Cubs Rebuild Could Land Them in Playoffs

After a disappointing loss in the Wild Card to a young Miami Marlins, the NL Central winning Chicago Cubs are letting go of a lot of their star power. After non-tendering now National Kyle Schwarber and trading Yu Darvish to the Padres, the Cubs have shed $75 million in payroll over the course of the offseason.

 

What this means for the Cubs

 

As it stands, the Cubs have one of the most incomplete rosters in baseball. Although it was evident in last year’s shortened season especially in the playoffs, the holes are even more evident now. They needed another bat in the outfield last year, and with Almora Jr. and Schwarber being non-tendered this issue will not go away. They are in desperate need of another arm out of the bullpen, and soon they could be in need of a 3rd baseman.

 

After the fire sale that has already occurred this offseason, star 3B Kris Bryant and C Wilson Contreras are most likely the next two to be traded away. Jon Morosi reported yesterday that the up and coming Toronto Blue Jays could be one of the potential suitors for these stars. 

 

The Cubs look to bounce back after an extremely short-lived playoff run last year; however, it looks like they may be on the opposite trend. With expenses down due to COVID-19, they are making moves that imply that they expect to lose now rather than win. After a wildly successful run in the past 7 years or so, the Cubs may find themselves back in the situation they were in in 2012.

 

What this means for the NL Central

 

Ironically, the Cubs, even if they lost all of their pieces, could still win the NL Central again. 

 

The St. Louis Cardinals were average this past season, resulting in an early Wild Card exit as well. They have not made any changes to their roster, and they will stay put in terms of growth.

 

The Cincinnati reds cannot hit. Also, their Cy Young-winning SP Trevor Bauer is almost definitely leaving during free agency. They look to be even worse this upcoming season. 

 

The Milwaukee Brewers continue the trend of average, as they finished below .500 in the 2020 season resulting in, you guessed it, a Wild Card defeat. They have also not made any significant moves that point towards a change in record in 2021.

 

And well, the Pirates are just plain not good.

 

This leaves a weak Cubs team in an advantageous position to make a 2021 postseason run especially if they hold onto Bryant and Contreras.

 

This won’t lead to a World Series Championship, but it could be one final hoorah for big-name players such as Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Hendricks, and Kris Bryant to make a splash in October.

 

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Yankees Dropping the Ball on LeMahieu

The MVP Finalist DJ LeMahieu remains one of the best free agents remaining within this offseason. He finished off the 2020 season batting .364, leading the Majors in batting average leading the Yankees to an NLDS appearance where they lost to the AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays.

 

LeMahieu tops a shortlist of superstar free agents remaining on the market, and although many assumed he would resign with the Bronx Bombers, talks between the two have stalled significantly in recent days.

 

The two-time batting Champion has said that he has not reached out to other teams, but still remains unhappy with how the Yankees are dealing with his potential resigning. With catchers and pitchers due to report to Spring Training within the next 5 weeks, time is running out and the Yankee’s inaction could spur LeMahieu to sign elsewhere. 

High Price for High Spenders

He is expecting a deal upwards of $100 million and it seems that his former team is hesitant to pull the trigger. Because of this, DJ’s team has reached out to other teams that have shown interest such as the defending champion LA Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, and high-spending New York Mets.

Yankees Could Lose A Key Piece

DJ’s decision may play a major role for a Yankees team that fell one run short of making the ALCS. The Yankees remain a strong team, and maintaining depth is key for them to make a big run in the 2021 season and compete with an elite Rays team. Losing DJ LeMahieu would hurt their lineup significantly. Statistically alone, he provides immense value; however, a lot of his value is in his ability to force pitchers to throw a lot of pitches, allowing sluggers such as Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge to have a man on base consistently, making it more likely they see good pitches to hit.

 

Only time will tell where the All-Star will end up, but the Yanks need to step up before they lose a key man to their operation.

 

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Top 5 MLB Offseason Moves To Date

The 2020 MLB offseason has not been quiet. Throughout the few months, we have been without baseball, we have seen multiple moves that will change the landscape of Major League Baseball as we know it. As of January 7th, 5 key moves stick out as the defining moments of the offseason. Let’s break down what each of them means for the teams involved:

 

  1. Rangers trade P Lance Lynn to White Sox for P Dane Dunning

 

The White Sox sputtered out in the 2020 playoffs in game 3 of the Wild Card Series versus the Oakland Athletics. Throughout their shortened 2020 season, it was evident that they lacked a consistent third starter. They paid the price in game 3, starting a young Dane Dunning, losing 6-4 to the A’s.

 

Lance Lynn, much to the surprise of the baseball world, has been one of the best starters in the MLB over the past 2 seasons. He has thrown over 290 innings (most in MLB) and has been a phenomenal piece on a noncontending Texas Rangers ball club. This move allows Lynn to once again compete on a contender as searches for his 2nd World Series ring. 

 

The Texas Rangers also get a young arm that will hopefully develop as they continue to rebuild.

 

If Lynn continues to pitch at an elite level, the White Sox will be extremely dangerous this season.

 

  1. Braves sign P Charlie Morton

 

The Atlanta Braves had 3 chances to make the World Series after going up 3-1 versus the LA Dodgers in the 2020 NLCS. Nothing new to Atlanta fans, the lead disappeared quickly. The pitching depth of the Dodgers outlasted an extremely young core of Braves pitchers. 

 

Adding Charlie Morton could be exactly what the Braves need to get over the hump and find themselves in the fall classic. Max Fried is the ace of the team. But questions still remain about Ian Anderson, Mike Soroka, and Kyle Wright due to either their inconsistency in 2020 or lack of experience overall. Charlie Morton has thrived as an electric number 2/3 throughout his career, most notably behind Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander in Houston and Tyler Glasnow in Tampa Bay. 

 

As a career ground ball pitcher, Charlie Morton will continue to get consistent outs and perform in the playoffs for a thriving Atlanta team. The threats of San Diego and Los Angeles still loom ahead, but with this much talent, anything is possible.

