Marlins just stood pat in their draft spot and hoped for the best? They settle for Santana, who would have received an opportunity to prove himself in Spring Training. As it turns out, Camp never saw regular season action for the Fish, or any other MLB team—they got rid of him prior to 2000 Opening Day when manager John Boles needed a roster spot to reward outfielder Mark Smith for his red-hot spring, according to the Miami Herald. In hindsight, it’s a head-scratcher because Smith had a minor league option to use (whereas Rule 5 picks do not) and this created an imbalanced roster of 11 pitchers and 14 position players. Maybe Santana would have made a better first impression on Boles than Camp did.
What if Santana Played for the Marlins?
In real life, Santana spent most of his career in the American League, so keeping him away from designated hitters from start to finish would have helped his earned run average. Even more so than Posey, the Venezuelan left-hander would place atop the Marlins franchise list in virtually every counting stat.
Was he ever a Marlin? Uh...
Why didn’t he stay?! Uh...
How could’ve things gone differently? The Marlins, according to then-president David Samson, began shopping Miguel Cabrera a full two-and-a-half years prior to his free agency because the lack of progress on a new ballpark arrangement made them uncomfortable committing to him on an eight-figure extension like the Tigers ultimately did. As we know now, unfortunately, Samson and Jeffrey Loria never recognized the intangible value that a consistent face of the franchise can generate. So even if they had signed Cabrera through his prime and beyond, it is impossible to trust that he would have remained in Miami.
Miggy has DH’d 199 times for Detroit since the trade, which wouldn’t have been possible in the National League. I guesstimated that in 149 of those games (approximately three-quarters), the Marlins would have started him in the field, he’d be benched/injured for 25 games and limited to pinch-hitting for the remaining 25. Overall, that costs him 187 plate appearances.
He’s a no-doubt Hall of Famer regardless.