Why the Miami Marlins don’t need to ‘blow it up’

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Marlins season hasn’t gotten off to a great start. Despite multiple reports to the contrary, it isn’t time to hit the reset button yet.

The narrative surrounding the Miami Marlins has taken a volatile turn lately. As the team has struggled to find success on the field, there appears to be mounting pressure to start tearing the roster apart.

Multiple sources have indicated that a roster reboot is the best avenue to take. Admittedly, things don’t look great when considering the teams current contractual obligations, dearth in the minor leagues, and struggles in the Major Leagues. But tearing down a roster that is mostly functional due to a slow start is both short-sided, and lacking in perspective.

Payroll woes not as bad as they seem

This is one of the foremost arguments for the Miami Marlins to start from square one again. The Marlins face an uphill climb to financial solvency, but it isn’t as if they’re trying to climb Kilimanjaro. Even if the Miami ball club finds themselves unable to unload some of the more troublesome contracts on their payroll, things begin to work themselves out before too long.

As it stands, the team has nearly $98 million committed to eight players in 2018. That’s a lot of dough when you consider they will still need 17 more players on their active roster. Fortunately, several of these contracts are in positions where the Marlins have young depth ready to take a step forward.

The wisest way to proceed would be to unload the overvalued veteran contracts, while building around the young core that already exists. Just because the Marlins don’t need to tear it down all the way, doesn’t mean there isn’t some maneuvering to be done.

A large portion of the promised money belongs to players who are band-aids for the Marlins anyway. If the Miami Marlins are able to capitalize on teams that are eager to make a push this season or next, they might be able to move some of their more cumbersome monetary commitments. Let’s take a closer look:

Giancarlo Stanton

The headlining contract is of course that of Giancarlo Stanton‘s. Stanton’s mega-contract worth $325 million over 13 years is a beast. It contains a full no-trade clause, and the only opt-out possibility belongs to Stanton after the 2020 season. Next year, his salary doubles and he will be owed $25 million.

While the sum is mighty, it’s an amount the Marlins can afford to pay if Stanton’s production meets expectation. The team will be hard-pressed to find a trade partner willing to take on the majority of the money owed to the slugger. Apparently saddled with this contract whether Stanton is on the roster or otherwise, is it such a curse to have a legitimate superstar and home run threat on the roster? The other option is dead money, which makes more sense to you?

For all intents and purposes, Giancarlo Stanton is here to stay.

 Wei-Yin Chen

Wei-Yin Chen‘s contract is the other major bug-a-boo on the pay sheet. The lefty has battled injuries since arriving in Miami, and hasn’t been very good when healthy. The Marlins overpaid, and by backloading his contract, shot themselves in the foot.

Chen is making $11.6 million this season, and $12.6 million next season. After that, the value of his contract balloons. He will make $22.6 million, and $24.6 million in 2019 and 2020. This is another contract he Marlins will have difficulty moving.

If Chen is able to find a way to make himself viable on the mound again, the Marlins would be wise to hang on to him until the 2018 trade deadline. That would be the best time to move him. He is currently pitching with a slight perforation in his throwing elbow. Follow-up tests have proven that further damage hasn’t occurred.

Arm specialest Dr. Neal Elattrache recently examined Chen’s arm and decided to administer a platelet rich injection in his pitching arm. The Marlins don’t need him to become the dominant left-handed arm they hoped he would be when they signed him. They need him to be healthy enough to make him a valuable trading chip to needy teams.

That won’t happen this season. Even if Chen returns and pitches well before the deadline, teams will be hesitant to trade for a player who has battled injuries the past two seasons. But if he can get healthy and get off to a good start next year, it might make the lefty enticing enough.

In addition to helping rebuild an ailing farm system, the team would get its second worst contract off the books. Chen isn’t a piece they can move in his current state. Hoping his health improves enough to move him is their only hope.

 Edinson Volquez

Edinson Volquez signed with the Miami Marlins prior to the 2017 season to be their top-of-the-rotation starter. He hasn’t produced the way they hoped, but still likely holds enough value on the trade market to find a taker. He won’t provide much in return besides financial freedom, though. This is purely a salary dump.

Volquez is owed $9 million this year, and $13 million next year. Moving his contract would mean that Jeff Locke, Tom Koehler, David Phelps, or Vance Worley would need to step into the rotation full time. Obviously, none of these are long-term solutions. But they provide a cost-effective alternative with comparable results.

 Martin Prado

This is a tough one considering what Martin Prado means to the team. He was signed to be the steadying veteran hand and clubhouse presence. By all accounts, he is fulfilling that role nicely. However he is owed far more money than his production dictates.

