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Marlins decline to protect additional prospects on 40-man roster

Friday’s pre-Rule 5 draft deadline came and went without any transactions.

Double-A Pensacola outfielder Griffin Conine Photo courtesy of Pensacola Blue Wahoos

The Marlins did not make any major league roster moves on Friday, which in itself is newsworthy. It’s the first time since at least 2008 that the organization declined to select new players to its 40-man roster leading up to the annual pre-Rule 5 draft prospect protection deadline. I say since 2008 because that’s as far back as the transactions page goes on the Marlins’ official website—this “streak” was likely even longer. Griffin Conine, Bryson Brigman and Jefry Yan are among the Rule 5-eligible players who remain on the outside looking in.

As a reminder, catchers Nick Fortes and Payton Henry would’ve also been Rule 5-eligible had the Marlins not called them up in mid-September. Although admittedly awkward, don’t take Miami’s quiet deadline as a sign that the farm system is suddenly bereft of talent. Unlike most MLB teams, their 40-man is currently full, requiring corresponding moves to make any more additions.

The Brewers were the only other team that didn’t select any new prospects this week (their farm system is considered to be much weaker than the Marlins’).

Certainly the “biggest name” impacted by this is Conine. He was in contention for the Minor League Baseball home run title throughout 2021, splitting the season between High-A Beloit and Double-A Pensacola. For his MiLB career, Mr. Marlin’s son boasts an elite 137 wRC+...and a troubling 35.8 K%. Players with his contact issues and lack of defensive versatility rarely get picked in the major league phase of the Rule 5, and his flaws were exploited after the promotion to Double-A (86 wRC+, 47.4 K% in 173 PA). He didn’t exactly light the world on fire during Fall Development Camp at LoanDepot Park, either.

On the other hand, the 24-year-old possesses an exceptional ability to hit for power to all fields. His makeup and work ethic are also highly regarded. Opposing teams in the midst of their own rebuilds may be so attracted to his long-term potential that they’re unconcerned about his 2022 production. He’s almost universally ranked as a Top 30 Marlins prospect (though I have him barely hanging onto that distinction).

The Marlins didn’t give up much to acquire Conine in the first place—just the expiring contract of Jonathan Villar—but losing him for nothing in the Rule 5 would undo all of that positive PR.

If it were up to me, I would have selected Conine and Brigman. If no appropriate trade opportunities presented themselves, the obvious corresponding moves would’ve been designating Jorge Alfaro and Lewis Brinson for assignment (they are non-tender candidates, anyway).

On the surface, leaving these players exposed looks like an unnecessary risk given all of the dead weight on the Marlins 40-man—not just Alfaro and Brinson, but Paul Campbell, Isan Díaz and Sean Guenther. However, it’ll be easier to judge once the dust settles at the end of the 2021-22 offseason.