The Marlins Offseason Checklist
By Michael Jong
The playoffs are here, but the men of teal are not involved. Rather, the Marlins are relaxing, enjoying the offseason after six long summer months. But here at Marlin Maniac, we (I, really) never rest, even in the postseason and offseason ahead. The Marlins have a really busy offseason ahead and it seems pertinent that I (and by extension, the team) start considering the many moves and options the team has to look into. As a result, what we have is the Marlins Offseason Checklist, a list of to-do’s for the Fish to go through this offseason so that we ensure our best chances of winning and maintaining the general (ahem) market situation for the team.
1) Determine the arbitration-eligible players to return to the team.
There are quite a few Marlins eligible for arbitration, and Lou over at SoFlaMarlins gives a nice rundown as to who is up and how much they’d likely be making. For the time being, I’ll be referencing Lou’s estimates, as they seem fairly accurate.
The Marlins have 12 players up for arbitration, though a few of these players are unlikely to see arbitration and are candidates for non-tendering. Much of the pitching staff is undoubtedly going to remain (and we will indeed discuss the possibility of an extension to Josh Johnson, hold your horses), if anything due to the lack of quality arms on the team, starting and in relief, and the possibility of injury crippling an already light farm system on arms. On the position player side, however, the Marlins face four important arbitration cases that require careful attention.
Jorge Cantu, Jeremy Hermida, Cody Ross, and Dan Uggla are all in line for hefty raises, and given the Marlins’ desire to remain at their current payroll and the expected increases in salary for other players, it’s very likely only one of these four players will return. Prior to the offseason flurry kicking in, I’ll take a more detailed look at the two players I have not investigated in depth (readers here definitely know I’ve done more than my share of Uggla discussion, and Hermida is the most likely non-tender candidate here). Needless to say however, the Marlins chances of winning next year are going to be heavily affected by who among these four men return and what the Marlins can get out of the other three.
2. Make some trade magic again.
This front office has built the foundations of this current excellent core on the backs of a few savvy trades (the Hanley Ramirez – Josh Beckett deal, the Juan Pierre for Ricky Nolasco swipe), and it appears this offseason the Marlins might have to do this again. Faced with the possibility that the Fish will deal three of the above mentioned arbitration eligible players, the Marlins have to once again bring an above average haul for the players they deal.
The Marlins are unlikely to keep Dan Uggla, yet he is perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle for the team’s offseason. If Uggla is indeed dealt, it is important that the Marlins get a healthy return for a player who has provided 14.6 WAR (according to FanGraphs) over four years, a 3.6 WAR/year average. The Marlins should expect and ask for a top 50-100 prospect, another top 10 organizational prospect, and one lottery ticket. My comparison has always been the Nate McLouth deal that sent him to the Atlanta Braves from the Pittsburgh Pirates. My guess is that there was consideration that McLouth was a better center fielder than he actually is (he’s not good), which may have bumped up the price a bit, but I think the two players are comparable in what they do; excellent offensive players at the 2.5-run position level that are poor with their gloves.
3. Find money for a Josh Johnson extension.
See, I told you I’d get to this. I’ll dive more in-depth on this topic later on as well, but needless to say, this should be number two on the priority list for the team after they deal with the arbitration choices. Why do I say this should be number two, not number one? I don’t buy that the Marlins will extend him. Apparently the team has a policy against this (admittedly not a bad policy to have) and it sounds as if JJ and his agent are going to ask for close to market value. If they base market value on last season, JJ would be earning almost $24M. Of course, I’m sure they’re looking more at $12M, as the above stated figure is absurd. Still, at $12M a year, the Marlins would be paying for about 6 WAR, close to what JJ produced.
If the Marlins can muster up the money, they should go for an extension similar to the one Cole Hamels received. But given the team’s hesitance on handing anyone contracts, I would cross my fingers.
4. Bargain hunt in the free agent market.
The team has at least one need (3B) which they cannot fill internally, unless they think Emilio Bonifacio is the answer. Given that, I think the Marlins should be looking for help from the market, but they need to be intelligent about it, as they cannot pay for the big names. Remember the rate of $2M / 1 WAR, and look for names either in the outfield or at the infield corners to fill out the roster. Cot’s has all the free agents this year, so peruse the list and see if anyone fits the budget and the positions. I already listed one player, and I have another player in mind that I’ll profile in a little bit.
That’s what the Marlins should be keeping an eye on this offseason. I’ll detail each of these problems over the course of the offseason and specify my plan towards building the 2010 team. I sincerely hope that the Marlins use the tools that us fans have at our disposal in addition to the numerous resources privy only to the team.