Will the Miami Marlins take a lesson from the World Series bound Houston Astros on how to build a winning baseball team?
There are bad baseball teams and there are historically bad baseball teams. Prior to their run as one of the best organizations in Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros were one of those historically bad ballclubs. The Miami Marlins could learn a thing or two from the American League Champions as the World Series begins tonight.
The Marlins, who are following a plan to build from the foundation up, are also following the lead of the Astros, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, and Atlanta Braves of hoping to rise from the ashes of cellar dwellers to playoff contenders. It took time, as the Astros were perennial losers as late as 2013 when they dropped 111 games. Fans in the nation’s fourth-largest city were upset at the direction of their beloved baseball team.
But as we have seen, organizations that follow a blueprint of developing within the farm system and adding key components in free agency and the MLB Draft have done fairly well of late.
Derek Jeter and his front office have made it clear their intentions of making this organization a winner over time, not with one easy, quick fix.
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"“The Marlins, in the second year of the franchise’s latest rebuild under the Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter ownership group, hope to be back in contention — and remain in contention — for a World Series sooner rather than later,” Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald writes. “That’s why they orchestrated this rebuild. That’s why they are infusing talent from the ground up.”"
And it looks like it is beginning to pay off. From a talent perspective, few organizations have built what the Marlins have accomplished in just two seasons. It has come with plenty of criticism – see Christian Yelich – but for the most part, it appears the trades the team made when Jeter and Sherman bought the team is paying off.
And with the addition of the 2019 MLB Draft Class – which includes J.J. Bleday, Kam Misner and Peyton Burdick, the power needed in the middle of the order will come, it will just take a few more seasons. The Marlins did add bats to their minor league system in Lewin Diaz and Jesus Sanchez at the MLB Trade Deadline in July and have young talent that can add punch at the plate in Isan Diaz, Jorge Alfaro, Brian Anderson, and Garrett Cooper if he can stay healthy.
In fact, the Marlins look like the Astros on paper in terms of how the front office is going about this leveling of the franchise.
"“The year was 2013. The Astros had the lowest payroll in MLB, few veterans on its roster and barely averaged 10,000 fans per game on its way to losing a franchise-record 111 games — their third consecutive 100-loss season,” McPherson writes. “Sound familiar, Marlins fans?… Miami is now hoping what happened next for the Astros will soon take place in South Florida.”"
The Marlins may still be a team intact of MLB stars like Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton if not for Jeter and his master plan. But the team could be full of players who have great individual stats and nothing to show for it. Stanton’s injury issues in New York, aside. Miami was a fun team to watch because the middle of the order could slug the long ball, but the pitching staff, sans Jose Fernandez, was suspect and unbalanced.
Houston dealt with the same issues.
"“After one more struggling year in 2014 (70-92), the Astros made the playoffs in 2015, won the World Series in 2017 and are going for their second title in three years. Houston has won at least 100 games each of the past three years,” McPherson adds."
The Marlins are still going to bank on their pitching depth will be enough to win more games over the next five seasons, and also continue to seek more veteran bats in free agency with a “low-risk, high-reward” mentality. It’s looked good on paper, but it has not translated to success just yet. This offseason, the Marlins figure to be more involved in free agency as well as possibly making another deal or two to grab a power hitter and a first baseman.
Matt Adams and Anthony Rendon, two Washington Nationals who will be free agents after the World Series, should be on the Marlins wish list if they are willing to spend a little more to get a better return on investments.
Rendon figures to be one of the hot names this winter, with deep-pocket teams offering up contracts the Marlins may not be able to compete with. Justin Smoak, Jose Abreu, and Nick Markakis, players who might be more of a gamble worth taking by Jeter and Michael Hill, the Marlins president of baseball operations.
As long as the front office keeps to its game plan, this is a team that could thrive as early as 2021.
"“It’s a model that takes inherent risk — trading trusty veterans to load up a weakened minor-league system with high-end prospects who may or may not pan out in the long run,” McPherson wrote."