The Marlins decided Wednesday night to tender 2021 contracts to Jorge Alfaro, Brian Anderson, Adam Cimber, Yimi García and Richard Bleier as well as the other unsigned players on their 40-man roster. They already avoided arbitration with Jesús Aguilar by agreeing to a one-year, $4.35 million deal (plus $150,000 in performance bonuses) and with Garrett Cooper (one-year, $1.80 million with $250,000 on bonuses); Alfaro, Anderson, Cimber, García and Bleier will be eligible for arbitration unless they reach settlements of their own later this winter. Right-hander Ryne Stanek has been non-tendered.
Projecting salaries for arbitration-eligible players is trickier than usual this year, but MLB Trade Rumors is the gold standard for this niche. Here are the ranges that their model came up with for the aforementioned Marlins:
- Jorge Alfaro—$1.7M-2.2M
- Brian Anderson—$2.2M-4.3M
- Richard Bleier—$1.1M-1.5M
- Adam Cimber—$800k-$1.0M
- Yimi García—$1.4M-1.8M
Parting ways with Stanek and José Ureña—who remains in DFA limbo for the moment—will wind up saving Miami close to $5M, per MLBTR.
Aguilar’s first Marlins campaign was inarguably successful. He led the team in hits (52), runs scored (31) and unintentional walks (23) to go along with a .277/.352/.457 slash line.
But that was a small sample size. Stretching back to the beginning of 2019, he’s been approximately a league-average hitter (100 wRC+). Being at the bottom of the defensive spectrum and a baserunning liability, his contributions over that span were barely above replacement level (0.4 fWAR/0.2 rWAR). Considering that larger context and all of the rumblings from national reporters that we would see a record number of MLB non-tenders, I expected him to be a goner.
Instead, the Marlins, to the delight of Venezuelan countryman and teammate Miguel Rojas, gave Aguilar a substantial pay raise (he received a pro-rated $2.58M in 2020).
Let’s goooooooo !!!! Agui is back @JAguilarMKE congrats mi hermano— Miguel Rojas (@MRojasOfficial) December 3, 2020
Agreeing to a contract with an arb-eligible player does not ensure that he will be on the team for the upcoming season. All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto, for example, received a $5.9M commitment from the Marlins entering 2019, only to be traded to the Phillies a few weeks later. That same year, the Fish released right-hander Dan Straily at the end of spring training. They were on the hook for only 45 days’ worth of his $5M salary (approx. $1.21M).
This is relevant in the cases of both Aguilar and Cooper because Major League Baseball still has not resolved the question of whether there will be a universal designated hitter next season. It appears likely, but must be negotiated between MLB and the players’ union. If there is a universal DH, these sluggers can co-exist with gifted first base prospect Lewin Díaz. Without those extra plate appearances to share, they’d be potential trade candidates.
Two months ago, I detailed the various issues that prevented Stanek from meeting expectations with the Fish. Perhaps they will consider keeping him around on a minor league deal (though he should have plenty of similar offers from around the majors). His non-tender creates one open spot on the 40-man roster.
Let’s say the Marlins made no additional trades or major league signings this offseason. Their projected 2021 payroll would be $58.5M, according to Roster Resource. That would be their lowest total for a full-length season since 2014.