Even slashing at .297/.347/.406 since arriving at Miami doesn’t warrant making $40 million over the course of a three year contract. Prado is owed $13 million in 2018, and $15 million in 2019. The Marlins would be wise to unload this contract at the earliest opportunity.

Any deal involving Prado would likely involve the Marlins eating a portion of his salary. That’s fine, so long as they receive the lesser split, and one or two prospects that could develop in to Major League level contributors. Not necessarily superstars, but plus role players; preferably in the starting rotation.

The Miami Marlins currently have Brian Anderson playing at AA. Anderson has the makings of a franchise third-basemen, but is likely two years away from being ready for the Major Leagues. The Marlins have other proven options at their disposal though.

Derek Dietrich has proven to be a capable Major League player. He is yet to be given a chance full-time at third base, but he has performed well when given the opportunity. The Marlins also have Miguel Rojas, who appeared to be in the midst of a breakout season before breaking his thumb. Both players are capable of playing third base and are plus-defenders.

 Adeiny Hechavarria

I’m convinced that J.T. Riddle has the ability to play at the Major League level long-term. While his time in the big leagues has been brief, he has been impressive. Give MLB pitching time to get a book on him and exploit his weaknesses before any definitive judgements are made, but so far, so good.

Adeiny Hechavarria doesn’t exactly light the world on fire with his bat either. It appears that he and Riddle, at the very least, are the same player. Both play stellar defense, and while Riddle might develop into a good big league hitter, that ship has likely sailed for Hechavarria.

All things considered equal, Riddle offers more of the same at the shortstop position for roughly $6 million less than what they Marlins are paying now. Hechavarria isn’t going to bring in anyones top prospect, but a Major League quality reliever seems possible; possibly a minor leaguer who is nearly ready to break in to the league.

A.J. Ramos, Brad Ziegler, Junichi Tazawa

This is a gut-rennovation of the bullpen. It also makes the moves that the team made this offseason to bolster the bullpen null and void. By trading Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa, the team clears a combined $16 million in payroll off of their payroll for 2018. These are both players who can be moved without much difficulty at the trade deadline this year.

A.J. Ramos likely brings the team the most value in return. Off to another strong start in 2017, and with another year of arbitration before being eligible for free-agency, Ramos can help rebuild the farm system significantly.

The Marlins have several pitchers that could competently fill these holes. It also provides Kyle Barraclough the opportunity to slide into the position for which he is best suited: closer.

Drew Steckenrider appears ready to stay in the Major Leagues. Moving Adam Conley to the bullpen for the short-term might help him right the ship. Same goes for Tom Koehler. Tayron Guerrero will be Major League ready before too long.

Who the Marlins won’t be trading

The rampant panic surrounding the Marlins poor start has lead to some rather thoughtless trade speculation. It appears that nobody is off-limits, regardless of whether or not it makes sense. Among the players discussed, several have team friendly contracts or are under team control. These are the kinds of players the Marlins would be trading for, not trading away.

More from Marlin Maniac

Lets be clear: Christian Yelich isn’t going anywhere. His contract is criminally team friendly for a potential all-star who could compete for a batting title in the near future. He is a cornerstone for the franchise, and he never makes more than $14 million in a single season with his current contract that runs through 2021.

Kyle Barraclough, and Brian Ellington aren’t going anywhere. Both are under team control, and Barraclough isn’t eligible to test free agency until 2022. Ellington has barely exceeded his rookie limits; trading the hard-throwing right hander would be sabotage.

J.T. Realmuto isn’t going anywhere. He isn’t eligible to test free agency until 2021, and he is quickly emerging as one of the premiere catchers in the National League. He too is considered one of the building blocks of the future.

Dee Gordon probably isn’t going anywhere. For what he is able to provide in terms of gold-glove caliber defense, speed, and the ability to hit for average, it wouldn’t make sense. He is currently signed to a contract that runs through the 2021 season which peaks at $14 million. Gordon is off to a slow start this season, but he is already showing signs of coming out of his slump.

Knee-jerk reacting

The Miami Marlins aren’t off to a great start. But that isn’t a call for knee-jerk reactions from the front office. Nor is it cause for the fans to panic. I’ll bring it to your attention that the Houston Astros failed to make the playoffs last season with essentially the same team they have this year.

As it stands, the Miami Marlins are in position to build for the future and win now. The team has a stable of superstars locked into team friendly contracts. By making a few prudent roster moves at the deadline, the Marlins can clear massive amounts of cap space and trim the fat at the same time.

They stand to bring in several quality minor league players who should contribute at the Major League level before too long.

Next: Miami Marlins: The ugly truth about Ichiro

There is plenty of reason to be frustrated, but no reason to “blow up” a team that is mostly well-equipped and well-balanced to win now. Enough with the incessant, irresponsible trade talk. It’s getting embarrassing.