Miami Marlins are ready to contend now, but at what cost?

Almost exactly two years ago the Marlins were opening the 2013 season and their lineup was referred to as “comical” by Hardball Talk. That roster included such washed up gems like all-time Marlins player Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco and Casey Kotchman. The Marlins gave Ricky Nolasco the Opening Day start much more as a reward for his loyalty and service time than anything else.

People from all corners were really down on the Marlins in the spring of 2013, after owner Jeffrey Loria had done the seemingly impossible and orchestrated yet another Marlins-style fire sale.

Who would’ve thought that two short years later experts all around baseball would be picking the Marlins to make the playoffs, and some even the World Series? I, for one, never thought it was even remotely possible. I was convinced the Marlins were ready to go on a long rebuilding stretch and would not be competitive for years to come. Is there any real way to explain why the Marlins had such a quick turnaround?

Well, maybe. It isn’t a coincidence that as we sit here a few hours away from the first pitch of 2015 that the Marlins have traded or let go of most of the players involved in the 2012 sell-off and many of their high draft picks of recent years. In short, the Marlins of 2015 exist as an echo of the 2012 failed experiment and of that “comical” lineup that faced the Washington Nationals a scant two years ago. Much like in 2012, Loria and the front office have chosen to go for impact over sustainability and it’s created a situation where the Marlins must win now or suffer yet another series of long, lean years.

Going through Mike Redmond‘s projected batting order, let’s see how the Marlins acquired each of the players that will be on what is certainly not a “comical” Opening Day lineup.

  1. Dee Gordon, 2B – Acquired in a trade this offseason with the Los Angeles Dodgers which sent the Marlins 2012 first round draft pick Andrew Heaney to LA along with Enrique Hernandez, who was acquired from the Houston Astros along with Jarred Cosart for another first round pick Colin Moran and top prospect Jake Marisnick. Will be arbitration eligible next year and a free agent after the 2018 season.
  2. Christian Yelich, LF – Drafted by the team in the first round in the 2010 draft. Recently signed a very good seven-year, $49.57 million contract extension which buys out his remaining arbitration eligibility years as well as his first few free agency years.
  3. Giancarlo Stanton, RF – Drafted by the team in the second round of the 2007 draft. Signed a landmark 13-year, $325 million deal, the largest in the history of North American sports. Stanton has an opt-out after six years.
  4. Mike Morse, 1B – Free agent signing, signed a two-year, $16 million contract this offseason during the Winter Meetings in San Diego
  5. Marcell Ozuna, CF – International free agent, signed by the Marlins out of the Dominican Republic in 2008. Has not signed a contract extension and is not yet arbitration eligible and could be a free agent after the 2019 season
  6. Martin Prado, 3B – Acquired in a trade with the New York Yankees this offseason which sent Nathan Eovaldi to the Bronx. The Yankees also sent David Phelps and Preston Claiborne along with Prado. The Yankees are paying $3 million of Prado’s $11 million contract until he becomes a free agent after the 2016 season.
  7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C – Free agent signing, signed a three-year, $27 million contract before the 2014 season. Will be a free agent after the 2016 season.
  8. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS – Acquired in the blockbuster trade with the Toronto Blue Jays that sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson north of the border. Will be arbitration eligible next year and a free agent after the 2017 season.
  9. Henderson Alvarez, P – Acquired in the same trade with the Blue Jays. Will also be arbitration eligible after next year and a free agent after 2017.

The Marlins lineup as currently constructed will have three veteran players all leaving following the 2016 season, in Prado, Morse and Saltalamacchia. Gordon, Ozuna, Hechavarria and Alvarez should be leaving soon after, at which point the only two players remaining on long-term deals will be Stanton and Yelich.

I just wanted to write that up as an example of how short the Marlins window for competing and making a deep run into October is at the moment. Marlins fans are excited about the future; they think that all of this talent, both young and old, will be here forever. The reality is it won’t. And unless the Marlins can find a much more consistent revenue stream, like a new TV deal, they will not be able to compete with the large market clubs in the open market.

They won’t.

The 2015 season is an echo of 2012 in many ways but especially in showing us that Loria and management do have it within them to try and make the team competitive. There is just no guarantee it will be successful.

The Marlins organization was in a much more solid situation one year ago then they are today. The farm system was replete with young arms and lots of potential contributors both for the long term and short term. Unless the Marlins can capitalize on this current roster and actually win a World Series, they will ultimately regret selling so many promising young prospects for what could be nothing.

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