Miami Marlins: THIS is what their 2018 season is all about
By Rob Isbitts
As we reach the end of the first quarter of the MLB season, here’s what we know about the 2018 Miami Marlins: their record isn’t very good, their attendance isn’t very good, and their roster includes overpriced players who constrain payroll.
No one should be surprised at any of these three things. However, this Marlins season is not at all about how many games they win. It’s not how many fans fill beautiful Marlins Park. It’s not whether or not the four players currently taking up a huge portion of the team’s payroll will eventually “come through.”
I can say with confidence, that Wei-Yin Chen, Edinson Volquez, and Junichi Tazawa will not lead the Fish to a World Series title. They will not contribute to a playoff push in this or any year. And as for Brad Ziegler, this year’s best performer of this group, he will not be saving game seven of the World Series for this team.
What’s $40mm worth, anyway?
Why focus on those 4 players? Because according to Spotrac.com, this year the Marlins are paying that group more than $40mm. For some teams (Yankees, Dodgers and others, we’re talking about you), that’s a “cost of doing business.” For the Marlins new ownership, it is pile of obligations to deal with. That casts a shadow over major spending this year and next. $40mm is more than half of the team’s total payroll. That $40mm has produced five saves (Ziegler) and one decent start (Chen) this year.
Next year, Chen is a $20mm obligation all by himself, making him this century’s version of Don Gullett. Fans over age 50 will understand that, and the rest of you will need to look it up. Volquez is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and his contract expires this year. He is out of the Miami Marlins plans and off the payroll as of next year. Tazawa will be off the payroll, as will Ziegler.
But there’s no use crying over spilled money. After all, there’s no crying in baseball, right? Like the Miami Marlins themselves, I put most of the bad news out there at the start. What’s done is done, and this season is clearly about things other than win-loss record, or the ERA of the bullpen.
The 2018 Season is about THIS…
Figuring out which 20-25 players in this organization will be the ones that form the core of a squad that will legitimately challenge for a playoff spot in a couple of years, and establish a winning culture for this franchise.
That is something that, despite two World Championships, Marlins fans have not enjoyed. As Derek Jeter has said, it is about “sustainable success.” Whether or not that happens is unknown at this point. But it wasn’t working the old way, and the only way to have a chance at something sustainable is to build it from scratch. Most fans don’t like it, and media talk show hosts have made the Marlins easy targets for anger this year. Call me a Marlins optimist, but I see some of those players starting to show signs they can be part of that group that will enable management to add a few crowning pieces once the core is together and ready.
Who’s who for the future?
This is who appears to be making a case for being in that group:
J.T. Realmuto, Justin Bour, Brian Anderson, Caleb Smith, Drew Steckenrider, Nick Wittgren, Kyle Barraclough, Jarlin Garcia, Miguel Rojas, Tayron Guerrero
And here is the next tier, so to speak. These players will get plenty of opportunities to join the core:
Lewis Brinson, Derek Dietrich, Dan Straily, Jose Urena, and several players who are knocking on the door of the Major League roster, and have had a taste of the Big Leagues.
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Rebuilding is not fun…unless you see beyond the headlines and the herd mentality, and through to the process of building a winner with the constraints this club currently has. 2018 for the Marlins is like six months of spring training, except that the games count. It is a time to audition talent.
Some of that talent is being auditioned to see if they will attract another club before the end of the season (Ziegler, Tazawa, Chen and perhaps Martin Prado and Starlin Castro). For many others, It is their first shot to show they fit into the multi-year plan that is rebuilding this franchise, on and off the field.
Rather than get frustrated with the performance of the big-salary holdovers, look past that to the gradual emergence of the guys that will give this team a fighting chance in the not-to-distant future. Whether it ultimately happens or not, it is a lot easier to enjoy the 2018 season with that perspective.
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