An uncharitable friend suggested that this article was two minutes, 30 seconds too long, but that it is to underestimate the plans that are being undertaken to transform the Marlins into a winning franchise. Nobody said it would be easy.
In 2017, the Marlins hit 114 home runs with 316 runs and 337 RBI … and that was just the three outfielders. Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich jerseys are being worn by fans of other teams now, and their replacements in the outfield for 2019 are:
Lewis Brinson: He scored 31 runs while hitting .199 AVG (.240 OBP) with 11 home runs and 42 RBI in 406 plate appearances. It is only due to the existence on earth of Orioles’ Chris Davis, that Brinson wasn’t statistically the worst player in the league. The centrepiece of the Yelich deal, the former first-rounder still has bags of potential.
Magneuris Sierra: His batting average was even lower than Brinson’s. In 147 at-bats, Sierra hit .190 AVG with zero home runs. That should not mask the fact that he is an exciting player with a promising future ahead, and he is still only 22 years old.
Brian Anderson: Anderson’s emergence was one of the highlights of the 2018 season for Marlins’ fans. He led the team with 670 plate appearances, and finished behind Ronald Acuna and Juan Soto as the third best hitter in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
So, Stanton, Ozuna and Yelich are out, but Derek Jeter is in. Even four years on from his final game, the iconic former Yankees’ shortstop is still one of the most recognisable ball players in the world.
Payroll liabilities have been trimmed, but as yet the Miami public is not buying into the rebuild. They lost 98 games in 2018 and attendance plummeted to a franchise low of 811,000; almost half that of 2017.
The NL East looks like a brilliant division to watch this year, with the Nationals, Phillies, Braves and Mets all serious World Series contenders. It’s like four juggernauts and a Mini Cooper.
With more moves likely to be made, it is difficult to see who will be in the Marlins Opening Day lineup. Maybe Starlin Castro will lead off, hitting just ahead of Martin Prado, with J.T Realmuto third. Or maybe none will still be with the club.
The unsettled Realmuto situation is impacting the rest of the Marlins offseason moves. If, as expected, there is a multi-player return, it is tough to know what holes need to be filled. There is little point in picking up a veteran free agent if he plays the same position as a young stud brought over in the Realmuto deal.
Outside of Realmuto, power in Miami looks lacking. The only other players still on the roster who registered double-digit homers in 2018 are Castro (12), Miguel Rojas (11) and Anderson (11).
An exciting but unknown factor is Peter O’Brien. The former catcher went deep 34 times across all levels last year, and was in line for regular playing time in 2019 until the Marlins signed veteran Neil Walker. Although, if O’Brien hits, his bat will find a way into the lineup.
On a contract of $20 million for 2019 (approx 30% of the Marlins payroll), starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen is the highest paid player on the roster. He made 26 starts in 2018 with 4.79 ERA. He is better than that.
The only starter with a sub-4:00 ERA was Jose Urena. It was 3.98 over 31 starts. His most memorable moment of the season was drilling rookie superstar Ronald Acuna with the very first pitch of the August clash.
Trevor Richards and Dan Straily are both innings-eaters, and with a little bit of good fortune and a more solid defence, they could post acceptable figures in 2019, although Straily will once again be on the trade block.
The highest profile name in their Minor League system is recently signed Cuban defector, Victor Victor Mesa (recently ranked as the No.99 prospect by MLB Pipeline) and his younger brother Victor Mesa junior.
Jeter is unable deliver a big market free agent like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado to bring the crowds back, and it would seem that teams are unwilling to part with a cluster of young stars in a Realmuto deal, but all is not lost for the Miami faithful. The team has new uniforms!