Early on in Bruce Sherman’s tenure as principal owner, the Miami Marlins rarely spent big money on MLB free agents. That has gradually begun to change. There’s been an influx of cash via local and national revenue streams, and Miami’s player development system has not been able to provide sufficient homegrown talent to address every roster need. Lousy contracts inherited from the Jeffrey Loria era have all come off the books, leaving Sherman with no more excuses to justify a frugal approach.
When the Fish take substantial financial risks to outbid other teams for available veteran players, how does it pan out for them? Predictably, the results have been mixed.
I have listed all of the MLB free agents who have signed with Sherman’s Marlins for at least $5 million guaranteed. The plan is to update this regularly when new signings cross that threshold.
$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.
García’s first season with the Marlins was basically a worst-case scenario (.224/.266/.317, 66 wRC+, -0.6 fWAR in 98 G). He missed time with injuries and somehow made their offense even less productive. He was noticeably overweight, though the bigger concern moving forward is the quality of his swing decisions (constantly chased pitches outside the strike zone in 2022).
At least for the early portion of 2023, García is expected to get the opportunity to demonstrate that he still merits everyday playing time.
OF Jorge Soler
$36,000,000 guaranteed at signing
A back injury sidelined Soler for the majority of his first season in Miami. Even when healthy, the Marlins weren’t quite getting their money’s worth (.207/.295/.400, 98 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR in 72 G). It also seems as if they overestimated the marketability of the Cuban-born World Series MVP. Soler had the opportunity to opt out of the final two years and $24 million of the deal, but felt that he wouldn’t get a better offer elsewhere.
Compared to 2022, the Marlins should have more flexibility moving forward to use Soler as a designated hitter. Perhaps that will help him avoid the IL.
$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. That does not factor in his struggles batting with runners in scoring position.
INF Jean Segura
$17,000,000 guaranteed at signing
Segura received a smaller payday than most outlets projected at the onset of the 2022-23 offseason. Can he continue to be a consistent pest at the plate while adapting to a new defensive position?
RHP Johnny Cueto
$8,500,000 guaranteed at signing
The first starting pitcher to sign a major league free agent deal with the Fish during Sherman’s tenure, Cueto has a club option for 2024. If exercised, he can make $16.5 million total over the next two seasons.
RHP Anthony Bass
$5,000,000 guaranteed at signing (Marlins paid $2,928,571)
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.
But bullpen guys are notoriously volatile. Bass rebounded with the finest half-season of his career in 2022. He was suddenly on the short list of most reliable setup men in the majors. The out-of-contention Marlins saved some dough and acquired intriguing prospect Jordan Groshans in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays.
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).