 

  1. Indians trade SS Francisco Lindor and P Carlos Carrasco to Mets for IF Amed Rosario, IF Andrés Giménez, and Minor Leaguers RHP Josh Wolf and OF Isaiah Greene

 

Earlier today, the high-spending New York Mets were finally the team to pull the trigger on free-swinging Lindor. Rumors have spread since the start of the offseason as to where the smiling shortstop would end up. It looks like he will land in the Big Apple.

 

The underachieving Mets struggled all of last year, but with new ownership, they have found themselves spending big in order to overcome a lack of 2020 success. Clearly, this strategy has not always worked in baseball, and at this point time will only tell. However, adding superstar talent in Francisco Lindor and another good arm in Carlos Carrasco definitely will not hurt. 

 

The Mets have struggled to find starters past Jacob deGrom that can provide stability. Although Lindor may provide more value to a team individually. In New York, however, Carlos Carrasco may be more of a deciding factor in how successful this team is. The Mets have lacked pitching for years, and if deGrom, Stroman, and Carrasco can become a solid rotation, the Mets will find themselves back in playoff contention.

 

On the other hand, the Indians add pieces for future success. Time will tell who won this trade, but in the short term, the Mets will be the only of the two to see direct results.

 

Padres Take the Cake

 

  1. Padres trade for P Yu Darvish in 7 player deal with Cubs

 

The San Diego Padres were one of the best teams in baseball in the shortened 2020 season. Behind star power on the offensive end in Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, they looked ready to make a deep postseason run. Much like every other team, however, they couldn’t surpass the hump of the Los Angeles Dodgers, losing in the NLDS.

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This team is full of potential and adding a Cy young candidate in Yu Darvish will help to mitigate their pitching issues. A trade of this level puts them in an even stronger position than they were last year.

 

Last year, Darvish was 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA on a Cubs team that lost to the weak Miami Marlins in the Wild Card Series.

 

If Yu Darvish pitches to the level we saw in 2020, the Padres will be a force to be reckoned with, especially within the NL West.

 

  1. Padres trade for P Blake Snell with the Tampa Bay Rays

 

Having Yu Darvish was not enough. The Padres went out and traded for a former Cy Young winner this time. Blake Snell was phenomenal in the playoffs, helping to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to the World Series. There were rumors of a possible trade after Kevin Cash’s poor handling of Snell in Game 6, which may have cost the Rays a chance at reaching a Game 7 or winning it all.

 

In 2018, Snell was 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA for the Rays. He bounced back in 2020 after a poor 2019 season, going 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA. He looks to be back to his old self, most evidently in his Postseason performances. 

 

Snell provides a key number 1 in a rotation that desperately needs it. He saw great success in Tampa Bay, and with a more potent lineup backing him in San Diego in the NL, his numbers should only get better.

 

Snell and Darvish could combine to elevate this Padres team past the Dodgers and to a long-awaited World Series championship.

 

Overall MLB Impact

 

We have seen some great moves throughout the offseason, and although these 5 classify as the “best,” there were many other moves that will impact baseball as a whole. We just have to wait and see how they pan out.

 

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Marlins Sign Detwiler and Leon

Since the announcement of Kim Ng as the new Miami Marlins General Manager, the offseason has been relatively quiet. There were a lot of questions as to what she would do first, and it looks like we finally have our answer. Rather than shooting for big names, she has decided to buy low. The two biggest signings of her tenure happened recently, and although they aren’t stars, they have the capability to make this Marlins team better at a cheap price. 

 

LHP Ross Detwiler and C Sandy Leon were the initial targets of choice for Ng. Both players serve a role for the “Bottom Feeders” in the upcoming 2021 season. They add depth in two areas that the Marlins were previously lacking in.

 

Ross Detwiler

 

The 34-year-old southpaw was signed to a 1 year $850,000 deal. The Marlins bullpen, outside of a few, struggled immensely in 2020. Richard Bleier was the only veteran lefty in the bullpen, and this lack of experience showed up in big moments through the likes of Stephen Tarpley, Trevor Rogers, and Daniel Castano. 

 

Coming off of a strong 2020 campaign, Detwiler provides more stability to a young bullpen. He effectively becomes a 2nd Richard Bleier. Statistically, the two pitchers are very similar and bring a lot of the same stuff to the table: low MPH fastballs which force them to rely on movement and control to get outs. Bleier was extremely effective last year, and if Detwiler fills the same role, they can split outings, allowing the Marlins to have access to a solid lefty arm every night of a long 162 game year.

 

Detwiler is not what Miami was directly hoping for but still could play a vital role in stabilizing a young and variable team.

 

Sandy Leon

 

Sandy Leon was another name that Miami fans did not expect to see. He signed to a minor league deal that may be worth $1.25 million if he makes the majors. In the 2020 season, the bullpen was a problem, but our catching situation was an absolute disaster. Francisco Cervelli was phenomenal in the few games he played before his injury forced his retirement, but after that, the woes of Chad Wallach and Jorge Alfaro plagued Miami. Wallach cannot hit and Alfaro cannot play defense. Wallach batted .227 (.071 in the playoffs) and Jorge Alfaro had -7 Defensive Runs Saved (-39 over a full season). 

 

Sandy Leon could be a guy like Cervelli in the right situation. Statistically, he has never been great offensively, but he was Chris Sale’s primary catcher in Boston. He is a good defender, saving runs that we would lose through Wallach and Alfaro. He may never live up to the season he hit .310 in Boston, but he could be exactly what the Marlins needed in the NLDS and need to save runs defensively.

 

Overall Takeaway for the Marlins

 

Nothing too groundbreaking going on in the Marlins front office right now. These signings prove that they are willing to go out and find solutions, but also may point to their understanding that this team is not ready to compete just yet. It seems that Kim Ng has taken a slower approach to success in Miami, and we will just have to wait to see if it pans out.

 

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Marlins Rule 5

Marlins Active During Rule 5 Draft

The Miami Marlins front office has remained largely quiet so far this offseason, but that changed during Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. The Marlins added five players to the organization but also saw a player plucked from their minor league system.

