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The Miami Marlins Rebuild Enters A Pivotal Offseason

Elizabeth Gilbert-Flickr

The Marlins need to make a decision on three veteran players who offer value to them and to other teams.

As expected, the Miami Marlins in 2018 were a literal dumpster fire. The moribund Marlins took heavy damage inflicted on them by their opponents. Their ineptitude on the baseball diamond revealed their lack of offense and terrible pitching. Evidenced by their negative-220 runs over the course of the year, the team constantly found themselves not in holes but in cavernous canyons with no chance of making comebacks.

To add insult to injury, the Marlins watched as their former outfield trio—considered to be one of the best in baseball at the time—excel on their new squads. Christian Yelich finished the year with a .326/.402/.598 batting line along with an OPS of 1.000 and 36 home runs and 110 runs batted in. Meanwhile, Giancarlo Stanton had a strong season in the Bronx, hitting 38 home runs and 100 RBIs, while Marcell Ozuna solidified the Cardinals’ left field spot with 23 home runs and 88 RBIs. 

The absence of the Marlins’ three potent hitters severely damaged the team’s ability to score consistently. With the Marlins record being as it is, many MLB analysts believed that the offseason will follow a familiar path to last season: the Marlins will continue to rebuild their roster for the future by trading away any veterans with any value to contending teams. 

If the Marlins decide to go this route again, there are three names to examine: J.T. Realmuto, Dan Straily, and Starlin Castro.

J.T. Realmuto remains the most likely to get traded out of the three aforementioned players. One of the best catchers in the game, Realmuto’s value has never been higher. 

Coming off a season compiling a 4.3 WAR, Realmuto has established himself as one of the league’s best catchers. He’s young, and depending how arbitration turns out, the team acquiring him will be getting him during his age-28 and age-29 seasons at approximately $15-20 million a season. 

Consider this, courtesy of MLB.com:

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Luckily for the Marlins, Realmuto is an above-average player at a position that has very few above-average hitters. 2018 highlighted the overall offensive ineptitude at the catcher position. As the chart shows below, in respect to wOBA, 2018 was the fourth-worst season for catchers in MLB’s existence.

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This only helps build Realmuto’s value, and displays the main reason why the Marlins are insisting on an arm and a leg in order to send him somewhere else. Due to the Marlins’ high demands for their catcher, not many teams will have the prospects the Marlins desire. 

But it is in the Marlins’ best interests to seek a trade now while Realmuto is under control for two more years. He currently is not helping the Marlins win games despite his individual success, and he does not want to be in Miami

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As for the teams that could put a potential attractive package for the Marlins, the Braves, Astros, Nationals, Rays, Dodgers, and Phillies come to mind.

For the next Marlins veteran Dan Straily, he is less likely to be moved. While there is demand from teams for veteran starters who can eat up innings, Straily remains a valuable piece for the Marlins because he is a decent pitcher who serves as a perfect stopgap until Miami’s pitching prospects are ready.

“At the start of the offseason, I felt more strongly that Straily would not be back. But now I’m getting the sense the right-hander indeed may be part of the rotation next season,” Joe Frisaro of MLB.com writes. “Straily enters his second season of arbitration, and he’s been a steady veteran. What raises a potential red flag is Straily was injured at the start and end of the season. If he’s dealt, look for the Marlins to try to add a veteran free-agent starter to help log innings so the organization won’t feel tempted to rush prospects.”

Straily is a model for consistency, which makes him a small, inexpensive, but valuable starting pitcher. Consider his projections for 2019:

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Barring injury, it can be expected that Straily can be counted on to pitch at least 120 innings, hold around a 4.00 ERA, and maintain a fastball in the early 90’s. He is a four-pitch power pitcher with good control. Straily has a four-seam fastball, a “swing-and-miss” slider, an “early-in-count” curveball, and an above-average changeup.

Image titleThe chart shows that Straily mostly relies on his fastball and his slider while occasionally mixing it up with a curveball and changeup. Although his usage of his fastball is relatively high, Straily does show that he can mix it up against hitters. As a result, Straily is best suited as a backend starter. The main concern with Straily is whether he can remain healthy, which can potentially hinder his trade value should the Marlins make him available.

The last potential Marlin that could be on his way out is Starlin Castro. When he was first traded to Miami from the New York Yankees, he immediately expressed his desire to play somewhere else. 

However, in 2018, Castro later embraced the leadership role of guiding the younger players and finished the season with a respectable batting line of .278/.329/.400 while hitting 12 home runs and 54 RBIs. His OPS+ clocked in at 107, which was his highest since his all-star season in 2014, and he provided solid defense and consistency at the top of Don Mattingly’s lineup.

As a result of his performance and also due to him being owed $11 million next season, it is more likely that Castro will at least start the 2019 season on the Marlins roster.

Starlin Castro is one of three Marlins that could be on the move this offseason. Photo Credit: Keith Allison-Wikipedia

If the Marlins were to trade Castro, it can be expected that the Marlins would give minor league prospect Isan Diaz an opportunity to play second base. Diaz was one of the prospects Miami got in the deal that sent Christian Yelich to the Brewers and has advanced through the Marlins’ minor league system relatively quickly with stops at Double-A and Triple-A. 

Even if the Marlins do not make and embrace wholesale changes to their lineup, the organization continues to rebrand the team. New ownership unveiled the team’s new colors and logo to the public on Thursday, saying it better reflects the city.

Photo Credit: Marlins.com

The logo and colors aim to capture the rich baseball history, diversity, and energy of the area,” the Marlins said in a release to USA Today. “The pairing of Miami Blue and Caliente Red pop off of the base color of Midnight Black, energizing the script and giving the logo an electric and vibrant look emblematic of the Miami energy and nightlife.”

Will a new rebrand help speed along a rebuild? Perhaps not. But the Marlins are willing to continue to proceed along with their rebuilding plan, hoping that the rebranding of the franchise will at least invigorate fans to show up for games. 


*All statistics and information originated from ESPN.com, FanGraphs.com, or Baseball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.

Edited by Jazmyn Brown.

SQuiz
What was the Miami Marlins record in 2018?
Created 11/16/18
  1. 63-99
  2. 63-98
  3. 64-98
  4. 67-95

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