Do The Miami Marlins Need To Rebuild?

If you’re on this site and reading this article, chances are you’re aware that the Miami Marlins are currently 31-46 with one game left to go in the month of June.

The optimist would say a very strong second half could put them in the race. However, the team would need to go 50-36 the rest of the way (a .581 winning percentage) just to get back to .500.

While much of the media had the Marlins as the trendy pick to compete this season, most projections systems had them as an approximately .500 team.

Suffice to say, the Marlins have been a disappointment. You, the reader, knows this. As things stand right now, record wise, this team needs to sell and ready itself for next season. With Giancarlo Stanton being out until August, that is even more true.

After half a season of being one of the worst teams in baseball, two months of Stanton and ace Jose Fernandez is not going to matter very much. The Miami Marlins have players that have drawn interest and will be free agents after this season. So, of course, they should be sellers.

But this team, which was supposed to contend after being upgraded, has been incredibly bad. The Marlins have been unlucky by both run differential and BaseRuns: their run differential says they should be a 34 win team while their BaseRuns says 36 wins is appropriate for them.

While they’ve been unlucky, they still haven’t been good. They definitely aren’t a playoff team. After surrendering a boat load of young talent to go all-in on this season, being a true talent .468 winning percentage team isn’t exactly ideal.

The team thought it was moving its window to win up to this season, but really what it did was move that window further back while also making that window smaller. Right now, this Marlins team has a good core of players that are still young, but then again so do the White Sox.

Having that core group of talent is important, but you have to fill the rest of the roster with non-replacement level players.

Now that the farm system has been picked clean, the only option to add players to surround that core is free agency. Since the team is unwilling/unable to spend even a decent amount of money, you’re left with players like Mike Morse. That signing, in isolation, wasn’t awful; he carried a lot of risk but there was some upside. The team could have put that money towards other players, however, and dedicating $8 million a year for two years to a player that, over his career, hasn’t produced like a starter is not spending money very efficiently.

Maybe that all changes and the team goes all in for 2016, spending money on all the top free agents. Maybe the team decides to part with Martin Prado at the deadline, since he’s only under control through 2016. It’s likely they trade Dan Haren and Mat Latos, so they’ll need two pitchers, at least. Maybe they decide to part with a young player in Marcell Ozuna, who is a Boras client and a Super Two player. Maybe they go absolutely nuts in free agency and sign Matt Wieters, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Mike Leake.

Given where this team is right now, that’s most likely the only way to win in 2016. The team has to buy wins if it wants to win right away. It has to go George Steinbrenner spending spree crazy on the free agent market to add enough wins for next year.

There is tons of risk on the free agent market as it is and you might as well be betting your house in a situation like the aforementioned one.

There’s a cognitive dissonance in this front office: it preaches stability but its actions do not reflect that. The team could double down on the free agent market and hit the lotto or end up with another $110 million disaster, if not in 2016 soon after that. There still wouldn’t be a ton of depth, which is the one problem the Marlins have had this season.

Look at the Cardinals; they are perpetually pumping out players from their pipeline. They can cover underperformance and injuries in a way the Miami Marlins can’t. The Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright for the entire regular season and right now, they have the most wins in baseball. They’ve also been doing pretty fine ever since that Albert guy signed in Los Angeles.

The team was knocking on the door of stability and sustainable success following a successful (relatively) 2014. It had accumulated a wealth of young talent and had good depth. The team wasn’t ready to compete in 2015, no matter what free agent signings they made, but they were building something that was stable.

Cut to: Spring Training. The team no longer had that depth of young talent and instead was looking to give players like Don Kelly and Reid Brignac spots on the Opening Day roster. The team had taken 2 steps forward and 4 steps back.

The Miami Marlins overreacted to a not bad 2014 and thought it could be the next 2014 Royals (or 2003 Marlins) instead of sticking to a plan (if there ever was one).

The team needs to get back to the end of 2014, but in doing so it might have to go through another “fire sale”. It might make the front office and ownership look awful and many fans and people around baseball will be upset, but people will be upset if this team doesn’t compete for the next 5 years anyways.

You’re better off making people mad while doing what is necessary to compete.

The Miami Marlins probably don’t need a Houston Astros-style total rebuild, although the Astros rebuilt much faster than the Marlins did (GM Jeff Luhnow took over in 2012 and the Astros are currently the first place team in the AL West). 

There’s probably something to be said about taking full measures, but Stanton is signed for at least the next 6 years and Jose Fernandez is one of the brightest young pitchers in the game.

These are guys that you can build around especially considering the core does have good value. The team can probably flip Dee Gordon and actually recover some, if not all, the value they gave up to get him. A team will buy on Ozuna’s upside and 4 years of remaining control, even if he is a Super Two.

Teams will pay a premium for relievers at the deadline, and Carter Capps and AJ Ramos are two very good (and young) relievers. Mike Dunn will also have some good value. Adeiny Hechavarria‘s defensive performance is finally matching his tools and now he’s looking like a major league shortstop, and considering he is also under control, he would have lots of value (the Mets have been looking for a shortstop for eons).

Tom Koehler, Brad Hand, Jarred Cosart, Mat Latos, and Dan Haren aren’t teeming with value but the team could add lots of depth through trading those guys.

Well, what about Christian Yelich?

Yelich hasn’t had the type of year anyone expected from him, but he’s going to be just fine. Christian Yelich is not a part of the problem but he can be a part of the solution. He’s basically just a casualty here, but he’s also the Miami Marlins most valuable trade chip besides Stanton and Fernandez.

The Marlins won’t want to trade him, and it will be extremely hard to part with him, given the fact that he’s produced like an All Star right away at such a young age and is signed to such a team friendly deal. That’s also why the 29 teams in baseball will give the Marlins a call about him if he’s available. The Marlins talked about wanting a “Mark Teixiera type return” for Josh Johnson in 2012, but he didn’t have that kind of value.

Christian Yelich does. 

He could easily be an important part of the next good Marlins team, but he could also help bring back impact talent and depth in a trade. The Marlins would need to focus on surrounding Stanton and Fernandez with as much talent as possible, and stopping at trading Christian Yelich would fail at doing that.

There’s no easy solution here. The Marlins have dug themselves into a hole with their risky bet on 2015. They could double down on 2016 and possibly win, but that would be a short-term solution at best. That team would probably be a disaster in 2019 and beyond, unless they somehow revamp their player development and learn how to churn out players from their minor league system.

Or the team could, for once, put a plan in place. It’s going to hurt a lot. People will be mad. But they have to blow it all up. The path they’re on does not breed stability. If they tear it all down and start fresh, but do it all right this time, they’ll have that stability.

Trust the process.

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