Mar 12, 2014; Jupiter, FL, USA; A detail shot of Miami Marlins third baseman Ed Lucas baseball glove is seen prior to a game against the Atlanta Braves at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The ESPN big three of baseball analysts, Buster Olney, Jim Bodwen, and Keith Law (Insider Required), ranked all 30 teams across five different categories in trying to gauge how well each MLB franchise is expected to succeed over the next five seasons.
The five categories that Olney, Bowden, and Law took into consideration when doing this were: Majors, Minors, Finance, Management, and Mobility.
Unfortunately for Miami Marlins fans, they saw their team ranked all the way at the bottom, as the trio had major questions, not about the Marlins talent, but the instability with their owner, Jeffery Loria.
Here’s how the categories were weighted when coming up with the team rankings:
"CATEGORIESMAJORS (full weight): Quality of current big league rosterMINORS (full weight): Quality and quantity of prospects in their farm systemFINANCE (2/3 weight): How much money do they have to spend?MANAGEMENT (2/3 weight): Value and stability of ownership, front office and coaching staffMOBILITY (1/3 weight): Do they have a lot of young, cheap players, or old, immovable guys?"
The Marlins score in the majors was 4, ahead of only three teams, the Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins, and Houston Astros. The Marlins minor league system got a score of 13, which places them in the middle of the pack, but well behind the three teams.
The finance score for the Marlins was tied for the second worst, with the Oakland Athletics, at 2. The Rays were the only major league team with a worse finance score, as they scored just one point.
Only the Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies score lower than the Marlins 5 score for their management. You have to bet that owner Loria’s meddling with the team’s day-to-day baseball decisions was weighted into the score. Otherwise, it seems that the score should have been higher.
Lastly, the mobility score for the Marlins was around the same as every team in the bottom 10 of the rankings.
Buster Olney, who covered the overview aspect of the Marlins five-year future had this to say about why the trio doesn’t see a bright future for the Marlins:
"The OverviewAlthough the big league team is currently among the worst in baseball, this ranking has a lot more to do with management’s willingness — or unwillingness — to commit to a group of players for an extended period of time. In other cities, a core of Fernandez, Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich would be the first step toward a dynasty, but owner Jeffrey Loria’s track record of firesales and indifference to winning makes it hard to feel good about the idea of that trio ever playing in a World Series in Miami. — Buster Olney"
Loria’s shady past has made fans and many around baseball speculate on how long he can actually stay away from meddling with the Marlins roster. What happens if the team struggles right out of the gate, will Loria act on an impulse and make a stupid decision, like firing his manager, despite the clear lack of talent on the major league roster?
Like Olney said, the Marlins have a nice trio to build their future around. But they have yet to secure a long-term contract with Stanton, Jose Fernandez‘s rookie season could have already maxed him out of the Marlins budget, and the team is unlikely to offer Yelich an Evan Longoria-like extension this early.
Unfortunately, there is a greater chance that none of these three are Marlins in five years than there is a chance that they are. It will take a miracle for the Marlins to resign Stanton at this point, making a trade seem a lot more likely. This is exactly what Jim Bowden feels is the dilemma for the Marlins:
"The DilemmaThe Marlins will soon have to decide if they should sign Stanton to a long-term deal or trade him while his value is still enormous. He will be a free agent following the 2016 season, and the recent contract given to Freeman, as well as a to-be-expected contract signed by Trout, will go a long way toward establishing the parameters on any extension for Stanton. — Jim Bowden"
Freddie Freeman signed an eight-year, $135 million contract with the Atlanta Braves earlier this Spring, and that contract should be the floor for the contract that Stanton is likely to get when he signs his next contract.
Can the Marlins afford to give a single player that much money? That is a question that remains to be seen.
Lastly, Keith Law took a look at the Make or Break player for the Marlins this season:
"Make-or-break yearLefty Justin Nicolino earned some comparisons to a young Cole Hamels, albeit with less fastball, before he was traded from Toronto to Miami last offseason, but while his arsenal hasn’t changed, the light velocity has made it hard for him to miss bats. Without a lot of projection, he’ll have to change his style of pitching to keep high contact rates from slowing him down. — Keith Law"
Law is on the money, as Nicolino struggled as he moved to Double-A Jacksonville, having to face his toughest competition yet. Nicolino lacks the repertoire to rack up strikeouts, but still has the makeup to be a middle of the order starter.
If Nicolino can show improvement in Double-A and prove that he is a legitimate prospect, the Marlins future and starting rotation are that much brighter.
If he fails to do so, the Marlins biggest piece from the fire sale with the Toronto Blue Jays may turn out to be a bust and come back and haunt the Marlins for years, much like former top prospects Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin do.