Since Bruce Sherman, Derek Jeter and their group of investors seized full control of the Miami Marlins after the 2017 season, they have rarely spent big money on free agent players. Several factors have influenced their behavior—inheriting inefficient deals from previous ownership, limited attendance and local television revenue, trust in their homegrown players to perform well, COVID, etc. Decide for yourself whether or not those are valid excuses.
This article isn’t intended to praise nor admonish Marlins leadership: I’m just interested in the results. When the Fish take substantial financial risks to outbid other MLB teams for available players, how does it pan out for them?
I have listed all of the players on the open market who signed with the Sherman/Jeter Marlins for greater than $3 million guaranteed, including both major league and international free agents. The plan is to update this regularly when new signings fit that criteria.
$53,000,000 guaranteed at signing
García desperately wanted to play in Miami (where he had already made his offseason home). The Marlins desperately needed a solid bat. That led them to agree on a surprisingly lengthy contract: four guaranteed years plus a fifth-year club option.
The Marlins envision García as an everyday player who can contribute at any of the three outfield positions...at least on the front end of the deal.
$17,500,000 guaranteed at signing (later adjusted to $13,092,593; Marlins paid $10,402,052)
Dickerson’s best attribute during the 2020 regular season was his availability, ranking second on the Marlins with 52 games played for a roster ravaged by positive COVID tests and injuries. His power and left field defense were not as good as advertised, but you could make the case that he earned every cent of his pro-rated salary that year with a single swing in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series.
It was a similar story for Dickerson in 2021, except he had the misfortune of missing time with a left foot contusion. On June 29, midway through his IL stint, the Marlins traded the former All-Star to the Blue Jays. His contract was underwater by that point, so they attached approximately $2.65 million in cash along with reliever Adam Cimber in exchange for veteran infielder Joe Panik and prospect Andrew McInvale.
The FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference WAR formulas both viewed Dickerson’s performance as replacement level during his 115 Marlins games. You could make the case that his impact was even worse than that when factoring in his struggles batting with runners in scoring position.
$5,250,000 guaranteed at signing
The athletic Cuban received the largest signing bonus of the 2018-19 MLB international free agent class. He entered his first year in the U.S. as arguably the Marlins’ most promising young outfielder; now, it’s hard to make the case that he even belongs on the organization’s top 30 prospects list. He has struggled to hit at High-A (.656 OPS), Double-A (.373 OPS) and major league spring training (.368 OPS).
By continuing to excel defensively and with several lucky breaks, perhaps Víctor Víctor could reach the bigs in 2022 for a cup of coffee. His younger (and less expensive) brother, Víctor Mesa Jr., projects to have the far more productive career.
RHP Anthony Bass
$5,000,000 guaranteed at signing
The veteran right-hander’s contract includes a 2023 club option. His overall payout could max out at $7.75 million if that option is picked up and he finishes at least 50 games in 2022 (serves as Miami’s primary closer).
During his first season with the Fish, Bass posted a 3.82 ERA, 4.93 FIP and 1.29 WHIP in 70 appearances. Due to struggles in high-leverage situations, he ranked third-worst among all qualified MLB relievers in win probability added.
OF Adam Duvall
$5,000,000 guaranteed at signing (Marlins paid $1,297,297)
I feel that Duvall was properly appreciated during his half-season with the Marlins, but even more so after being traded to the rival Braves for Alex Jackson. While Jackson was striking out in half of his plate appearances, Duvall started in center field throughout Atlanta’s run to the 2021 World Series title.
Duvall was awarded the NL Gold Glove based on his brilliance as the Marlins right fielder. He tied for the team lead with 22 homers despite finishing the summer in a different uniform. He overcame shoddy on-base skills to be a valuable player (well-regarded for his impact off the field, too).
SS Yiddi Cappe
$3,500,000 guaranteed at signing
Cappe, like Mesa, was the crown jewel of one of Miami’s international signing classes. He finally made his Minor League Baseball debut in the 2021 Dominican Summer League.
It could take a long time before we find out whether Cappe was worth the money.
$3,250,000 guaranteed at signing (Marlins paid $2,166,674)
Maybin’s on-field production in 2018 was almost irrelevant—that team was destined to finish last in the National League East standings no matter what. The Marlins acquired him to be the quintessential placeholder in the aftermath of detonating their star-studded outfield.
However, Maybin recovered from a slow start to the season and hit well for much of July, just in time to be flipped to the Mariners at the trade deadline for prospect Bryson Brigman and bonus pool space. The 31-year-old indirectly helped the Marlins build for the future, plus they shifted a portion of his salary to his new employer.
RHP Brandon Kintzler
$3,250,000 guaranteed at signing (later adjusted to $1,361,111)
These two things can both be true: the Marlins got exactly what they hoped for out of Kintzler in 2020, but didn’t trust him to sustain it in 2021.
Kintzler ranked second among NL pitchers with 12 saves during the abbreviated, socially distanced season. Shutting the door for No. 12 also happened to be one of the most joyous moments in recent Marlins history.