Miami has a long history of activity in the Rule 5 Draft, with some significant successes. Many of the players who’ve been drafted in this setup don’t make much of a difference. However, 33 All-Stars have been selected during this process over the years, as well as one Hall of Famer (Roberto Clemente).

Marlins Land Two Pitchers in Rule 5 Draft

The Marlins held the No. 13 overall selection in this year’s Rule 5 draft and chose right-handed pitcher Paul Campbell from the Tampa Bay Rays. Miami also added reliever Zach Pop in a draft-day trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Campbell comes to Miami with the potential to make an immediate impact as a long reliever and spot starter. Rated the Rays’ No. 24 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Campbell sports high spin rates on his fastball, curveball and slider. His fastball sits at 92-95 mph with cut action and he has good command.

For his career, Campbell registers a 3.12 ERA with 188 strikeouts, allowing opponents to hit just .231 against him.

The Marlins picked up Pop from Arizona in exchange for the infamous player-to-be-named-later. Pop actually comes from the Baltimore Orioles’ system, as the Diamondbacks selected him with the No. 6 pick in Thursday’s draft. Pop made his way to Baltimore as part of the Manny Machado trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers a few years ago.

Pop underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019 but profiles as a potential closer. When healthy, his arsenal includes an upper-90s sinker and a plus slider. His fastball clocked at mid-to-upper 90s prior to his surgery.

In limited opportunities due to injury, Pop piled up 80 strikeouts over 80.1 IP. He’s registered eight saves in 11 opportunities and sports a 1.34 ERA with a 0.91 WHIP.

There’s high upside for both of these pitchers. If they can reach their potential, both will be significant upgrades for the Marlins bullpen. These additions complete Miami’s 40-man roster, but that will not prevent the team from being engaged in both the free agent and trade markets.

Minor League Additions (and Subtraction)

The Marlins remained active during the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft as well, which is set up in a similar way to the MLB phase. If a player is picked from Double-A, they move to Triple-A. Single-A players move to Double-A with their new club.

Miami selected three players during this phase. They nabbed LHP Jake Fishman from the Blue Jays, RHP Dylan Bice from the Rangers and INF Marcus Chiu from the Dodgers.

Fishman might be the best of the three picks. He’s a low-slot lefty reliever with some starting experience. At 6-foot-3, the 25-year-old’s awkward angle and horizontal movement of his fastball make him an interesting prospect. He figures to be a Triple-A reliever in 2021, but could see a promotion during the season.

Bice is a 23-year-old hard-throwing reliever who hasn’t pitched above Single-A. Chiu is a 23-year-old utility infielder with some power but who hit just .215 at High-A in 2019.

The Marlins lost right-handed reliever Brett Graves during the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Interestingly, Oakland picked Graves from the Marlins three years after Miami took him from the A’s in the 2017 Rule 5 draft.

Injury issues stalled Graves’ development with the Fish. He made 21 appearances for the Marlins in 2018. He registered 21 strikeouts over 33.1 innings pitched and notched one win, one loss and one save along the way. Graves spent 2019 between Double-A and Triple-A, and wasn’t part of Miami’s 60-man player pool in 2020.

Marlins Rule 5 History

The Marlins have had some success in the past during the Rule 5 draft. The team nabbed Dan Uggla from Arizona in 2005. Uggla put up some gaudy numbers for the Marlins over his five-year run with the Fish and remains Top-10 in 30 offensive statistical categories for the franchise. He’s No. 2 all-time in home runs (154) and strikeouts (760), and No. 6 in RBI (465).

In 2013, the Marlins selected Justin Bour from the Chicago Cubs during the minor league phase of the draft. Bour went on to parts of play five seasons with the Fish, hitting 83 homers, 63 doubles and driving in 272 runs. In 2017, the Marlins added Elieser Hernandez from the Astros and he pitched very well for the Fish in 2020.

Last year, the Marlins selected RHP Sterling Sharp from the Nationals, but ultimately returned the reliever to Washington after an unsuccessful stint.

Interestingly, the Marlins were also involved in the Rule 5 selection of two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana. In 2000, the Astros left Santana off of their 40-man roster and the Marlins, who held the No. 2 pick that year, selected the future star.

The Marlins then flipped Santana to the Minnesota Twins in what was later deemed a prearranged draft-day deal. The Marlins received minor leaguer in Jared Camp, who the Twins had taken with the No. 1 pick in the Rule 5 draft that year, and $50,000. Camp didn’t make the Marlins Opening Day roster that year and was ultimately returned to the Cleveland Indians. Santana, meanwhile, went one to be a four-time All-Star and won the AL Cy Young in 2004 and 2006.

Marlins free agent

Top 5 Free Agent Targets For Miami Marlins

It’s no surprise coming off an incredible 60-game season which saw the Marlins make their first postseason appearance in 17 years (and win a playoff series at that) amid a COVID-19 outbreak which ravaged the roster three games into the season that Jeter and Co. are looking to build upon their 2020 success. This starts when the Marlins turn to the free agent market.

This process really began with the monumental hiring of Kim Ng as the team’s next general manager, marking the first time that a woman had been named GM of any North American professional sports team. Further, it is the first time that a Asian-American has held the role, breaking a barrier that had stunted the success of women and minorities in sports while giving new hope and inspiration to girls from all different ethnicities and walks of life interested in a high-level career in sports.

This, however, does not mark the end of the offseason for the Fish. It’s only the beginning. With a seemingly minuscule payroll relative to the rest of the league at $46 million and an ownership group which has made it clear that they’re willing to spend appropriately, there are several aspects of the Major League roster that could be improved upon via free agent additions to make the club even better heading into the 2021 season. 

Today, we’ll take a look at the top five free agent targets for the Marlins this offseason.

Marlins Free Agent Target No. 5: Michael Brantley, OF/DH

The Fish’s depth chart in the outfield is, crowded, to say the least. Despite this, the team had a combined bWAR of 0.4 in the outfield in 2020, due to struggles from rookie Monte Harrison and a lack of production from veteran left fielder Corey Dickerson. Though the Marlins have many prospects on the horizon awaiting their ability to contribute at the highest level and impact player Starling Marte manning center, the Fish still lack a consistent, everyday hitter. Enter: Michael Brantley.

