Analysis: Pieces are falling into place for Marlins
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
JUPITER, Fla. — Let’s clear the air on this. These are not the Miami Marlins of old.
The transformation the organization is undergoing is refreshing and promising. Admittedly, we didn’t know what to expect after the startling announcement that Derek Jeter was parting ways with the club shortly before Spring Training started.
From what we’ve gathered since camp opened is, it’s basically business as usual. General manager Kim Ng is running the baseball operations, and from the players, to coaching staff, and throughout the organization, the transition has been seamless.
Manager Don Mattingly, in our opinion, takes on a huge role in maintaining continuity. Mattingly’s even demeanor has guided the franchise from years of rebuilding to the point now where they are serious about contending.
Yes, many disgruntled Marlins’ fans have heard the spring hype before. Why is this different? Simple. There is a commitment to add, not subtract. Also, the starting pitching is in place to make a run at the postseason.
As for financial commitment, the signings of Jorge Soler, Avisail Garcia and Sandy Alcantara alone is a $145 million investment. Add in the trades for Joey Wendle and Jacob Stallings, and the team is vastly improved.
As is, are the Marlins a playoff club? Probably not, in reality. But they’re getting closer. To me, they are probably an 78-80 win club, as constructed.
Say they swing a trade with the Pirates for Bryan Reynolds? What does that do? They have from now to perhaps even the July trade deadline to pull it off. Reynolds alone makes this about an 82-win club, which suddenly puts them in striking distance of being one of 12 to reach the playoffs.
Toss in a trade or signing of a reliever, along with more improvement from young players like Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Jesus Sanchez, and we’re talking a realistic postseason shot.
What I also like is the Marlins aren’t putting everything into winning in 2022. They are still young, and many of their core players are under control for a few more years.
The future does look bright. Of course, they have to prove it on the field.
Pitching prospects Max Meyer and Nick Neidert were sent down on Sunday. Neidert was optioned to Triple-A Jacksonville, while Meyer was reassigned to Minor League camp. He, too, likely will wind up at Jacksonville.
Neidert is being switched from a starter to a reliever, and this move allows him to develop into that role.
Meyer, however, is the interesting one. The 23-year-old is not yet on the 40-man roster. He made one Grapefruit League start, and impressed against the Mets, striking out five in four perfect innings.
Mattingly admitted Meyer probably could pitch out of the ‘pen in the big leagues right now. That’s so tempting, because many in the industry project the right-hander will eventually wind up in the ‘pen.
The Marlins, and some scouts I’ve spoken with, however, disagree. They see a starter in Meyer, who has a 96-99 mph fastball, a wipeout slider and improving changeup. Fastball command has been spotty in the past. Metrics also show, his fastball has been hit in the past.
Honestly, further development is not a bad idea.
But if Meyer could have a role in the ‘pen that helps the Marlins’ win games now, should that be explored? On the flip side, I don’t know how quickly it takes Meyer to warm up. Starters take considerably more time than relievers. The fact this wasn’t done at the start of Spring Training means, Meyer hasn’t been groomed for the ‘pen. All that considered, and you don’t take any chances.
Center field: Signing Soler to a three-year, $36 million contract likely is the Marlins’ last big splash move before Opening Day on April 8 at San Francisco.
The Marlins are monitoring the trade market, but are prepared to go with Sanchez in center field.
This is important to note.
The fact Soler is projected to play left field shows the Marlins are committed to Sanchez in center field. They said as much when the Soler signing was announced. Obviously, Sanchez hasn’t played there in the big leagues before. But the organization feels he can handle the transition. Mainly, they want Sanchez, Avisail Garcia and Soler in the same lineup as much as possible.
Should they make a trade for a center fielder, then someone has to sit. That’s not how the roster is build. The Marlins also want Garrett Cooper and Jesus Aguilar in the lineup. One of those two is expected to be the DH.
Miami also has too much invested financially in Soler and Garcia (four-years, $53 million). That would lead to Sanchez being the most likely to have his playing time reduces.
We don’t really see that happening.
As for possible trades, consider this. Recently, the Marlins explored trade talks with the Rockies for outfielder Raimel Tapia. They didn’t progress, and Tapia was recently dealt by Colorado to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Oakland A’s center fielder Ramon Laureano is another possibility. But there isn’t much urgency to make the trade now because Laureano is suspended the first 27 games of the regular season.
Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays, you ask? Doubtful. Cost is an issue there. Kiermaier is making $12 million this year, and has a $13 million club option, with a $2.5 million buyout. Plus, you have to trade for him.
Bullpen: Dylan Floro’s sore right arm has raised concerns within in the organization. Floro was projected to be the closer, but he’s dealing with discomfort.
The Marlins are exploring the market for a proven high- leverage reliever. So are many other clubs. There are internal options, like Anthony Bender, who can close.
If the Marlins have to make one more significant move in the next two weeks, it could be for a reliever, instead of center field.
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