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Offseason outlook: Miami Marlins | Yardbarker

It’s never a good sign when one offseason’s big need is still the biggest need next winter, but that’s the case in Miami as the Marlins continue to look for quality hitters.

Guaranteed Contracts

  • Sandy Alcantara, SP: $51M through 2026 (includes $2M buyout of $21M club option for 2027)
  • Avisail Garcia, OF: $41M through 2025 (includes $5M buyout of $12M club option for 2026)
  • Jorge Soler, OF: $24M through 2024 (Soler has opt-out clauses after both the 2022 and 2023 seasons)
  • Miguel Rojas, SS: $4.5M through 2023
  • Richard Bleier, RP: $3.75M through 2023 (includes $250K buyout of $3.75M club option for 2024)

Total 2023 commitments: $41.8M
Total future commitments: $125.95M

Option Decisions

  • Joey Wendle, IF: $6.3M mutual option for 2023, $75K buyout if Marlins decline (Wendle is still under arbitration control)

Arbitration-Eligible Players (projected 2023 salaries via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)

Other Financial Commitments

  • $30M owed to the Yankees as part of the Giancarlo Stanton trade (money to be paid out in 2026-28)

Free Agents

Derek Jeter’s surprise departure as the Marlins’ CEO back in February ended up being a bad omen for the team’s season. Miami stayed on the outskirts of the playoff race until July before struggling to a 69-93 record and fourth place in the NL East. Along the way, some other front office personnel (largely Jeter’s hires) also left the organization, and news broke at the end of the season that Don Mattingly wouldn’t return for an eighth year as the manager.

The search for Mattingly’s replacement is ongoing, with such names as Astros bench coach Joe Espada and Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol cited as two of an unknown number of candidates. It remains to be seen what direction Miami’s search might take, though Espada or Grifol would both present a fresh voice from outside the organization, which might be just what the Marlins need to help get things on track.

In fairness to Mattingly, however, he was far from the root problem with the club, as the Marlins again had one of the league’s worst offenses. Miami’s team batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, home runs, runs scored and RBI total were all lower in 2022 than in 2021, despite how the Fish tried to upgrade their lineup last winter. Unfortunately for the Marlins, Avisail Garcia, Jorge Soler, Joey Wendle and Jacob Stallings all hit poorly, with Soler (98 wRC+) the only one even close to league-average offensive production. With Garcia and Stallings delivering negative-fWAR production, the quartet combined for only 0.6 fWAR, with that number further impacted by Garcia, Soler and Wendle all missing significant time on the injured list.

Injuries were a problem in general for Miami, most notably the stress fracture in Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s back that ended up halting the second baseman’s season on June 28. Chisholm was playing some excellent baseball at the time of his injury, hitting .254/.325/.535 with 14 homers over 241 plate appearances. Though he already has a pretty lengthy injury history during his short MLB career, Chisholm will return as the centerpiece of Miami’s lineup in 2023 and is one of only a few Marlins seemingly assured of a spot on the team.

Beyond Chisholm at second base, Garcia looks to be the regular right fielder, and Soler will get time as both a left fielder and DH. The Marlins can only hope that Garcia and Soler can bounce back next year, as neither player is a realistic trade candidate (barring a swap for another team’s undesirable contract) in the wake of their poor seasons. Soler can opt out of the remaining two years of his contract, but there’s no chance he’ll walk away from his remaining $24M owed this offseason, as he wouldn’t be able to match that salary on the open market.

It also doesn’t look like Stallings is going anywhere, as it seems probable that Stallings and Nick Fortes will be the primary catching duo. Fortes’ .230/.304/.392 slash line over 240 PA wasn’t extraordinary, but it was still markedly better than Stallings’ production, so the Marlins might end up deploying more of a timeshare behind the plate than a strict starter/backup situation.

2022 was such a rough year both offensively and defensively for Stallings that it’s easy to forget he was a sought-after trade chip at this time last year, and the Marlins had to surrender a notable package of three young players to acquire him from the Pirates in November. It would take even more of a trade haul to land, say, Sean Murphy from the A’s or any of Alejandro Kirk/Gabriel Moreno/Danny Jansen away from the Blue Jays this winter, so another splashy deal might not be in the works if the Marlins do want a catching upgrade. Free agent Willson Contreras would seem to be out of their price range, but someone like Gary Sanchez might be feasible or perhaps an Omar Narvaez or Mike Zunino if the Marlins wanted to take a shot on catchers who have been good hitters in the past but are coming off poor seasons.

Catcher is one of many positions in a state of flux for the Marlins. While the team has pretty much the entire 2022 position-player core under control for 2023, most of those options simply weren’t good enough last year, and the Marlins may just be ready to move on from some players who have been in the organization for some time.

It’s possible that general manager Kim Ng might approach this group as a collective backup plan. Any of Stallings, Fortes, Garrett Cooper, Miguel Rojas, Brian Anderson, or even youngsters Bryan De La Cruz or Jesus Sanchez could feasibly be in Miami’s Opening Day lineup … or on another team’s roster via trade, should Ng find a quality upgrade at any of these positions who brings better speed or contact. While the Marlins aren’t going to unload this entire group, it also doesn’t seem likely that all of the aforementioned seven players will still be in Miami next season.