Brantley has swung the bat well everywhere he’s been. He posts a career 116 OPS-plus while bringing solid power numbers and a high average to the table. Unlike Dickerson, Brantley is an above-average left fielder. He had one of the highest DRS (defensive-runs-saved) totals of any left-fielder in the truncated 2020 season with five. Adding a professional bat into the lineup who wouldn’t be a liability in the outfield while providing DH flexibility (assuming the DH stays in the National League in 2021) could provide the Marlins a substantially better offense.

Drawbacks to Adding Brantley

However, there are several downsides to this signing. As stated, the Marlins have MANY outfield options. Dickerson, Lewis Brinson, Harrison, Jesus Sanchez, Magneuris Sierra, and JJ Bleday are all assured or competing for a spot. If Brantley is signed with the intentions of him DH’ing, what does that mean for Garrett Cooper or Jesus Aguilar?

With Aguilar coming off a resurgent year and Cooper cementing himself as a legitimate threat in the lineup, only one of the two can play first base at a time. That leaves the other on the bench if Brantley is the DH. This wouldn’t bode well for the Marlins, as they could see a drop off in production in the two if they were not playing every day, which they should be. The two combined were 25 percent better than the average major league hitter (a .125 OPS-plus).

My conclusion is this. With the logjam of outfielders and lack of a spot for him, the Fish shouldn’t consider talks with Brantley. That is, unless one or multiple pieces at either first base or outfield are moved to make room for him. If this occurs, then the enticing upside of the left-fielder may reel Ng and Jeter into pushing for a deal.

Free Agent Target No. 4 Tommy La Stella, 2B

After the departure of Starlin Castro via free agency in the 2019 offseason, it was all but given that former top prospect Isan Diaz would run away with the starting second base role. However, a pandemic halted any of these talks. Diaz, who had presumably won the role during the summer camp ramp-up before the season, made the tough decision to opt-out of 2020 play. He cited concern over the virus for his and his family’s sake.

This led Jonathan Villar (among many others) to play the position when play resumed. Villar was traded to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline, leading to speculation as to who would man the spot. Soon thereafter, Isan opted back into the season to play the remainder of the year with the Fish. As exciting as this was, it did not provide many results. He slashed .182/.182/.182 in seven games before going out with a groin injury, ending his season.

Top prospect Jazz Chisholm split time with utility man Jon Berti after this, though it’s possible Jazz was rushed to the bigs, as he posted a .161/.242/.321 slash line in his cup of coffee. 

Adding La Stella

This lack of production, aside from Berti, who has provided consistent offense, speed, and defense during his tenure, though does not fit into the Marlins’ future plans at age 30, leads to questions about Diaz and Chisholm’s actual readiness for the big leagues, and raises questions as to whether or not the duo should start 2021 with the team’s Triple-A affiliate. If this is in Ng’s plans, she may seek a stopgap at the position, whether to split time with Berti or to play there every day. This stopgap could be Tommy La Stella.

La Stella would be a nice fit in Miami as a left-handed infielder with positional flexibility and consistent contact. (27 walks to only 12 strikeouts in 2020.) He improved his power numbers (slugging percentage of .486 and .449 in 2019 and 2020 compared to .331 in 2018). La Stella could either split time with Berti (La Stella is a .303 hitter vs righties compared to a  .216 one vs lefties). Or play there every day until Isan or Jazz proves they’re ready for the highest level. At that point, La Stella could be flipped for more prospect depth at the deadline.

Potential Negatives to La Stella

A negative facet to this signing is similar to that of the proposed Brantley one, heavy depth at the position. With unofficial captain Miguel Rojas holding down the fort at shortstop in 2021, Chisholm and Diaz are both competing for the job at second. This leads to a possibility that one or the other show they are ultimately ready for the position during spring training. Even 21-year-old Jose Devers could be in the mix. He was added to the team’s taxi squad during their postseason run despite never playing above class A-advanced in the minors.

This leaves La Stella in a tough spot if he is signed. He can’t play third because of Brian Anderson. First base remains loaded with major league depth, and second may not garner much playing time either. Not even a DH role would be guaranteed. Inking La Stella to a deal is useless if he doesn’t play every day.

With a contract I expect will demand upwards of $7-million, signing La Stella to a one-year deal would speak lengths as to where the organization feels Isan and Jazz are. He would most likely be their placeholder until one is ready. Otherwise, a diminished role is a moot utilization of the 31-year-old veteran.

Marlins Free Agent Taget No. 3: James McCann, C

Perhaps the most important position to address, the Marlins did not see much production at all from two of their top three catchers in 2020. Aside from Francisco Cervelli (who has retired), the Marlins’ two other catchers on the roster from Opening Day on were not very valuable behind the dish.

Jorge Alfaro, the team’s immediate catcher of the future after trading J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies in 2019, has seemed to regress from his time with his old team. A gaudy K rate of 33.1 percent in 2019 was somehow topped this year in 2020, as Jorge K’d 36 percent of the time this past season (36 strikeouts in 100 at-bats). He provided a negative dWAR all the while. His struggles on both sides of the ball warranted his benching during the postseason. Backup catcher Chad Wallach, who slashed .227/.277/.364 in the regular season, started over him. Manager Don Mattingly cited defense as the reason. 

This tandem posted a combined -0.4 WAR in 2020. And though Alfaro was infected by COVID-19 and never got into a groove, this lack of impact behind the plate cannot be perpetuated if the Marlins want to contend in 2021. Especially with little catching depth at the minor league level.

Upgrading at Catcher a Must

This leads to the possibility of the Fish signing former Tiger and White Sox catcher James McCann. It would be a GREAT signing at that. The 30-year-old has been one of the most consistent backstops over the last two seasons, posting a solid 4.0 oWAR and 126 OPS-plus in that time frame. And that isn’t all.

He has been VERY valuable behind the plate. He registered a nine DRS and a 32 percent caught-stealing-rate since 2019, whilst ranking in the top 11 percent in framing in 2020 (per Baseball Savant). Alfaro ranked in the 34th percentile in said metric in 2019 (not enough data to track this season). Meaning, McCann was able to steal strikes for his pitchers a lot more effectively than Alfaro.

