Outlook: In the midst of a long rebuild
The Marlins were bad in 2018, though perhaps not as bad as most expected. It’ll be at least a couple of years before Miami are anywhere near competing, and a strong division could mean they end with an ugly record in 2019.
Like most teams in a rebuild, the offseason was busy for Miami.
J.T. Realmuto finally left Marlins Park, joining the Phillies in exchange for Sixto Sanchez, Jorge Alfaro and Will Stewart. Alfaro will take over as starting catcher for Miami, while pitchers Sanchez and Stewart will continue to work their way through the minors.
Victor Mesa Jr. and Victor Victor Mesa were the headline additions, bolstering a farm that has been one of the worst in baseball in recent seasons. Victor Victor could progress quickly through the minors and may see Major League time in 2020.
Versatile infielder Neil Walker was one of a couple of free agent additions. Walker struggled as a Yankee last season but brings a veteran presence to a young Marlins roster.
Another veteran Sergio Romo signed and will operate at the back of the bullpen. Romo’s best years are a distant Californian memory, though he still has value to Miami after getting useful outs as an opener for fellow Floridians, the Rays, last season.
No trade came close to the significance of the Realmuto deal, but the Marlins’ front office was active throughout the offseason.
Lefty reliever Brayan de Paula and outfielder Adonis Giron were sent to the Astros for cash.
Improving pitching was the aim this winter, adding Julian Fernandez from the Giants, Austin Brice from the Orioles and picking up reliever Riley Ferell in the Rule 5 draft. The versatile Rosell Herrera was claimed from the Orioles and will compete for a job in Spring Training.
What to watch
Lewis Brinson was a major disappointment last season, finishing under the Mendoza Line with a wince-worthy 62 OPS+. As the centrepiece of the Christian Yelich deal, the Marlins need more from Brinson. The success of this rebuild will depend a lot on how good Brinson’s peak is.
Like Brinson, Alfaro’s future will be strongly linked to Miami’s. Philadelphia gave up on the cannon-armed catcher rather easily, and the Statcast darling could be set for a breakout. He hits the ball very hard when he does make contact, and while he won’t be a high OBP guy, there’s the potential for 25 homers.
This isn’t unique to the Marlins, but it’s still very important. Miami will be sellers at the deadline, and first half performances will have a huge say in the quality of prospects they receive. Starlin Castro, Granderson, Dan Straily and Walker are all candidates to be moved if they perform well and are healthy. It won’t be headline-making, but the Marlins needs as many prospect dice rolls as they can get.
Projections put Miami somewhere between 95 and the low-100s in the loss column. Anything lower than 95 would be a ‘success’ for the Marlins this year, but the focus is on how they win rather than if they win.
Putting up Ws through Brinson, Alfaro and Brian Anderson is the key (aside from increasing veterans’ trade value). Seeing Anderson keep up 2018’s level while the other two improve would change the timeline of the rebuild.