De La Cruz and Sanchez are the most likely to return given their youth, years of team control, and the lack of certainty over Soler and Garcia in the outfield. Center field also isn’t an easy position to fill, so since Sanchez can at least play passable defense at the position, the Marlins may be inclined to give him another shot at establishing himself at the MLB level.

Having both Wendle and versatile speedster Jon Berti gives Ng some flexibility in how she addresses the position player side of the roster, even if Wendle and Berti might both be best suited for super-sub roles than as true everyday players. The Marlins will decline their end of Wendle’s mutual option, yet the utilityman will still be arbitration-eligible through 2023 and will likely again be part of the infield picture despite his struggles last year. If the Fish did want to move on from Wendle, youngsters Jordan Groshans or Charles Leblanc could take on bigger roles in the infield mix.

Cooper, Rojas and Anderson are all free agents after the 2023 season, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Fish non-tender Anderson this winter after two consecutive injury-plagued and non-productive seasons. This could make third base a particular target area if the Marlins wanted to go beyond a Wendle/Berti/Groshans fallback plan.

Rojas has been a team leader for years and was still an excellent defensive shortstop despite playing with a significant wrist injury for over two months. It should be noted the Marlins were at least open to the idea of dealing the shortstop last summer since Rojas’ name was floated in trade talks with the Yankees, but since shortstop is a harder position to fill, Miami might just count on Rojas regaining some hitting stroke once healthy.

Cooper has also been a speculated name in trade rumors in the past, yet his checkered injury history likely played some role in why he has remained with the Marlins. It could be that the first baseman again stays put just because the Marlins need hitting, and Cooper has been a pretty consistent bat when healthy — he was even an All-Star in 2022 before being waylaid by injuries and a lengthy slump in the second half. With Lewin Diaz reportedly no longer seen as a viable regular, retaining Cooper might be the easiest way for Miami to address first base.

Gauging the size of the Marlins’ overhaul will also depend on how much Ng has to spend this winter. Owner Bruce Sherman bumped the payroll from around $57M in 2021 to just under $80M in Opening Day payroll in 2022, though this increase was rather modest (perhaps too modest for Jeter’s liking, according to some reports) and still left the Marlins among the sport’s lowest spenders. Sherman is apparently willing to boost the payroll a little more this winter, though the size of that increase isn’t known, and it’s probably safe to assume that Miami isn’t suddenly going to be making nine-figure contract bids.

If the Garcia/Soler signings have made ownership wary of free-agent spending, that again leaves the trade market as perhaps Miami’s best route for significant roster help. Since the Fish still possess one of baseball’s more enviable collections of young pitchers, Miami is reportedly open to discussing anyone besides Sandy Alcantara or top prospect Eury Perez.

It is safe to assume that the Marlins would prefer to deal more unproven arms than, say, frequent trade target Pablo Lopez, even if Lopez would bring back a nice return. Selling high on Edward Cabrera or Jesus Luzardo might be more feasible, as both pitchers have a lot of talent but have also already had injury problems early in their careers. Moving either Trevor Rogers or Elieser Hernandez would be more of a sell-low, but Rogers in particular still has trade value despite a rough 2022 performance.

There is a bottom to this pitching depth, as the Marlins aren’t going to start offloading too many arms that are ticketed for spots in their own rotation. The “you can never have too much pitching” mantra also applies, considering that Miami’s depth took some injury hits with Max Meyer’s Tommy John surgery and Sixto Sanchez’s ongoing shoulder troubles. In general, however, Ng has plenty of options to weigh in considering pitching trades, as Miami’s variety of arms could bring back anything from All-Star-caliber bats to more building blocks for the future.

It also helps to have an ace like Alcantara on hand as the rotation’s stabilizing force. The right-hander was the Marlins’ other big expenditure of the 2021-22 offseason, as Miami inked Alcantara to a five-year, $56M extension that covered his three arbitration-eligible years and at least his first two free agent years. Alcantara responded to his security by delivering the best season of his career, posting a 2.28 ERA over a league-high 228 2/3 innings.

Extensions probably don’t figure to be a big part of Miami’s offseason business until the later stages of spring training, though it is possible the Fish could try to lock up Lopez if he isn’t dealt. Extending Chisholm is another possibility, yet the Marlins might prefer to see the second baseman get at least one healthy year on his record before making a long-term commitment.

While the Marlins got good results from their rotation last year, the bullpen was much more inconsistent. Major additions might not be in the offing, however, due to cost, the number of young starters in the system who could be eased into the majors via bullpen work and because the Marlins could just count on some injured arms having healthier years. Dylan Floro is the incumbent favorite for the closer’s job, as Tanner Scott held the job for much of 2022 but had too much trouble avoiding walks.

With the Braves, Mets and Phillies all still looking like contenders, it will be tough for Miami to make a lot of headway in the NL East. The Marlins pitching corps will always give them a chance, and getting even closer to league-average hitting might help the club make some noise next year. With this in mind, expect the Marlins to be one of the league leaders in trade speculation this winter, linked to any number of notable bats on the rumor mill. More clarity on the payroll situation would also help, as the ability to add even a Soler-sized contract would help expand the options available to the front office.

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