Signing McCann would allow for Miami’s young starting pitching core to build a better rapport and trust with him. And they would in turn be more successful due to the intangibles and experience McCann has that Alfaro unfortunately lacks.

Final Thoughts on McCann

McCann’s dWAR the past two seasons alone (1.7) is more than Alfaro and Wallach’s total WAR combined in that time (1.1). 

The only qualm with signing him is the money he may command. The highest AAV on the books belongs to Starling Marte at $12.4 million over one-year. Though ownership cited a willingness to spend, it’s possible McCann could seek an AAV upwards of $15 million over several years, a financial commitment I’m not sure the Fish are willing to make.

Furthermore, if McCann is signed and deemed the catcher for the foreseeable future, where does that leave Alfaro? Undoubtedly talented with a rare combination of power and speed for a catcher, his role as a backup at age 27 could stunt any further player growth and even diminish his confidence. This could lead to the possibility that he’d be traded if McCann were inked to a deal in Miami.

Closing thoughts? McCann in caliente red makes all the sense as the position lacks production offensively and defensively with the current options. But the looming inevitability of a big payday and the inquiries surrounding current starter Jorge Alfaro’s role lead to many questions as to the legitimacy of a deal materializing

Free Agent Target No. 2: Alex Colome, RHP

The most obvious allocation of 2021 free agent money should be towards the Marlins’ bullpen. With some of their biggest 2020 contributors in Brad Boxberger and Brandon Kintzler becoming free agents, the Fish should aim to resign those two. Yimi Garcia, signed in the 2019 offseason, dazzled in 2020. And he looks to be a key setup man moving forward. However, there isn’t much certainty after that.

Right-hander Jamey Hoyt was effective with a 1.23 ERA this past season. But the 34-year-old was in the bottom eight percent in exit velocity per Baseball Savant. He threw his slider 67 percent of the time, leading to regression and predictability concerns.

Jose Urena, the longest-tenured member of the organization currently, had a rough 2020 amid a bout with COVID and a season-ending forearm fracture. He finished with a 5.40 ERA and 6.06 FIP. Other bullpen arms weren’t too reliable, either. This includes Ryne Stanek (diminished velocity and pitch effectiveness), Stephen Tarpley (BB/9 of 6 with average stuff), Robert Dugger and Nick Neidert (unproven rookies who struggled with COVID), and Jordan Yamamoto (let’s not talk about it).

Signing Colome Helps the Bullpen

If nothing else, signing Alex Colome would make that heads or tails bullpen a bit less worrisome. The Dominican right-hander logged 22 and a third sparkling innings for the White Sox in 2020. He pitched to a 0.81 ERA combined with a 2.97 FIP, ensuring that his success wasn’t influenced by good luck. The numbers back this up. He was above average in exit velocity, xSLG (expected slugging percentage against), and barrel percent (how frequent opposing batters barreled him) percentiles. This means he induced soft contact the entire year and was rarely hit hard.

This bodes well for a Marlins ‘pen that has had many volatile relievers who have had elite stuff but weren’t been able to limit hard contact, and he’d immediately fit into a setup or even closer’s role.

There aren’t many downsides to a signing like this, except for fear of regression due to the fickle nature of relievers in general. It may be noted though that Colome only relies on two pitches: a high-80s cutter and a mid-90s fastball. As long as Colome does not lose velocity on his four-seam fastball, as Kenley Jansen did, all indications point to continued effectiveness from him.

This would be a slam-dunk signing by the Fish. A one-year deal for $12-ish million would fortify a bullpen with high upside but many inconsistent performers. Colome’s track record, veteran experience, and overall ability would make the Marlins even better in 2021.

Marlins Free Agent Target No. 1: Brad Hand, LHP

Nothing more necessarily needs to be said about the Marlins’ bullpen. But for what it’s worth, lefty Richard Bleier cannot be the only southpaw to hold the fort down. Tarpley’s future fit with the team is questionable even right now. Hmmm…if only there were a former Marlin on the free-agent market who became one of the most effective left-handed relievers in the game after departing from the team. Oh wait, there is…BRAD HAND!

Hand has been nothing but rock solid since being DFA’d by the Fish back in 2015. He’s posted a 2.70 ERA and 157 ERA-plus (meaning he has been 57 percent better than the average MLB pitcher) between 2016 and 2020. And racked in an amazing 1.37 FIP in the truncated 2020 season for the Indians.

Hand still has an elite slider, one that moves 7.2 inches more than the average slider. Though he may not have a 95-mph fastball anymore, his low-90s heater plays up due to high spin rates (top 14 percent in fastball spin). He still performs extremely well in expected stats such as xERA (expected ERA), xSLG, and xBA (expected opponent batting average), leading to the low FIP.

Will Hand Accept a Pay Cut?

Barring an unwillingness to pay Hand a probable salary of $10-$14 million, he should fit in amazingly with Bleier. The two could form one of the best southpaw duos in the sport. One would contributed as a late relief option and the other projecting as the dominant closer they’ve vied for for ages.

Whether the Fish sign one, two, multiple, all, or none of these guys, the 2021 Miami Marlins offseason is set to be filled with tons of hype and excitement for hopefully a much better 162-game product than we’ve seen in a long time.

Marlins Ng

Marlins Make History with Hiring of Kim Ng to GM Position

Fresh off a season where they ended a 17-year playoff drought, the Miami Marlins continued to make history by hiring Kim Ng as the organization’s general manager. Ng becomes the highest-ranking woman in baseball operations among the 30 MLB teams and is believed to be the first woman hired to the General Manager position by any of the professional men’s sports teams in the North American Major Leagues.

Ng sports an extensive and impressive resume. For the last nine years, she’s served as MLB’s vice president of baseball operations. Prior to that, she piled up 21 years of experience in the front offices of the Chicago White Sox (1990–96), the New York Yankees (1998–2001) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2002–11). Ng played an integral roll in assembling rosters that made eight postseason appearances, including six League Championship Series, and won three World Championships.

