There’s no doubt about it: the Miami Marlins 2020 season has been a roller coaster. Not a smooth, family-friendly one like those you find at Magic Kingdom, but more like one of those haunting, physics-defying monsters you swear you’d never ride. After almost 10 months without baseball, they started the season at a high point, defeating the Phillies during a 3-game series in Philadelphia. That was immediately followed by an extreme low with the temporary loss of 18 players due to COVID-19 (plus the loss of their starting 2B who opted out of the season). Unexpectedly, however, the new team that they hastily assembled is not only competitive but actually led the widely feared NL East division entering play on Monday.
Throughout these ups and downs, there has been a silent hero: the Marlins’ baseball operations team. They were able to balance the desire to win games in the present with long-term priorities, like protecting their top prospects from having to start MLB service time clocks and making their major league debuts before they were actually ready. The league’s COVID-related rules for this season made these maneuvers possible, freeing up a spot on their 40-man roster whenever the virus impacts a player’s eligibility.
What happens when all of the COVID IL players come back though?
Ah well, about that…While new rules make it simple to add to the roster, they show no mercy when it comes to removing players. Just as before, if someone is removed from the 40-man roster, they need to be passed through waivers, putting them at risk of being taken by another club. Currently, the Marlins have an extreme surplus with 57 players on the 40-man roster.
On Sunday, the club announced that every single player who was infected got the green light from the MLB/MLBPA joint committee to return. They all reported to Jupiter to begin the process of returning to the diamond. Over the next couple weeks, Miami needs to make vital decisions—rearranging the 28-man active roster, and probably more importantly, determining who stays on the 40-man and who to designate for assignment.
Of the 57 players Miami has on their 40-man roster, they will be able to keep 42 since reliever Drew Steckenrider is on the 45-day IL and Isan Díaz is on the Restricted List (both of these lists allow the team to free up a spot). This leaves them with 15 extra players.
It isn’t as easy as removing all the players who they picked up during the COVID episode. Richard Bleier is said to have been wanted by Miami since before the season and he will remain under club control beyond 2020; Jesús Tinoco seems to be a long-term project,; and James Hoyt has been very effective coming out of the ‘pen. On the other hand, it’s safe to assume that journeymen such as Ryan Lavarnway, Nick Vincent and Sean Rodríguez are clearly not part of Miami’s plans for their future and will probably be designated for assignment as well.
Here is a list combining the current 28-man active roster and soon-to-be returning COVID players (#):
Plus, the following Marlins minor leaguers are on the 40-man but not the active roster entering Tuesday: Edward Cabrera, Jazz Chisholm, Lewin Díaz, Jorge Guzman, Humberto Mejía, Jesús Sánchez, Sixto Sánchez and Jesús Tinoco.
Who do you think should be removed? Do we say goodbye to any of the players coming back IL? Or should Miami show loyalty to them over the fill-ins? Will we see any trades of more familiar players to make room?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.