The Miami Marlins had a very lackluster 2019, finishing the season at 57-105. The team, who have not made the playoffs since 2003, will be looking forward to improve heading into their 2020 campaign.
Hoping for big strides to continue for returning breakout players such as Brian Anderson (20 HR, 33 2B, 3.8 WAR) and 2019 All-Star Sandy Alcantara (3.88 ERA, 151 K in 197.1 IP), the Marlins are planning on building around this strong young core. With five prospects in MLB Pipeline’s top-100 and many more on the outside looking in, there is no shortage of talent on the rise.
With many big names crowding the free-agent market such as Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon, don’t expect the Marlins to go after any of these players since they don’t fit the plan Derek Jeter and company have in place. That being said, expect the team to make some moves in free agency to fill the weaker spots. Here are four names they could make a play for:
1. Nicholas Castellanos, OF/3B:
The Marlins’ number-one priority this off season should be acquiring a solid bat with plenty of MLB experience. Nicholas Castellanos has just come off a career year in which he led all of baseball in doubles (58) and set a career high in home runs (27). The former Detroit Tiger grew up in South Florida playing at local high school powerhouse Archbishop McCarthy. His hometown roots and relative success could be exactly what Jeter and the rest of the front office are looking for.
Even if his power surge doesn’t continue in the home run department, it’s a safe bet to expect consistent 40-plus double seasons barring no injuries. He has played in over 150 games the past three seasons, so the durability is there.
The biggest black mark on his resume is his defense. Even though he began the transition to right field back in 2017, the advanced defensive metrics have not been kind to him. Castellanos’ problem does not lie in his athleticism, but rather in how well he reads and reacts to live balls. Still, some have hope that he has the potential to be a league average defender with a plus arm. It would also be likely that he could shift to first base as he ages.
Providing protection to Anderson and giving depth to a questionable lineup should be good enough reasons to go after him. I would expect a three to four year contract in the $10-15 million per year range.
2. Howie Kendrick, Utility:
Coming fresh off an ALCS MVP and a World Series championship, Howie Kendrick started his search for a new home this off-season once again. He may be well past his prime and isn’t a cornerstone player, but he still has a lot to offer teams in terms of veteran leadership.
Kendrick’s value as a utility player would help take some the mid-season load off of younger players. As an example, being able to play second base could help out as 23-year-old Isan Diaz. Having someone with the ability to play multiple positions is always beneficial to a manager. The right-handed hitter could definitely play a role similar to what Curtis Granderson did last year for Miami. He could be there for his leadership qualities and could compete almost every day.
Kendrick definitely isn’t an aging veteran; he hit .344 in 334 at bats last year with 17 HRs and 62 RBIs. Even with a great postseason, he still seems to be getting swept under the rug and could be an excellent signing for any team. I would expect a smaller one or two-year deal on a team friendly salary.
3. Marcell Ozuna, OF:
Even with the fact that Marcell Ozuna was traded away two seasons ago, the organization is in a much different place in its building phase. Instead of the fire sale of 2016, the front office and the roster finally have direction. With some of his best seasons being inside a Marlins uniform – he was awarded both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in 2017 – don’t be surprised if “The Big Bear” decides to return to his parent organization; that is if the organization reaches out.
Ozuna also joined a new agency last year that is dominantly Latin players. With Jeter’s hope to build a strong Latin foundation for the team to help connect with the community, expect there to be connections with this agency and the Marlins moving forward.
Even though there been a slow deterioration of his arm strength over the past couple of years, his bat would still be able to make up for it in the latter part of his contract. An offer in the four to five-year range at around $15 to $20 million per year would be realistic.
4. Drew Pomeranz, SP/RP:
Drew Pomeranz has had quite the interesting career up to this point. The former first rounder and top prospect has only made one All-Star team, which was back in 2016 with the Padres. Since then, he’s had his ups and downs. In the past few seasons, the southpaw has had more downs than anything. An ugly 6.08 ERA with Boston in 2018 transferred to a 4.85 ERA between the Giants and Brewers last year.
You may be confused as to why anyone would avidly want him on their roster at this point. However, there is hope. While with the Brewers, Pomeranz primarily came out of the pen and was an extremely solid left-handed option. He posted a 2.39 ERA over 26.1 IP and 45/8 K/BB.
The Marlins should take a chance on Pomeranz due to his multi-inning dominance as a lefty reliever. If the team continues to flounder, they could flip him at the deadline. Pomeranz could also help a young pitching staff who has no one over the age of 27 (Caleb Smith) by making spot starts when needed and provide overall SP depth.
At worst, Pomeranz becomes a one and done and a failed experiment that could be off the books next year.
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