A statement from Marlins CEO Derek Jeter on Ng:

“On behalf of Principal Owner Bruce Sherman and our entire ownership group, we look forward to Kim bringing a wealth of knowledge and championship-level experience to the Miami Marlins. Her leadership of our baseball operations team will play a major role on our path toward sustained success. Additionally, her extensive work in expanding youth baseball and softball initiatives will enhance our efforts to grow the game among our local youth as we continue to make a positive impact on the South Florida community.”

While working with MLB, Ng directed international baseball operations. She worked closely with the front offices of all 30 MLB clubs and other leagues around the world. Ng led a group that set policy for and enforced international signing rules, established MLB’s first system for registering international players for signing and managed protocols for signing said talents. She raised the standards for international academies and negotiated agreements with various international winter leagues.

Ng’s Statement

“I entered Major League Baseball as an intern and, after decades of determination, it is the honor of my career to lead the Miami Marlins as their next General Manager,” Ng said in a statement from the club.

“We are building for the long term in South Florida, developing a forward-thinking, collaborative, creative baseball operation made up of incredibly talented and dedicated staff who have, over the last few years, laid a great foundation for success.

“This challenge is one I don’t take lightly,” she continued. “When I got into this business, it seemed unlikely a woman would lead a Major League team, but I am dogged in the pursuit of my goals. My goal is now to bring Championship baseball to Miami. I am both humbled and eager to continue building the winning culture our fans expect and deserve.”

Ng’s Path to Becoming Marlins GM

Ng started her career as an intern with the White Sox in 1990. Eventually, she made her way up the ladder to Assistant Director of Baseball Operations.

In 1998, Ng landed a role as Assistant General Manager of the New York Yankees. She held that position from 1998 until 2001, a time when current Marlins CEO, Derek Jeter, was an integral part of that club. At the time she was hired, she was the youngest assistant GM in MLB and only the second woman to attain that position with an MLB club.

Ng went from New York to Los Angeles in 2002. There, she assumed the role of Vice President and Assistant General Manager. While there, she assisted in all player transactions, including trades and free agent signings. She also oversaw LA’s arbitration efforts, as well as the scouting, medical and video departments. Her time with the Dodgers overlapped with Marlins manager Don Mattingly’s tenure there by one year.

Ng’s hiring continues a trend with the Miami Marlins. Jeter became MLB’s first Black CEO after his group, led by Bruce Sherman, bought the club in 2017. Jeter hired Caroline O’Connor to be senior vice president, making her one of the highest-ranking women in pro sports.

Ng becomes the fifth person in club history to hold the top position in baseball operations.

Dave Dombrowski filled the role from the franchise’s expansion season in 1993 until 2001. Larry Beinfest manned the GM position from 2002 to 2007, helped the club claim its first World Series title. Michael Hill and Dan Jennings followed Beinfest. Hill operated as GM from 2008 to 2013, then earned a promotion. Jennings was GM for two years, 2013-2015. Hill resumed GM duties in 2016 until the end of this past season.

Check out our discussion of Ng’s hiring & free agent possibilities on the Five Reasons Sports Network’s YouTube channel:

Reaction to Ng’s Hiring

 

Mattingly manager of the year

Marlins’ Mattingly Named NL Manager of the Year

Yesterday, Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) named Don Mattingly National League Manager of the Year. He joins Jack McKeon (2003) and Joe Girardi (2006), becoming the third Marlins manager to win the award.

Mattingly manned the helm for the Marlins during a turbulent season that eventually ended in the NLDS. The Marlins sailed over preseason predictions and vaulted into the NL playoffs for the first time in 17 seasons. Most baseball pundits pegged Miami for no more than 25 wins, but Mattingly helped lead the club to 31 wins and a playoff berth.

This isn’t the first award Mattingly has won this year. Earlier this offseason, Sporting News named Mattingly NL Manager of the Year. He became the third Marlins manager to win that award, joining Fredi Gonzalez (2008) and Girardi (2006).

Mattingly earned 20 first place votes from the BBWAA and finished with 124 points total. Second place went to Padres’ manager Jayce Tingler. David Ross, the Cubs’ skipper, came in third.

Mattingly Earned His Manager of the Year Award

Mattingly navigated an unprecedented start to the 2020 season. The Marlins were struck with a COVID-19 outbreak that saw 18 players and two coaches sidelined. Miami’s front office reshaped the roster on the fly while Mattingly was literally meeting players for the time on the pitching mound.

Even in a truncated 60-game schedule, Miami made 174 roster moves. The team used 61 different players over the 60 games. Miami’s nine different starting pitchers in their first nine games of the season set a new MLB record. Of the 61 players who appeared for the Fish this season, 21 were rookies. 18 of those made their MLB debut.

This unlikely group crashed the NL postseason and swept the Chicago Cubs in the process.

“That’s a step froward for us,” Mattingly said. “We’ve gotten a lot of young guys experience this year. We’ll have a tremendous amount of competition within our camp next year for jobs and who’s going to be where. This is just the start of it. One of our slogans a couple of years ago was ‘Just getting started’ and that’s what I feel like now.”

Rojas, Jeter on Mattingly

The fact that Mattingly navigated the team through that uncertainty and kept them competitive was not lost on most.

“He’s a great person,” said Marlins shortstop and de facto captain Miguel Rojas. “He’s a great human being before being a baseball player or manager. The communication he has with the players, the confidence he gave the players is unbelievable.”

Rojas and Mattingly both inked extensions with Miami in 2019 and they’ve come together to help lead this young club forward. Marlins CEO Derek Jeter has long called Mattingly a calming influence on this young group of players.

“Donnie believes in our vision,” Jeter said after extending Mattingly’s contract. “He believes in our direction, and he’s all in. He has shown a lot of patience with our young, developing team.”

Here’s the statement from Jeter following Mattingly being named NL Manager of the Year:

“I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award in 2020 than Donnie. His leadership and teamwork with staff and players were on display day in and day out in one of the most challenging seasons this sport has seen, as he guided the team to the organization’s first postseason appearance in 17 years. He continues to believe in our vision and invests in our young, talented players to help us work toward our goal of sustained success. This is another great honor in his storied baseball career.”

