This is part of a series of posts wherein we guffaw at teams for their grotesque offseason gaffes, or else praise them for their precient preseason ploys.
Every offseason for the past 5 years, since their fire sale after the 2005 season, the Florida Marlins have done basically nothing at all to improve their team, and if they did make any moves, it was to dump salaries by trading rising stars off to other teams for prospects.
On the surface it was the same-old, same-old for the Florida Marlins this year. In fact, they did so much nothing this year that the Fish were the only team in baseball not to sign even a single free agent to a major league contract. That’s right – zero free agent signings!
Looking a bit beneath the surface, however, there were a few surprises. First of all, the Marlins did not part ways with 2B Dan Uggla, despite the fact that he will be making around 1/5 of the team’s total payroll this season, making him next in line to be shipped out of town, and virtually every baseball pundit had assumed he was as good as gone. Instead, the Fish surprised everyone by inked him to a 1 year, $7.8 million pact, avoiding arbitration.
Then the Marlins surprised again by signing ace Josh Johnson to a 4 year, $39 million extension, also in lieu of arbitration, and by making a surprisingly robust run at Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman.
Of course, Chapman might have only drawn their interest because of the large Cuban community in south Florida, and the Marlins might still turn around and trade Uggla and Johnson before the year is out, but at least they didn’t immediately stab their fans in the face by trading away yet another top player before the season even began.
Not that the Marlins didn’t cut ties with a number of players this year, as they most certainly did, shipping injury-prone erstwhile closer Matt Lindstrom to the Astros for a trio of D-grade prospects (aka “Astros prospects”), dealing inconsistent outfielder Jeremy Hermida to the Red Sox for a pair of minor leaguers, and letting Nick Johnson, Alfredo Amezaga, Kiko Calero, Brendan Donnelly, and Ross Gload depart as free agents.
But at least for the first time in recent memory the Marlins didn’t do something to actively make themselves worse, as outfielders Cody Ross, Cameron Maybin, and reigning rookie-of-the-year Chris Coghlan are all better options that Hermida at this point, and Gabby Sanchez seems ready to take over at first base for Johnson, who typically has trouble staying on the field anyway.
Still, as nice as it is that for once the Marlins didn’t take careful aim at their own foot and pull the trigger, and actually extended one of their young stars (for the first time since they extended Hanley Ramirez), it remains a travesty that they did not make any move at all to really improve the team beyond where it was last year.
The ongoing tragedy for Marlins fans is that despite having the lowest payroll in the game the team is always on the verge of contention, meaning that if the team had even made a tiny increase in payroll they probably could have made the playoffs more than once in recent years.
This past season for example, despite having far and away the lowest payroll in the Majors, the Marlins won an unbelievable 87 games (just 3 short of 90!), and just think how many they might have won if they hadn’t given 509 plate appearances to Emelio Bonifacio and his .303 OBP.
Given that the Marlins finished a mere 4 games out of the wild card, you have to wonder what could have happened if they had say, kept Josh Willingham and signed a decent starting pitcher, given that they could have done that and probably still had a lower payroll than the second lowest San Diego Padres.
Knowing how much the Marlins are getting in revenue sharing, what they are doing is criminal, and it’s why they probably would have gotten a failing grade this year, if not for the extension to Johnson. They are making a big deal of how their payroll is “rising,” but it’s only up $3 million from $37 million to $40 million, still the lowest in the game, and not signing even a single free agent is just sickening. The still-strong young core means that the Marlins will verge on contention again, but the lack of reinforcements means that they will still fall just short.
Offseason Grade: D
Losses: 1B Nick Johnson, OF Jeremy Hermida, RP Matt Lindstrom, UT Alfredo Amezaga, RP Kiko Calero, RP Brendan Donnelly, UT Ross Gload
Projected Lineup, Rotation, and Closer
C – John Baker
1B – Gabby Sanchez
2B – Dan Uggla
3B – Jorge Cantu
SS – Hanley Ramirez
LF – Chris Coghlan
CF – Cameron Maybin
RF – Cody Ross
SP1 – Josh Johnson
SP2 – Rickey Nolasco
SP3 – Anibal Sanchez
SP4 – Chris Volstad
SP5 – Andrew Miller
CL – Leo Nunez