Was Avisail Garcia The Worst Free Agent Contract in Miami Marlins History?

The Miami Marlins finally moved on from Avisail Garcia Tuesday morning
Los Angeles Angels v Miami Marlins
Los Angeles Angels v Miami Marlins / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

As of Tuesday morning, Avisail Garcia is no longer with the Miami Marlins.

Well, at the very least, he is clearly done being a threat to occupy a space in the Marlins starting lineup. Designated for assignment with just about $24 million left on his contract, there's a better chance of Miami winning the World Series this season than a team putting in a claim on him. Therefore I suppose the possibility technically exists he ends up taking up space at AAA and remaining with the organization that signed him to a 4 year, $56 million dollar contract in 2022.

However, moving on at this point would seem to be in the best interests of both parties. At long last, Tuesday morning's decision is the clearest sign yet that the Miami Marlins organization in general, and owner Bruce Sherman in particular, have finally arrived at the conclusion that this is sadly the case. That $56 million is gone, and would have been better spent on building three more home run statues in the outfield than on this particular outfielder.

But was Avisail Garcia the worst free agent decision in Miami Marlins franchise history?

It has certainly felt that the past few seasons, particularly if you have spent any time discussing the Marlins on social media. Yet, it's actually a tricky question to answer, for there are three contenders for the title. Obviously, Garcia makes the list. Joining him though? That'd be pitchers Wei-Yin Chen and Heath Bell. This trio is unassailable in their putridness, and frankly no one else comes close in terms of negative impact. The answer to the riddle of who would even come in fourth for a franchise that has been so historically loath to spend in free agency to begin with makes for quite the fascinating research deep dive.

Now, if you go purely by WAR and on the field damage, it is admittedly a very one-sided decision in the "favor" of Garcia. His career Marlins WAR of -1.7 is miles ahead of Bell and Chen, who tie at -0.4 WAR a piece in a Miami uniform. Emphasis on Miami uniform by the way, for as you might have picked up on, none of these players ever sported a Florida Marlins uniform (throwback nights excluded). All three were signed under either Jeffrey Loria or Bruce Sherman, and all after relocating to loanDepotPark.

The thing is, on the field production and their personal stats is only part of the story here. Just as important is the money involved, and the consequences their salaries had on the rest of the roster. Also, how talented were the teams they were associated with? How damaging was their presence, really, in terms of team success and fan happiness?

Putting all of that together then, let's quickly cycle through the candidates for worst Miami Marlins free agent ever.

Bell comes in third in every respect. His deal was only worth $27 million, and Miami was able to offload most of that salary via trade. He was only here for one season, back in 2012. I suppose a case could be made that if he had been the All-Star, elite closer he was paid to be that perhaps things might have fallen into place differently for that squad. However, that requires a ton of revisionist history for a roster beset by injuries, regression, and just poor choices. No one player, or manager, was saving the 2012 Marlins frome being bad, and consequently from being dismantled and pissing off the fanbase when they had just dared to hope things had turned a corner.

Chen, on the other hand, signed for what remains the richest free-agent contract the Marlins ever awarded to a pitcher. It was an $80 million deal, not chump change for any team, and catastrophic for Miami's books. Furthermore, they had to pay every penny of it. What's worse, when they finally did make the decision to move on, they got burned again by the MLB financial response to the 2020 Covid season. They would have spent less money had they never kicked him off the roster. Incredible. That particular albatross siphoned resources from two clubs that just missed finishing with winning records in 2016 and 2017, and arguably had an impact on every roster decision the Marlins made through the 2020 season. It's by no means a great leap to suggest the franchise might be in a very different position today had he never been signed.

So much so that until this season, I would have emphatically argued that Chen easily edged out Garcia for that coveted Worst Marlins Free Agent Ever title. Really, the debate has always been a two man race, for all but the most jaded 2012 season ticket holder. Unfortunately, every decision the Miami Marlins have made since their first round playoff exit in 2023 have made it clear that there is no longer any debate on the subject.

Avisail Garcia was the worst free agent decision the Miami Marlins have ever made.

Why? For starters, there is that aforementioned onfield performance. He was horrible, continually taking away valuable at bats from more valuable players. And those more valuable players weren't good either, they just weren't league worst bad as Avi often was. He was frequently injured too. As some of you may know, the 2024 Marlins were a shocking 1-17 with him on the field this season. Obviously, that wasn't all on him, but throughout his entire Marlins career, they were simply better without him.

More damning though are the wider financial consequences. This contract broke Bruce Sherman, at least as a player in free agency. It is no stretch to say Garcia played a large role in the current direction of the franchise, and the decision to start a rebuild when a team just made the playoffs the year prior. If Garcia's salary wasn't inescapably on the books, would the Marlins have done more in free agency this offseason? Even after acknowleding that the Marlins covered his salary in the deal, would the team have been in such a rush to deal Luis Arraez? A lot of long-term damage has been inflicted on the Marlins in a short span of time, and Garcia's contract is a factor.

If any better player had been occupying his roster spot this whole time, things are different. Instead, a Marlins roster with plenty of young, reasonably priced talent is likely going to be scuttled rather than reinforced. Again, that's not all on Avi.

Yet enough of it is to give him a clear edge as the worst free agent in team history.

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