Mattingly, who was the American League MVP in 1985, becomes the fifth individual in Major League Baseball history to win both MVP and Manager of the Year honors. He joins Don Baylor, Kirk Gibson, Frank Robinson and Joe Torre.

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Would the Marlins have made the playoffs in a full season? A statistical argument

We watched the Miami Marlins overcome all of the odds and make the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. Along the way, we had two Gold Glove nominees (Brian Anderson and Miguel Rojas) and the *soon to be NL Manager of the Year (Don Mattingly). This run by the Marlins sparked a lot of questions. Can we do it again? Would this have been a reality in a 162 game season? Are we actually this good?

 

At this point, there is no point in meticulously analyzing how the Marlins did what they did; rather, I find it useful to use the information available to us in order to look ahead to what they can do next year. This team had a completely different look from the Marlins teams of previous years. This means that our sample size of stats is extremely small. That’s not good for predicting anything, let alone an entire team’s future. So instead of predicting the unpredictable based on internal Marlins stats, I will compare this Marlins team and their statistical rankings to teams of the past 5 years. In order to grasp how good the Marlins actually were, we can compare them to other teams who were similarly statistically through 60 games. Then, by extrapolating the most relevant data, we can show where the Marlins most likely would have ended up had the season gone 162. We will look at the main statistics that drive team success: wRC+, x-FIP, and team WAA.

 

wRC+ (True batting stat)

 

Weighted runs created plus is a major stat that influences team success. It is a statistic very similar to runs created, although it accounts for ballparks and era. A wRC+ of 100 is league average, whereas 150 is 50% above that average.

 

Through the Marlins 60 games, they had a wRC+ of 95. This was good enough for 18th in all of baseball (and 5th in the NL East). We will use this statistic to compare the offensive output of this Marlins team to other teams that draw parallels.

 

Teams that we will compare this Marlins team wRC+ to:

 

  1. 2019 Nationals

I know. This is quite a bold comparison. But you guessed it, through half of the 2019 season the World Series champs had a wRC+ of 95 (the same as the Marlins, but good enough for 16th place in all of baseball). 

 

It is important to note that the Nationals finished the regular season with a second-half wRC+ of 113 which was good enough for 4th in all of baseball. This turn around is unprecedented and one that may have been the rare outlier. The Nationals fell back to their statistical mean in 2020, however, finishing in the last place in the NL East. An interesting observation can be made here. The Marlins may have slipped from their statistical mean in these 60 games, allowing themselves to propel into the playoffs. It would not be a shocking revelation that they, like the Nats, could fall back into their true average. 

 

Result: 93-69, 2nd in NL East, World Series Champions

  1. 2018 Pirates

This one may make a little more sense. Through the first half of the 2018 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a wRC+ of 95 good enough for 14th in all of baseball. They followed a much more similar path to this Marlins team.

 

The reason that this team provides such a good comparison is because of who was on it. Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte, and Francisco Cervelli all were Pirates in 2018. These 3 guys accounted for a bulk of our offense, especially the former two. I’ll take this moment to shoutout and congratulate Francisco Cervelli on an amazing career: Thank you! This Pirates team stayed consistent, posting a 96 wRC+ in the second half. Had we done this as well, especially with the tough NL East, we may have ended in a similar spot.

 

Result: 82-79, 4th in NL East, Missed Playoffs

 

  1. 2017 Diamondbacks

 

The Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017 had a wRC+ of 94 through the first half of the season. Their below average wRC+ is comparable to the Marlins, and unlike the 2019 Nats, this team did not propel forward afterward. They finished the season with a 96 wRC+, leaving them in 2nd place in the NL West, which was good enough for a Wild Card Birth. This shows that if the Marlins would have kept this pace going, they could have found themselves in a playoff spot after a 162 game season.

 

Result: 93-69, 2nd in NL West, Lost in NLDS (Hmmm… Sounds familiar)

 

Based off of wRC+, the Marlins were most likely good enough this year to at worst end .500 and whiff the playoffs due to the larger sample size of games that would have allowed teams like the Mets and Phillies (both top 10 in wRC+) to heat up and surpass them. Likewise, you could make the case they could have won the World Series as well, although the mean implies that their offensive output most likely would have led to a similar route to that of the 2018 Diamondbacks and lead to a loss in the NLDS. 

x-FIP (true pitching statistic)

 

So, basically, x-FIP can be applied almost the same way we do ERA. Inherently, it is the same statistic as ERA, but it factors out defensive errors and other aspects that pitchers cannot control. A 5.00 x-FIP is awful and a 2.70 x-FIP is fantastic. Apply the same structure of thought to x-FIP as to ERA. Say a pitcher has a 3.10 ERA and a 2.65 x-FIP. We can conclude he will probably lower his ERA eventually as he works back to his statistical mean.

 

This is where things start to look bad. The Marlins had a whoppingly high 4.90 x-FIP. This was bad enough for 26th in the entire league this season. In order to maintain consistency, we will compare the Marlins x-FIP to the same teams we did before, to see if they differed in any way.

 

  1. 2019 Washington Nationals

 

This is most likely the reason that the Marlins would not have experienced a similar run to that of the Washington Nationals. The Nats had an x-FIP of 4.29, good enough for 6th in the league their first half of play. Surprisingly, it rose during their stupendous 2nd half run to 4.38 and 11th in the league. It looks like their hitting turnaround carried them in the 2nd half. The Marlins don’t have that luxury. Also, to be completely frank, the difference between the Nationals and Marlins x-FIP is staggering. Because of this, we could probably eliminate a World Series run.

 

  1. 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates

 

The Pirates had an even better x-FIP than the Nats, putting up a 4.14 in the first half of the season in 2018 that was good enough for 16th in the league. They were 13th in the league to finish it off, showing that they were in fact the middle of the road team. This Pirates team was good, but just not good enough due to an extremely tough division in 2018. This sounds quite familiar and is the most accurate comparison to this Marlins team through 60 games when it comes to pitching ability.

