“There’s an old saying in Tennessee- I know it’s in Texas, probably Tennessee. That says, fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me ..you can’t get fooled again”
This quote, from the former president of the United States of America George W. Bush, has echoed in my head for the last month. In my previous article, I wrote that the word around the Marlins was that the roster was pretty much in shape and there would likely be no more additions, but the Marlins and GM Kim Ng played a trick on me. Well played Marlins, well played. You fooled me but you can’t fool me again. I think.
Marlins main focus of the offseason has clearly been the bullpen as the numbers that they posted last season (-1.4 WAR, 5.50 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) weren’t that pretty. So they picked up the phone and called the World Champions Los Angles Dodgers and got Dylan Floro. The 30-year-old California-born reliever comes in from the West Coast where he spent three seasons and posted fairly decent numbers. His 57.3 GB% last season suggests he comes in with the purpose of avoiding the long ball. With a cheap contract (1yr/$975k) he fits the system like a nose to the head. Marlins are a young team and to get a guy that has marinated in that Dodgers winning culture and he has a ring to show for it. Yeah, I’ll see that card.
John Curtiss. That’s the name of the guy who controls your investment funds. Although in this case, this John controls the baseball. In a shortened season (we know, small sample size) Curtiss faced 99 batters. He walked three. Overall he has a little Major League experience – only 35 games – but he will probably slide into the Fish bullpen smoothly and has a chance to be a big part of it. If you are ever in a situation where the Tampa Bay Rays call you and offer a pitcher in a trade, you say “yes”.
There is something heartwarming about the affection that manager Don Mattingly has for veteran journeyman outfielders. In the parking lot in Marlins Park, there has been a parking space for the likes of JB Shuck and Matt Joyce. Now it’s Adam Duvall. The former Atlanta Braves outfielder had a surprisingly good 2020 season. He hit 16 home runs (tied seventh-most in the league) which is three more than Bryce Harper. So he has to be a Harper-like slugger with swag? He is touted as a power hitter so avoid looking into his batting average. Well, he hasn’t really been slugging this spring, so far he has 2 hits (a double and a home run) in 23 at-bats. It just spring stats, right. Right?
“How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
This quote from Billy Beane in Moneyball fits right into the latest acquisition by the Marlins. With the starting rotation filled with young guns like Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Sixto Sanchez they brought in a veteran pitcher to guide these young souls like Gandalf. They signed 35-year-old Gio Gonzalez to a Minor league contract with an invitation to the big league camp. The Hialeah, Fla. born left-handed pitcher has a chance to pitch for his hometown team he grew up supporting. In his first Zoom call he was rocking an old Florida Marlins cap with Hialeah text on it and got emotional when asked about what it would mean to him to pitch on the same mound as Jose Fernandez. I thought “this guy gets it!” I dont give a damn if he has 1, 10, 30 or 50 innings in that arm left to pitch but you better put that man on the mound. Make it happen, Marlins!
— Christina De Nicola (@CDeNicola13) March 9, 2021
Coming into to this season with no Minor league last year, it was exciting to see prospects on the field. Some of the names that have been getting a lot of talk by the Marlins are JJ Bleday and Jose Devers. Bleday, the former Vanderbild product and 2019 fourth overall pick, looks to be the answer for the corner outfield in the future and given they complete some sort of a season in the minors and he produces, he should be looking for a phone call in the autumn to face some pitchers in the majors.
"I don't get tired of talking about JJ. He does a lot of good things." – #Marlins manager Don Mattingly
— Jordan McPherson (@J_McPherson1126) March 14, 2021
Jose Devers, 21-year old Dominican second baseman and shortstop, has been with the Marlins since 2018 as he was a part of the deal that sent one Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees. Maybe he just sat on the couch for the missed season as it was reported that Devers came into camp having gained weight from 150 to 180 pounds. It will be interesting to see where he is assigned to having previously only been on Class-A level. One to keep eyes on the Marlins farm system.
Mattingly reiterating thoughts on Jose Devers who singled off Brad Hand today:
“Jose is gonna be good. He’s been in the organization for a while. He’s gone from 150 pounds to 180 now. He puts the bat on the ball. He knows how to play. He’s a good player.”#Marlins
— Fish On The Farm (@marlinsminors) March 11, 2021
One spring training story though flying a bit under the radar but apparently causing a bit of a mania is Anthony Bender. He is a non-roster invitee who has been lighting up batters. Drafted by the Kansas City Royals with the 613th pick in the 2016 draft, he has caused a #BenderMania with his performances as in his first 10 batters faced he had 10 outs and 6 strikeouts, firing up the radar gun with fastball average 97 mph. Talk about seizing an opportunity if he makes the team.
— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) March 11, 2021
We are less than three weeks until Opening Day. For the first time in franchise history, Marlins will open their season with a series against the Tampa Bay Rays. In the last 10 games in the so called Citrus Series, Rays have won 9-1. This will be a tough test for the Marlins to start this #WhyNotUs campaign against the reigning AL pennants winners. Last year the Philadelphia Phillies NBC Sports broadcaster and former Major League player Ricky Bottalico called the Marlins “bottom feeders”. That sparked the Marlins to a season that ended a 17-year playoff drought. Now the gang called the Marlins sh**e on their podcast. We’ll see how that ends!
Stay safe and go Fish!
Photo credit: Mark Brown/Getty Images
Tomi Korkeamaki is covering the Miami Marlins during 2021 as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @TKorkeamaki