It’s not quite a mandate, but not far off: the Miami Marlins must be better in 2022 than they were this season. The organization earned some leeway from its fanbase by snapping a 17-year postseason drought, only to squander it with a cheap, unimaginative winter and perplexing in-season maneuvers. The Fish finished with a 67-95 record, spared from a last-place finish in the NL East thanks to a blatant Nationals tank job.
Improving upon 2021’s major league results is a low bar to clear. The Marlins were among the most unlucky MLB teams—they had the run differential of a typical 72-win team and a BaseRuns record of 74-88. Expect their winning percentage to go up.
The ultimate disappointment would be if the turbulent relationship between MLB owners and the players’ union prevents us from enjoying a “normal” 2022 season. But I will operate under the rosy premise that they’ll be able to finalize a new collective bargaining agreement before things get too messy (though there’s inevitably a work stoppage on the horizon). Let’s just focus on events that the Marlins themselves have some control over.
This article will explore a realistic worst-case scenario for the Marlins offseason. In subsequent ones, I’ll map out the best-case scenario for them, followed by a simulation of what I think they’ll actually do.
A disappointing Marlins offseason would have these characteristics:
- Not signing more players to contract extensions—In four-plus years under new ownership, Miguel Rojas is the only Marlins player who’s been extended. The first deal turned out well and I’m confident that the second one will, too. However, stopping there would be a failure on multiple fronts. From an efficiency standpoint, it becomes more difficult to afford valuable players as they progress through their arbitration years. It would also be a public relations mistake. Why is the Marlins fanbase historically more apathetic than most? Because the team stinks and there’s no loyalty or continuity. What a bad look that ace Sandy Alcantara was floated as a possible trade candidate at the GM Meetings without any pushback from the organization. This non-committal approach sends the message that their young core isn’t talented enough to believe in long term.
- Ruling out qualifying offer recipients—There are 14 MLB free agents who got the $18.4 million qualifying offer. Practically all of them are expected to reject it and test the open market. Under current rules, the Marlins would need to forfeit their third-highest pick in the 2022 MLB Draft to sign any QO’d player. For context, the Marlins haven’t had their third-highest pick in any draft class reach the majors since Trevor Williams (class of 2013). If the threat of sacrificing that lottery ticket deters them from making a serious run at Nick Castellanos or Chris Taylor (among others), then they aren’t truly determined to contend. For what it’s worth, Kim Ng says she will factor in the draft compensation but keep an open mind.
- Discarding Loria-era holdovers—What do Brian Anderson, Edward Cabrera, Pablo López and Trevor Rogers have in common? They were originally acquired by the Marlins under the old regime. Fellow 40-man roster members Jerar Encarnación, Braxton Garrett, Sean Guenther, Jordan Holloway, Brian Miller and Cody Poteet also fall into this category. Ng and Derek Jeter can deny it all they want, but their front office has a bias against inherited players. Eagerness to replace them by bringing in their own guys—change for the sake of change—can get in the way of making the best baseball decisions.
- $67 million team payroll—In Major League Baseball, there is no such thing as “buying a championship,” but spending on proven players raises your floor. Armed with new local television and stadium naming rights deals, it is a near-certainty that the Marlins’ payroll will increase from its 2021 level (approx. $60M). Unless that increase is substantial, though, there will still be vulnerable parts of the team’s roster. The Marlins skeptics are justifiably worried about ownership setting a strict, insufficient budget or vetoing impactful moves that are recommended by baseball ops.
2021-22 Marlins Offseason Moves—Disappointing Edition
Free agent contract figures based closely on median values from Jon Becker’s 2021-22 MLB Matrices
- Sign free agent Avisail García to a three-year, $39 million contract
- Sign free agent Kenley Jansen to a two-year, $30 million contract
- Sign free agent Josh Harrison to a one-year, $4 million contract
- Sign free agent Andrew Miller to a one-year, $3 million contract (performance bonuses for total appearances)
- Sign free agent Asdrúbal Cabrera to a one-year, $1.75 million contract
- Trade Pablo López and Brian Miller to the Twins for Royce Lewis, Max Kepler and José Miranda
- Trade Kyle Nicolas, Kameron Misner and Luis Palacios to the Pirates for Jacob Stallings
- Trade Brian Anderson and Payton Henry to the Mariners for Edwin Arroyo and Andrés Muñoz
- Trade Garrett Cooper to the Padres for Samuel Zavala and Kevin Kopps
- Trade Richard Bleier to the Blue Jays for Philip Clarke and Elvis Luciano
- Trade Jon Berti to the Astros for J.C. Correa
- Trade Bryson Brigman to the Yankees for cash considerations
- Non-tender Jorge Alfaro
- Select pitcher TBD in major league phase of the Rule 5 draft
- Sean Guenther and Monte Harrison claimed off waivers; Paul Campbell and Daniel Castano clear waivers, outrighted to Triple-A Jacksonville
This would be the resulting Marlins 40-man roster:
Pitchers (20): Sandy Alcantara, Anthony Bass, Anthony Bender, Edward Cabrera, Dylan Floro, Elieser Hernandez, Jordan Holloway, Kenley Jansen, Elvis Luciano, Jesús Luzardo, Andrew Miller, Andrés Muñoz, Nick Neidert, Steven Okert, Zach Pop, Cody Poteet, Trevor Rogers, Sixto Sánchez, Zach Thompson, Rule 5 draft pick
Position Players (20): Jesús Aguilar, Lewis Brinson, Asdrúbal Cabrera, Jazz Chisholm Jr., Griffin Conine, Bryan De La Cruz, José Devers, Isan Díaz, Lewin Díaz, Jerar Encarnacíon, Nick Fortes, Avisaíl García, Josh Harrison, Alex Jackson, Max Kepler, Royce Lewis, José Miranda, Miguel Rojas, Jesús Sánchez, Jacob Stallings
My projected 26-man Opening Day active roster:
What would make this “disappointing”
What you see above is the byproduct of the Marlins being too cheap to pay a premium for players with recent track records of offensive excellence, a team that’s overprotective of their prospects and irrationally confident in its upper-minors guys being able to hit the ground running when called upon midseason.
Avisaíl García (in 2017) and Max Kepler (in 2019) have had only one season apiece in their careers of All-Star-caliber performance. Perhaps they would be banking on García to recapture that form with the comfort of unimpeded everyday playing time and Kepler to thrive by reuniting with James Rowson (previously the Twins hitting coach).
Correa to Miami! Problem is, it’s the other Correa brother who has not played above High-A yet.
Aside from Jacob Stallings and Lewin Díaz, the club’s defense would project to be ordinary at best. Good athletes in the outfield, but shaky instincts and fundamentals. Jazz Chisholm Jr. as the backup shortstop for Miguel Rojas again? Maybe they’d squeeze a reliever off the roster in order to fit José Devers.
Receiving a package of Kepler, breakout MiLB slugger José Miranda and former No. 1 draft pick Royce Lewis represents fair value for Pablo López. However, it’d be a shame to lose his quality innings without make a corresponding addition to the rotation.
How many games would the Marlins win in 2022 if they made these offseason moves?
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69 or less