 

  1. 2017 Arizona Diamondbacks

 

In the first half of their NLDS run, the Diamondbacks were 3rd in the league in x-FIP at 3.81. In the 2nd half, they were just as good, finishing 5th with an x-FIP of 3.94. The Marlins are nowhere near this reality, and because of that, their similarities on the offensive end are completely overshadowed. Because of the Marlins division being extremely strong, and through 60 we got lucky they played well below their statistical average, we can assume that this Marlins team’s pitching would have struggled later on, as they regressed to their statistical average.

 

Team WAA (WAR but team-based)

 

By looking at pitching and hitting statistics individually, it shows that our hitting was just good enough for a Wild Card/NLDS appearance and our pitching was good enough to get dead last in the division. Between those two statistics alone, it is clear through 162 that we would not have been a playoff team. Let’s take a look at one final cumulative stat (WAA – wins above average) in order to solidify these observations.

 

The Marlins were 20th in WAA at -1.5. This means that on average they., as a team, would have produced 1.5 less wins than the league average. Doesn’t look too optimal if you ask me.

 

Let’s make our final comparisons:

  1. 2019 Washington Nationals

 

The Nationals WAA was 14.8, good enough for 5th place. We would not have gone on their type of run in a 162 game season.

 

  1. 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates

 

The Pirates had a WAA of -.9. This was good enough for 18th place in the league, and we can draw similarities to this Marlins team just as the two previous stats have.

 

  1. 2017 Arizona Diamondbacks

 

The D-Backs topped all 4 of these teams with a WAA of 15.7 in 2017, good enough for 6th in the league. The Marlins would most likely not have been able to maintain a level of play anywhere near this.

 

In Conclusion

 

The Miami Marlins played above their statistical average in 2020. Yes, it was an amazing ride, but sadly it may not be sustainable. Their true means lie closest to the Pittsburgh Pirates of 2018, a team that went 82-79 and missed the playoffs in a tough division. Making rough estimates, we could have probably expected a 76-86 2020 season had it gone full. I know using these stats may seem irrelevant, but stats like x-FIP are most likely the reason the Miami Marlins will not resign Brandon Kintzler (he had a 2.22 ERA, but an x-FIP in the 5s meaning he is due for regression). Hopefully, this was informative as it provides a baseline for what the Marlins truly were this year. It shows us that there is room for growth. And that’s all we can ask for.

 

Marlins Marte

Marlins Pick Up Marte’s Option

MLB’s offseason officially began today as the 2020 World Series came to an end. The Los Angeles Dodgers took home the trophy in what was the strangest season in MLB history. The Marlins made some history along the way as well, making the postseason for the first time since 2003. The Marlins, meanwhile, started their offseason by picking up the $12.5 million team option on centerfielder Starling Marte.

Marte Back with Marlins for 2021

This news shouldn’t be a shock to anyone, considering the price the Marlins paid to acquire Marte from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Miami sent starting pitchers Caleb Smith and Humberto Mejia, as well as a low-level minor league relief pitcher Julio Frias, to the DBacks for Marte’s services.

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said the team always planned to bring back Marte. He was never considered a rental by the club.

“We moved some very talented players in our mind to get Marte,” Jeter said of the deal last week.

For the Marlins, Marte hit just .245, with a .286 on-base percentage and a .415 slugging percentage. He tallied 13 RBI, six doubles, five steals and four home runs in 28 games played for Miami. He stabilized a centerfield that was in flux throughout the first half of the season. Marlins manager Don Mattingly rotated five different players in center prior to Marte’s arrival.

Marte had his Marlins cap make it to Cooperstown since he played 61 games in MLB’s 60-game season.

Unfortunately, Marte finished the season injured, after Chicago Cubs reliever Dan Winkler’s pitch broke Marte’s pinky. The injury forced him to miss the Marlins’ NLDS series with the Braves and his offense would have been useful. Miami scored just five runs in the three-game sweep.

Bringing back Marte adds a reliable veteran presence to the Marlins’ outfield and lineup. Although he struggled at times this season, a look at his career stats indicates he should be able to hit consistently. He’s athletic and speedy, making him a threat on the base paths and an excellent defender. At $12.5 million, the team option isn’t cheap, but if the 32-year-old Marte underperforms, the Marlins can move on next year.

This move makes Marte the highest paid players on the Marlins active roster for 2021, topping Corey Dickerson‘s $8.75 million. It’s the right choice for an up-and-coming club that needs reliable veterans to mentor the young players.

Beyond Marte, the Marlins also have to decide on Brandon Kintzler’s team option. The 36-year-old reliever locked down the closer position for Miami in 2020. He converted 12 of 14 save opportunities during the regular season and posted a 2.22 ERA over 24.1 innings pitched.

Kintzler’s option stands at $4 million and the team open to bringing him back for 2021.

More Marlins Moves to Come

With the World Series now complete, MLB’s free agency is set to begin on November 1st . The market will see additional names added after December 2nd non-tender deadline. Beyond that, the Winter Meetings loom, with the Rule 5 Draft set to happen on December 10th. The makeup of the 40-man roster, which needs to be addressed, must be finalized by November 20th.

The Marlins, though, may enter this stretch without a President of Baseball Operations. Michael Hill and the club could not come to an agreement to extend his contract. Hill’s departure opens a front office position, but the team is in no hurry to fill that spot.

“We have a lot of smart baseball minds in our organization and there’s smart baseball minds around the game. It takes some time to sit down and see what type of person we need in this particular role,” Jeter said last week.

MLB Network’s Craig Mish said New York Yankees vice president Tim Naehring and special assistant to Yankees GM Brian Cashman Jim Hendry, who’s a former GM himself, are two potential possibilities to fill the vacancy. The Yankees connection between these clubs runs deep.

Mish mentioned Gary Denbo, the Marlins’ Director of Player Development and Scouting, is likely to stay in his current role. Meanwhile, Dan Greenlee, another former Yankees’ executive, earned a promotion to Assistant General Manager after spending time as Director of Player Personnel.

We’ll see where the Marlins go from here, but it’s clear that even with a new President of Baseball Operations in tow, all front office decisions will likely go through Jeter.