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.
I have already presented to you a disappointing alternate universe, one where they shy away from substantial long-term commitments and put unwarranted trust in neophytes.
Now, let’s get hopeful. To borrow a term from Fish Stripes alum Ethan Budowsky, let’s get “epic”.
My ideal Marlins offseason would have these characteristics:
- Extending unique talents—Sandy Alcantara has a propensity for constantly improving at his craft. He’s been steadily expanding his repertoire, sharpening his command and adding velocity, all while working deep into his starts and keeping his right arm in pristine health (as far as we can tell). Jazz Chisholm Jr. combines blazing speed and upper-deck power with an infectious enthusiasm for the game. He isn’t nearly as accomplished as Alcantara and doesn’t even have a well-defined defensive position yet, but if Chisholm figures it out, he can be iconic...not to mention pricey to retain via arbitration. Sign them both now and the Marlins would be swimming in surplus value.
- Assembling complementary pieces—This shouldn’t need to be emphasized, but you know exactly what I mean if you followed the 2021 season. The Marlins’ roster was mismanaged throughout the past year by the front office, filled with players who had redundant skill sets and lacked standout tools. Don Mattingly wasn’t provided with the appropriate personnel to use for basic platooning, and he was frequently forced to utilize his guys in foreign/uncomfortable positions in pursuit of adequate offense. It would be refreshing to see a coherent plan behind this winter’s acquisitions.
- $105 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). That alone is not sufficient: they must relocate into an entirely different financial zip code. Is it too much to ask for the Marlins to spend nine figures on major league players, relatively similar to the 2018 team that this ownership group inherited and still well below the league average? I think not! Derek Jeter’s infamous “Project Wolverine” business model projected a $118.7 million payroll for the 2022 season. However, that same document overshot the Marlins’ actual TV revenue and obviously didn’t anticipate a pandemic. I manually adjusted the payroll downward to reflect that.
2021-22 Marlins Offseason Moves—Successful Edition
Free agent contract figures based closely on median values from Jon Becker’s 2021-22 MLB Matrices
- Extend Sandy Alcantara on a five-year, $54 million contract ($15 million club option for 2027 with $5 million buyout)
- Extend Jazz Chisholm Jr. on a seven-year, $37 million contract
- Sign free agent Kris Bryant to a six-year, $142 million contract
- Sign free agent Starling Marte to a four-year, $70 million contract
- Sign free agent Leury García to a two-year, $8 million contract
- Sign free agent Tony Watson to a one-year, $2 million contract
- Trade Anthony Bass, Peyton Burdick and Dax Fulton to the Brewers for Josh Hader
- Trade Lewin Díaz, Kyle Nicolas and Cody Poteet to the Diamondbacks for Carson Kelly and David Peralta
- Trade Brian Anderson to the Rangers for Mitch Bratt, Dustin Harris and Yerry Rodríguez
- Trade Jon Berti, Elieser Hernandez and Ian Lewis to the Athletics for Chris Bassitt and Deolis Guerra
- Trade Braxton Garrett, Steven Okert, Tristan Pompey and Josh Roberson to the Mariners for Aaron Fletcher, Kaden Polcovich and Marcus Wilson
- Trade Isan Díaz and Colton Hock to the Royals for Lucius Fox
- Non-tender Jorge Alfaro and Lewis Brinson
- Monte Harrison claimed off waivers; Paul Campbell and Sean Guenther clear waivers, outrighted to Triple-A Jacksonville
This would be the resulting Marlins 40-man roster:
Pitchers (21): Sandy Alcantara, Chris Bassitt, Anthony Bender, Richard Bleier, Edward Cabrera, Daniel Castano, Aaron Fletcher, Dylan Floro, Deolis Guerra, Josh Hader, Louis Head, Jordan Holloway, Pablo López, Jesús Luzardo, Nick Neidert, Zach Pop, Yerry Rodríguez, Trevor Rogers, Sixto Sánchez, Zach Thompson, Tony Watson
Position Players (19): Jesús Aguilar, Kris Bryant, Jazz Chisholm Jr., Griffin Conine, Garrett Cooper, Bryan De La Cruz, José Devers, Jerar Encarnacíon, Nick Fortes, Lucius Fox, Leury García, Payton Henry, Alex Jackson, Carson Kelly, Starling Marte, David Peralta, Miguel Rojas, Jesús Sánchez, Marcus Wilson
My projected 26-man Opening Day active roster:
What would make this “successful”
This hypothetical Marlins team has a legitimate shot at capturing the franchise’s first-ever National League East division title next season, then running it back with practically with all the same pieces in 2023 and a mighty farm system still intact to extend that window.
Kris Bryant and Starling Marte are exceptional athletes and well-rounded offensive weapons. I doubt they will be as effective at the end of their respective contracts as they are right now, but you can trust them to age gracefully into viable role players. Then there’s Josh Hader, arguably the No. 1 relief pitcher on the planet. He strikes out half the batters he faces while the others often put the ball in the air. LoanDepot Park should bring out the absolute best in him over his two remaining years of club control, biding enough time for one of the organization’s talented young arms to emerge as a worthy successor.
Carson Kelly doesn’t quite belong in the same paragraph as those aforementioned stars, but his impact on the Marlins could be comparable. After we’ve endured a season of embarrassment at the catcher position, Kelly is a safe bet to deliver average-ish quality, and don’t count out continued growth from him at age 27.
Chris Bassitt! Do you realize how good Chris Bassitt is? The veteran owns a 2.90 earned run average dating back to 2020—in the American League—with remarkable consistency from start to start. It’d be valuable to have somebody alongside Alcantara in the rotation who has logged mostly full MLB seasons before.
Platoon David Peralta and Bryan De La Cruz in left field until JJ Bleday crashes the party. Use Miguel Rojas regularly at shortstop, but no need to over-exert him when you have Leury García and José Devers ready to fill in against select right-handers.
The Bryant, Marte, Alcantara and Chisholm contracts contain more than $300 million in long-term guarantees, but who exactly are the Marlins saving that money for anyway? They have elite homegrown talent on the way—Max Meyer, Kahlil Watson, Eury Pérez, José Salas, Jake Eder, Joe Mack and the list goes on. Also, these signings would preserve their full 2022 MLB Draft pick allotment and bonus pool.
Going for it all without mortgaging the future: that’s what Marlins fans should want from the 2021-22 offseason.
How many games would the Marlins win in 2022 if they made these offseason moves?
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