As we’ve reached the 100-game mark in 2022, the Miami Marlins are within striking distance of .500. It’s been exhilarating watching the club compete in the division, and the team appears to be heading in the right direction. With the way they have improved relative to last year, it’s worth considering the different approaches Kim Ng and her staff could take as we inch closer to Tuesday’s trade deadline.
Over the past five years, the Marlins have built a stable farm system that is currently strong enough to be reaped in favor of acquiring MLB-ready talent. However, the system responsible for developing them has not yet led to on-field success, and there are questions surrounding their top hitting prospects.
There is still lots of work left to do—even if Soto were to take I-95 South, it doesn’t seem like much can be done transactionally to push the Marlins over the hump. The truth is that trading for any player of his caliber remains highly unlikely given how ownership lacks the requisite capital to keep a player like Soto, and the team has not historically made a splash at the deadline. Because of this, a conservative seller’s approach going into August is the likeliest route. Entering Saturday, FanGraphs estimates that their odds of making the playoffs are a miniscule 1.7%.
Over the next two seasons, the Marlins should consider selling players on expiring contracts while still demonstrating interest in winning. At the same time, be proactive in extending promising players who fill crucial roles on the roster.
Below is a short list of notable upcoming Marlins free agents and their production this season. These details come from Baseball-Reference’s contract data.
Key Upcoming Marlins Free Agents through 2025
|Name||Free agent (through the end of the season)|
|Name||Free agent (through the end of the season)|
|Jesus Aguilar||2023 (2022 PO)|
|Anthony Bass||2023 (2022 TO)|
Of course, this list is fluid—others could join if they can yield something of value come time to trade them. Miami should look to move these players once they deem their value to be the highest. Brian Anderson and Pablo López could have long-term futures with the team should they agree to suitable extensions.
A similar system that the Marlins could model is that of the Houston Astros, who have talent oozing at all levels of the minors. The Astros liquidated every ounce of value the team had in return for prospects, leaving the carousel of managers who coached there fielding a Quad-A team throughout the four-year tank, ousting former stars like Carlos Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence in hopes of establishing the franchise’s future foundation. For over a decade, their player development has been unmatched and is so strong that even after the Astros’ top prospects had graduated, the club continues to churn out valuable players, effectively taking away the need for a rebuild. When stars such as George Springer or Carlos Correa leave for free agency, they are replaced by the likes Myles Straw and Jeremy Peña.
Tampa Bay is known to flip arbitration-eligible players before they become too expensive in favor of fresh faces. Chris Archer, Tommy Pham, and most recently Austin Meadows have all been dealt in favor of younger talent with a fresh service time clock. Even Chaim Bloom learned that old habits die hard, taking his cost-conscious Tampa Bay model to lavish-spending Boston and promptly trading Mookie Betts before his last year of team control.
Both teams are juggernauts in the American League and were arguably the worst teams in baseball for years. During that time they’ve built not only rich farm systems, but among the most advanced and sophisticated player development systems in the entire sport. Each club has been lauded for its approaches and remains lightyears ahead of much of the competition.
The difference between their models and those of other franchises is that Houston and Tampa’s models are rebuild-proof simply due to the initial prospect push they made. Both teams have unparalleled player development, but only Tampa Bay has to trade players halfway through their team-controlled years for more prospects in their system due to their financial restrictions. The more players they trade, the more prospects they acquire and can develop. Conversely, a more traditional rebuild such as in Kansas City can only sustain success for some time before the front office must ax their championship-level squad.
Aside from transaction strategy, Bruce Sherman must consider a question past Marlins owners have avoided for 20 years: what plan exists to not only establish winning baseball but to sustain winning baseball in South Florida? As mentioned in my previous article, I talked about the current state of the farm system and how the current method of developing players has not led to success at the professional level. Miami’s pitching development also remains leaps and bounds ahead of its hitting development; even with notable prospects such as Jazz Chisholm and José Salas, the vast majority have failed to live up to expectations, and as such, the hitting system needs work too.
If Bruce Sherman’s true objective is to bring winning baseball to South Florida, he must start at the grassroots. Above all else, he needs to establish a winning culture, and bringing in personnel with advanced skillsets who all buy into the same core philosophies is vital. Their top prospects will then begin to have more success, and the longer this model is sustained, the bigger the treasure trove they can stockpile. Winning begins with having the culture in place, then the talent.
Biting the bullet early while the team is still losing will prevent the fanbase from having false hope again. Investing in a project that envisions a successful long-term Miami Marlins franchise will ultimately legitimize the brand and bring a lively baseball atmosphere to one of the most vibrant communities in the United States.