The Miami Marlins have begun to slowly move past the sudden loss of their beloved former ace, Jose Fernandez, who died tragically in a boating accident on September 25. There’s no way of replacing Fernandez, on or off the field. The Marlins aren’t in a position to orchestrate a trade or look to their minor league system for the next Jose. But if the Marlins expect to compete next season, then they’ll have to explore every avenue they can in hopes of improving their starting pitching.
Miami Marlins 2016 Offseason Needs
The Marlins will head into next season with a young and talented lineup that has the potential to be even better than it was in 2016. First-year manager Don Mattingly brought some much needed experience, as well as a higher degree of professionalism to Miami’s dugout. Both had been sorely lacking.
In 2016, the Miami Marlins finally made some sound baseball decisions. The re-signing of third baseman Martin Prado and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki shows that hasn’t changed. If that didn’t sway anyone, then the firing of the all-time home run leader, and their batting coach, Barry Bonds, certainly did.
Jeffrey Loria made the decision to hire Bonds last season. But Bonds did little to live up to Mattingly’s expectations. His lack of a work ethic and unwillingness to put in the extra hours with the team’s young hitters didn’t jive with Mattingly’s new direction. The fact none of the Marlins hitters seemed to thank him or wish him well after he was relieved of his duties validated the parting.
Reinforce the Pitching Staff
Mattingly will have bigger problems facing him heading this offseason than who his hitting coach is. Who’s going to be the new leader in his pitching staff? It’s a question Mattingly would most likely be asking even if Fernandez didn’t pass away suddenly. Before his untimely death, he was the subject of numerous trade rumors involving the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and even the World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
However, with the loss of Fernandez, the Marlins will be forced spend more money in free-agency than in years past, as Miami’s team president David Samson alluded to, per a story by Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. The Marlins payroll will have to increase out of necessity, with starting pitching being the focal point of their offseason plans.
According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Miami’s 2016 Opening Day payroll was $74,364,500. Given the Marlins current predicament, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see their payroll jump to around $90 million in 2017. It will be difficult for Miami to not exceed the $90 million range, specially if it intends to keep all the players who are currently under contract for next year and the half-dozen players who are in arbitration.
The six signed players for the Marlins in 2017 are Giancarlo Stanton ($7.5 million), Prado ($11.5 million), Dee Gordon ($7.5 million), Wei-Yin Chen ($9 million), Christian Yelich ($3.5 million), and Ichiro ($2 million). They combine for a total of $48 million. The six players who are eligible for arbitration are A.J. Ramos, Marcell Ozuna, David Phelps, Adeiny Hechavarria, Derek Dietrich, and Tom Koehler. According to MLB Trade Rumors projections, the combined salaries of the arbitration-eligible players would be $28.3 million. The total amount for all twelve players is $76.3 million.
This means that the Marlins could not only afford just one arm, but two. They could even lure a big-name pitcher who might help ease the burden of losing their beloved ace. As of right now, the name most often associated with the Marlins is Rich Hill. But don’t be surprised if Miami is working behind the scenes to acquire other top pitchers who aren’t free agents.
For the Miami Marlins to compete in 2017, the organization has to take a big step forward. They already have a lineup that is better than that of most National League teams. They must, however, improve their pitching staff. If they can’t or don’t, it could be a disappointing season in which they find themselves out of the playoff hunt before the halfway point. If that happens to the Marlins, who have money to spend, then many fans will not only be disappointed, but will wonder why the front office and ownership did nothing to improve their situation.