Jazz Chisholm Jr. is one of the most electrifying talents in Major League Baseball. Jesús Aguilar leads the NL in runs batted in and has a lot of fun doing it. Sandy Alcantara is the ideal starting pitcher with his combination of pure stuff and competitiveness. Miguel Rojas genuinely loves Marlins fans and the feeling is mutual. I could go on: there are plenty of compelling players and storylines on the Fish.
But there are not enough. Given the composition of their active roster, it is unsurprising that the Marlins own a 7-14 record since the trade deadline and enter Saturday with a five-game losing streak.
This team is bad. Even worse, it is rudderless. Miami’s current collection of major league players complement each other poorly and the way that they’re being used is nonsensical. There’s no coherent goal. Winding down the fourth year of rebuilding since the ownership transition, their personnel decisions continue to show a perplexing lack of urgency.
This shit is unwatchable and unmarketable.
Jeter and Ng should be forced to sit in the dugout and watch these games lmao— TWM (@TakesWereMade_) August 21, 2021
Perhaps the simplest way to express my concerns is by contrasting the actual Marlins active roster with what it should be. There are seven changes that I would make right now to prioritize relatively young players who are being blocked at Triple-A.
For a team that allegedly is determined to be competitive in 2022, these dogs days of summer need to be treated as a serious evaluation period for guys who potentially matter. Use the games to determine whether or not your talented, controllable players fit into the Marlins’ long-term vision.
Further tinkering would be required down the stretch to accommodate the returns of several veterans from the injured list and to take advantage of September’s roster expansion, but this is what I’d do to prepare the team to play on August 21.
The only pending free agent on the Marlins pitching staff is Ross Detwiler. Set him free now. Based on Detwiler’s sneakily good April-June performance and his current scoreless streak, he would likely be claimed off waivers by a contending team, saving the Fish some cash in the process. Daniel Castano’s previous MLB experience and remaining minor league option might give him non-zero trade value in the offseason. The Marlins don’t trust the left-hander as a conventional starting pitcher (and rightfully so), but should be experimenting with him in multi-inning relief situations to better inform what next steps to take. Regardless, he’s a positive clubhouse presence.
Jesús Luzardo has followed up a semi-encouraging Marlins debut with back-to-back-to-back ugly starts that have all had a Game Score below 40. That is unusual. There is something seriously wrong with him. At an earlier stage of the rebuild, they could afford to have Luzardo take his lumps in the majors, but that’s inappropriate under current conditions considering their alternatives. Nick Neidert probably wakes up most mornings and doesn’t know which city he’s in—they have been jerking him back and forth between Miami and Jacksonville all season (with an injury in between). How about giving Neidert some semblance of job security and finding out whether his elite MiLB command translates to The Show?
Midseason pick-ups Bryan Mitchell and Austin Pruitt are nothing more than placeholders. You know the routine: DFA and outright them to Triple-A. If the Marlins are legitimately intrigued, invite them to 2022 spring training on incentive-laden minor league deals.
Tommy Eveld lost his Jumbo Shrimp closer’s gig during a July rough path, but has steadied himself since then. He joined the Marlins organization at the 2018 trade deadline and ranks among their leaders in games pitched over that span. Eveld turns 28 years old in December—time for him to sink or swim. Arguably Miami’s No. 1 overall prospect, gifted right-hander Edward Cabrera is ready for his first cup of coffee. Cabrera was ready last year but missed out due to an injury. He shares key attributes with Alcantara and would benefit from any time that they could spend together.
I laid out my thoughts on Jorge Alfaro weeks ago. His willingness to play multiple positions changes nothing. Even when his bat heats up, Alfaro provides mostly empty stats—few active players have worse career production in high-leverage situations. The Marlins do not intend to tender him a contract for 2022 and ought to pull off the band-aid now.
The Marlins touted Lewin Díaz as one of their best burgeoning position players entering 2020 spring training, yet have given him only 73 major league plate appearances. What’s the hold-up? Aguilar, who plays the same position, is arbitration-eligible this coming winter. Reducing his playing time even in a non-contending year would unjustly limit his salary for next season. The solution is to revisit contract extension talks that were reportedly had in July and guarantee his money. Make it two years, $13 million with a club option for 2024. That way the Marlins lock up Aguilar as their designated hitter and get clarity on whether Díaz can be trusted as their first baseman.
This doesn’t need to mean saying a final goodbye to Isan Díaz. Just option him in favor of the more well-rounded Bryson Brigman (several of the moves discussed above create 40-man roster openings for him). It is a terrible look for the organization that somebody like Brigman took it upon himself—without the infrastructure of the Marlins alternate site or big league spring training—to improve his game and still hasn’t been rewarded for it despite the club’s glaring infield depth issues.
The active MLB leader in career plate appearances without a home run, Magneuris Sierra would definitely clear waivers if DFA’d. The Marlins can keep him with the organization without denying Brian Miller his opportunity to better fill that speedy/contact-oriented outfielder role.
Over the last few years, the Marlins organization has steadily acquired and developed a substantial amount of major league-ready talent. On the journey to relevance, they are clearly ahead of the dregs of the league like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Texas and Arizona. But in order to stay ahead and continue ascending, they need to begin making tough decisions.