It’s tough to write this piece without it turning into a Comedy Central roast of Derek Jeter, but here it goes.
It’s been an interesting offseason, to say the least, for the Marlins. First, the team is sold to a group led by Bruce Sherman. After that, all hell broke loose.
The firesale started with the dishing of second baseman Dee Gordon to Seattle for a package headlined by right-hander Nick Hiebert.
Following the Gordon deal came the trade of a generation, a trade which could define Derek Jeter’s legacy for years to come.
Giancarlo Stanton, the reigning NL MVP, was shipped off to Jeter’s former team for Rafael Devers’ little cousin Jose, right-handed pitching prospect Jose Guzman, and second baseman Starlin Castro.
Despite being approved for ownership, Sherman and Jeter quite evidently didn’t have the money to pay Stanton his massive contract. In order to alleviate that, they shipped him off for pennies on the dollar, despite the Yankees having one of the best farm systems in baseball. The Marlins managed not to get even one top-100 prospect (per MLB Pipeline) for the slugger, despite the fact he hit 59 home runs in a pitchers park last season.
A few days later, Jeter and Co. shipped Marcell Ozuna, who finished 15th in MVP voting last season, off to the St. Louis Cardinals. In return, the Marlins got Sandy Alcantara, a fastball specialist, and the speedy Magneuris Sierra from the RedBirds.
While these prospects definitely have value, their service time clocks are already ticking, as they both played in the bigs last year for St. Louis. Much like their biggest offseason addition, Lewis Brinson, both Alcantara and Sierra only have six years until free agency.
As for Brinson, they acquired him for star outfielder Christian Yelich when they dealt him to the Milwaukee Brewers. This was easily the best move that the Fish pulled off this offseason, getting one of the game’s top 15 prospects (Brinson), as well as their organization’s second and ninth-ranked prospects, Monte Harrison and Isan Diaz, respectively.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) February 23, 2018
Plain and simple, Lewis Brinson is a future star. While he struggled in 21 games for the Brewers last year, Brinson got on base at a .400 clip in AAA last season, finishing with a .962 OPS. Brinson has long been touted as a potential 30/30 guy, and should he even approach that this season in Miami, he could be destined for the all-star game soon.
While Harrison may never be the best hitter, he has a 70-grade arm to go along with 60-grade speed, making him a great outfield prospect.
As for Diaz, he’s the stereotypical all-around infield prospect. He doesn’t excel in one particular category, but he does have the potential to grow into a really nice player for Miami. That being said, it definitely isn’t without risk, as Diaz struggled in high-A last year, slashing .222/.334/.376.
While it seems like there will be more new Marlins than guys returning, the Marlins do keep their star catcher J.T. Realmuto.
While Realmuto has gone under the radar by the casual fan for the past couple years, much of that is due to the fact that he was in the shadow of Stanton, Yelich, and Ozuna. Now that they are all gone, it’s Realmuto’s time to shine. While he only had a 105 wRC+ last season, he was still worth over 3.5 wins, in large part due to his defense and athleticism behind the plate. If he is to get dealt, he is going to command a higher price than even Ozuna did, as he is under control for cheap until 2020.
“If I beat out a ground ball at the shortstop, every now and then, playing a new team, they’ll take their time in throwing me out. They’ll either just get me or sometimes I’ll beat it. I’d catch them by surprise. The next time, they’d come into the box, they’re like, ‘Man, you are fast for a catcher. I didn’t know you were that fast.’ So it’s still catching guys by surprise, guys I haven’t played before.” – J.T. Realmuto (via MLB.com)
The other veteran that Jeter didn’t ship off is first baseman Justin Bour. Bour, who hit 25 home runs last season, even more impressively put up a 133 wRC+ for the Fish in 2017. If he can play a full 162 this season, Bour does have the potential to win a couple games singlehandedly for the Marlins, as he was worth 3.3 WAR/162 last season.
While Starlin Castro is on the roster as of now, the Marlins have made it pretty clear that they are looking to trade him. After being dealt from the Cubs the year before they won the World Series, and now dealt from the Yankees the year before they are favorites to win, Castro hasn’t had the luckiest career.
— Los Marlins de Miami (@LosMarlins) March 10, 2018
Starlin put up a 110 wRC+ for the Yankees last season and is definitely not a throw-away player. While his contract definitely isn’t team friendly, he is still a pretty good major leaguer, one who has an outside shot of finishing with 3000 hits, assuming he plays for a while longer.
The lineup that the Marlins have put together at the major league level is a lot better than people think. When you throw in Brinson, Miami has four guys who could hit better than 100 wRC+ next season. It’s not their lineup which is the reason they are probably looking at finishing last in the division, it’s their pitching staff.
José Ureña takes the mound in 19 days for #OpeningDay.
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) March 10, 2018
Just earlier today, manager Don Mattingly announced that Jose Urena would be the opening day starter for the Marlins. While I personally don’t mind Urena, he did have a 5.20 FIP last year and is likely going to be the worst opening day starter in the league. Assuming Sandy Alcantara doesn’t start the season in the bigs, the only other starter of note would be Dan Straily, who had a 4.58 FIP last season.
The bullpen may live and die by Kyle Barraclough. While I’d argue it is Realmuto, there is an argument to be made that Barraclough is the best player on the Marlins. Barraclough has a fastball which tops out at 98 MPH, as well as a wipeout slurve. If he can control the ball a tiny bit better than he has in his career, it wouldn’t be a stretch to mention him with some of the game’s elite relievers.
— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) January 2, 2018
The matter of the fact, however, is that Jeter has not done anywhere near enough for this offseason to be a success. The key of a rebuild is to gain quality prospects for your major league talent.
Despite trading three of the NL’s top outfielders, the Marlins only have one top-100 prospect. That cannot be the case for a rebuilding team. It just can’t.
On top of that, Jeter and Co. are taking a huge risk, keeping plenty of tradable assets on the major league roster. This could work out, but for guys like Realmuto, there isn’t much to gain with this strategy.
Derek Jeter is trying to be George Steinbrenner, but he is turning into another Jeffrey Loria. While his team will win more games at the MLB level than expected, that isn’t exactly a good thing.
I didn’t think it was possible for Derek Jeter to be worse at anything than he was defensively during his big league career. Kudos, Derek. You are trying to prove me wrong.
Record Prediction: 66-96