Making the grade: MO2 breaks down Marlins’ moves
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
First and foremost, Miami Marlins’ management made a commitment to contending in 2022. That’s welcome news to a fanbase that has endured years of building for a better tomorrow.
Secondly, the organization backed their claim by finalizing several significant deals prior to the Dec. 1 lockout.
Signing Sandy Alcantara, their ace, to a five-year, $56 million contract extension is a cornerstone move, and much deserved to the 26-year-old right-hander.
It was a fitting and significant first step on several fronts, because it sent a signal to the clubhouse that the Marlins are committed to retaining their young talent. Alcantara is establishing himself as an elite starter.
Without an extension, there inevitably would have been constant speculation that Alcantara’s days with the Marlins would be limited, despite the fact he would have had three years of arbitration. Now, Alcantara’s focus can remain on the field, and not being the subject of constant trade talks.
The Marlins followed up by signing free agent outfielder Avisail Garcia (five years, $53 million), and trading for catcher Jacob Stallings and infielder Joey Wendle.
Stallings, the N.L.’s 2021 Gold Glove-winning catcher, was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates for right-handers Zach Thompson and Kyle Nicolas and outfielder Connor Scott.
The Marlins traded outfield prospect Kameron Misner to the Tampa Bay Rays for Wendle, a left-handed hitter and 2021 All-Star.
Additionally, catcher Jorge Alfaro was dealt to the San Diego Padres for a player to be named, and Miami brought in righty reliever Louis Head from the Rays for a player to be named.
Manager Don Mattingly’s staff added new hitting coach Marcus Thames.
The Marlins still have more work to do, and have said they’re not done. They’d like to add more power, along with filling center field, and add on to the bullpen.
To this point, the Marlins have been active, and clearly have upgraded a roster that lost 95 games in 2021.
As we assess what the Marlins have done, what kind of letter grade would you put on their offseason?
Recently, in The Athletic, Jim Bowden graded the Hot Stove season for all 30 MLB clubs. For the Marlins, he gave them a B, which MO2 thinks is fair.
In our one-day MO2 Twitter poll, our voters tallied, B+ (46.4 percent), B (41.4 percent) and A (12.2 percent), with 343 participating.
Our MO2 vote is a solid B, and just shy of a B+. The reason? In our view, power bats are the biggest priority, and Garcia helps in that department. The organization still needs at least one more middle of the order threat. If they can land Michael Conforto, we’d be happy.
Garcia belted 29 homers with the Milwaukee Brewers last year, and had a maximum exit velocity of 116.7 mph. So, he is capable of plenty of hard contact. He fanned 23.3 percent.
At the top of our MO2 wish list is outfielder Nick Castellanos, but his price tag appears substantially higher than what the Marlins are comfortable paying. If Castellanos ends up with the Philadelphia Phillies, that would be a game-changing signing in the N.L. East. Castellanos and Harper back-to-back in the lineup will provide plenty of headaches for opposing pitchers.
Also, the Marlins didn’t land Starling Marte. In the spirit of full discloser, MO2 never supported an overpay on Marte. We like Marte, but wouldn’t have made him a top target due to his lack of home run production. He’s been more of a table-settler than a threat. The New York Mets, meanwhile, locked up Marte for four years, $78 million. He will fit perfectly there before New York has Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso hitting behind him.
Still, the Marlins stumbled in their handling of Marte since the end of the 2020 season. They had opportunities to sign him before the 2021 July Trade Deadline and ended up trading him to the Oakland A’s for lefty Jesus Luzardo. In the offseason, Miami re-engaged with Marte’s camp, and were interested, but their offer didn’t get the deal done. So, the Mets get Marte, and the Marlins remain in the market for a center fielder.
Now, we like the Stallings’ traded, because Miami clearly needed to address the catcher position. Stallings, 6-foot-5, 225-pounds, is very good defensively. He has excellent blocking skills, and pitchers should be comfortable throwing to him. Offensively, he grinds out at-bats. He struck out 19.9 percent and walked 11.5 percent last year.
To acquire, the Marlins thinned their pitching depth by dealing Thompson. Nicolas has upside, and he likely will be the key player in this trade, from the Pirates side. His ceiling appears to be a middle of the rotation starter, which is really good. Scott, a first-round pick in 2018 MLB Draft, has been disappointing. Our sources project him more as a platoon player than a regular. In a loaded 2018 first-round, the Marlins selected Scott over Triston Casas, a projected future star with the Boston Red Sox.
Wendle is a strong pickup. A proven winner and contributor, Wendle’s strikeout rate was 22.6 percent.
Wendle, Stallings and Garcia all put the ball in play. For a team that struck out way too much in 2021, getting players with lower strikeout rates is key.
We anticipate Wendle is going to receive plenty of playing time, and his arrival makes us wonder if Brian Anderson will stay full-time at third base, or also play some corner outfield? Unless there are plans to extend Anderson, trading the 28-year-old also could be a possibility. He’s in his second year of arbitration and qualifies for free agency in 2024. So, the organization will have to make a decision at some point on Anderson’s long-term future.
For Wendle, the Marlins parted with Misner, who raised his stock this offseason at the Arizona Fall League. He showed his athleticism, and the fact he can hit for power, run play center field.
Some of our MO2 insiders project Misner as an everyday big-league outfielder.
After the lockout ends, the Marlins are expected to keep busy. Center field remains in flux, as does the bullpen. How those positions are addressed with ultimately determine their final offseason letter grade.