In a series of tweets Monday morning, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported that the Marlins’ agreement with Avisaíl García does not preclude them from making another big free agent investment. Heyman specifically mentions Nick Castellanos, Eddie Rosario, Kyle Schwarber and Chris Taylor as players of interest to them. This ought to be an exhilarating moment for fans, seeing the team linked to established, above-average big leaguers despite their substantial price tags.
Here are the median contract projections for each player courtesy of Jon Becker’s 2021-22 MLB Matrices:
- Nick Castellanos—4.5 years, $84.5 million ($18.8M AAV)
- Eddie Rosario—1.0 years, $10 million ($10.0M AAV)
- Kyle Schwarber—4.0 years, $60 million ($15.0M AAV)
- Chris Taylor—4.0 years, $64 million ($16.0M AAV)
I am skeptical of the Marlins hitting those marks for Castellanos, Schwarber or Taylor. At least at this stage of the offseason, Castellanos and his super agent, Scott Boras, are seeking way more than the median, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.
If ownership actually does open up their wallet, Taylor is the most seamless fit. He is the only member of that quartet with competent center field skills, plus the flexibility to handle third base where the Marlins are currently relying entirely on Brian Anderson who’s coming off of left shoulder surgery. Forfeiting an early-round 2022 draft pick—as a result of Taylor declining his qualifying offer from the Dodgers—won’t deter Miami, as Kim Ng stated earlier this month.
But let’s get back to the other guys. Entering next season, Castellanos, Rosario and Schwarber are strictly corner outfield/designated hitter types (Castellanos struggled early in his career at third base and no longer has the arm strength for it, anyway; ditto for Schwarber at catcher, who attempted to play some first base in 2021...with hilariously bad results).
How would the Marlins make these bat-first veterans fit with their existing roster?
The simplest corresponding move would be trading Garrett Cooper or Jesús Aguilar (or both). Their 2021 campaigns ended with elbow surgery and knee surgery, respectively, and they’re nearing the end of their team-controlled years. Either departure would save money for the Marlins and open up hundreds of potential plate appearances at DH while putting trusts in Lewin Díaz to take over first-base duties. This would also be assuming that García plays a fair amount of center field to create more reps in the corner spots for Castellanos/Rosario/Schwarber with Jesús Sánchez in the opposite corner.
Problem No. 1 with that: It’d be a lousy defensive outfield, which is especially concerning at LoanDepot Park where the overwhelming majority of fly balls stay in the yard.
Problem No. 2: The universal DH rule is not official yet! The Marlins won’t be making an expensive multi-year signing with the hope of a DH coming in the new MLB collective bargaining agreement, and I think the sentiment goes both ways—players of this stature seek guarantees that they’ll be everyday starters.
The 500-ish words above lead us into a Jesús Sánchez discussion, because the Marlins’ pursuit of these bats does not totally pass the smell test unless they are willing to trade him.
After a dud of a major league debut with the Fish in 2020, Sánchez responded with a very encouraging year. He pulverized Triple-A pitching during the early portion of 2021 (178 wRC+) to earn an extended audition at the highest level. Upon returning from an extended bout of COVID, he was the best hitter in the Marlins lineup (August 16 through season’s end). He produced equally well vs. right-handed and left-handed pitching and showed plus raw power at the tender age of 23.
That being said, there are red flags. Sánchez had extended stretches during his MiLB development where he was unable to elevate the ball, squandering his power by generating too many grounders. He’s overly aggressive at the plate, striking out in 31.8% of his MLB plate appearances mainly due to bad swing decisions. In small sample sizes, Sánchez rated as a net-positive in right field according to defensive runs saved and outs above average. From watching him closely, I came away far less impressed than those numbers suggest. He has the tools—particularly a cannon for an arm—to be effective, but the instincts aren’t there at all (awkward routes, missed cutoff men, etc.). How much can those habits be changed seven-and-a-half years into a player’s professional career?
Another important factor to consider: Jesús Sánchez is out of minor league options. For now, he should have wide appeal across the league (Baseball Trade Values estimates $8.9 million in surplus value). Unfortunately, the Marlins’ leverage could disintegrate rapidly if he slumps in early 2022 because of their inability to send him down to Triple-A.
Meanwhile, the Marlins have another wave of outfield prospects on the horizon led by JJ Bleday, Peyton Burdick and Kameron Misner (just to name my three favorites). They’re all approximately the same age as Sánchez without any of the roster restrictions (not even on the 40-man yet with three option years remaining). Bleday and Burdick are widely forecasted to be major league-ready during this upcoming season.
What I’m imagining is a scenario where the Marlins:
- Get Castellanos/Rosario/Schwarber/Taylor at a price they feel comfortable with
- Use Sánchez in a trade for a quality catcher, center fielder or closer
- Trust Bleday, Burdick and others to serve as in-season outfield depth when injuries inevitably open the door for them
Is that really so insane? Depends on how determined the franchise’s leadership is to contend for a postseason berth in 2022. Can’t blame them for prioritizing track record over potential if they’re trying to maximize wins.
Personally, I would be unhappy with a Jesús Sánchez trade (and most of my Fish Stripes staffers seems to agree). He’s got All-Star-caliber upside and a loooooong way to go until free agency. It’s dangerous to assume that the next outfielders in the Marlins pipeline will be able to make as much of an offensive impact in the majors. The Marlins should be willing to live with the growing pains for at least another year.
As mentioned up top, signing any one of Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber or Chris Taylor is a longshot because of self-imposed payroll constraints (prove me wrong, Bruce Sherman). Although Rosario is far more affordable, his skill set is very redundant with Sánchez’s.
Expect the Marlins to make additional meaningful upgrades to their 2022 team this offseason, but to do so via trades centered around younger prospects and surplus pitching.