The Miami Marlins put together a very decent team before the start of the 2020 season. This turned out to pay very avid dividends as the team reached the postseason for the first time in 17 years.
Twelve months ago, Miami was more active on the market than usual. While the additions came at a cheap price, several impactful and experienced players signed with the club. Jesus Aguilar, Corey Dickerson, and Brandon Kintzler were all centerpieces in one of the most successful seasons in Marlins’ history.
This time around, however, there are much fewer headaches when it comes to bringing important players back. In reality, no more than two or three departing players had a big impact on the team’s season. Moreover, the majority of them are members of a problematic bullpen, which gives the front office room for creativity and alternatives to just re-signing everyone back.
The stage is certainly set for Miami to get better during the 2020/2021 offseason. That way, they could pursue the same success in a full 162-game campaign. The Marlins can retain their most vital assets at a reasonable price and leave room for big-name arrivals come free agency. However, some guys with expiring contracts just don’t have what it takes to stay with the NL East club.
Who They Should Re-sign
The 36-year-old reliever came in with a big reputation after a terrific 2018 season with the Cubs. Needless to say, Kintzler more than lived up to his name, posting a career-high ERA of 2.22, holding this figure under 3.00 for the second year in a row. He was Miami’s closer the entire season, recording 12 saves.
For his standards, Kintzler registered a slight downgrade as opposed to his dominant 2018 campaign. For the third time in his career, he allowed more than four home runs per nine innings. His strikeout rate dropped significantly to 5.2 K/9 while his 1.1 HR/9, albeit not that drastic a problem, also marked an unpleasant increase.
However, the Marlins cannot afford to lose the cornerstone of their pitching staff, especially since the lineup is expected to be a bigger area of focus during the offseason. Kintlzer received $3 million in 2020 so the Marlins would find difficulties signing a similar relief pitcher for less than that. Furthermore, if the Marlins plan to compete again in 2021, their offseason should begin by bringing back the most important name on their free-agent list in Kintzler.
The former Cub, National and Brewer is getting old and his ceiling is dropping. Numbers speak avidly of his likely decline, but a deal in the range of two years should be beneficial to the club. Interestingly, the Marlins already declined a club option for Kintzler. However, it is more than worth it waiting around on his market demand and still try to bring the dominant closer back.
The former Diamondbacks’ and Royals’ relief pitcher had a big rebound year, during which he rebuilt his market value. In addition, he was one of the most effective relievers in the Miami bullpen, becoming a top candidate for a new deal.
In 23 games, the Fullerton native posted a 3.00 ERA, his best figure since 2014, when he has with Tampa Bay. Brad Boxberger was also one of the leaders in the strikeout department with more than nine punchouts per nine. He wasn’t as successful in terms of home runs, giving up a total of three, and walks, allowing four BB/9.
Yet, the 32-year-old was among the staff’s best relievers and should be brought back with the unit’s core, also consisting of Kintzler. Boxberger, one of four relievers with sub-3.00 ERA, would be a big step towards improving a group that posted the fifth-worst bullpen ERA in MLB.
The Marlins activated Joyce off the 60-day IL at the beginning of August. A former member of the Oakland Athletics, Joyce solidified his place in a Marlins lineup that lacked depth. The veteran had the fifth-most plate appearances on the team. Furthermore, he reached base at one of the highest rates on the team.
Matt Joyce posted a .351 on-base percentage despite his near career-worst -0.6 WAR. That was significantly above the MLB average OBP for 2020 of .322. His success at the plate is likely to be a trend rather than a one-off occurrence. Joyce had posted an OBP of .408 the previous year with the Braves and has a career on-base figure of .343.
It won’t be difficult to keep Joyce at discount compared to the $1.593 million he was paid in 2020. Key factors such as age, market demand, and his low batting average and slugging percentage could all play a role in the Marlins re-signing Joyce for $1 million or even less. This would be a substantial on-base percentage, likely the best indicator of efficiency for a batter, at a favorable price.
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WHO SHOULD BE LET GO
Nick Vincent signed a one-year deal with the Marlins in June and had a fairly weak season in 2020. He posted a 4.43 ERA for the second year in a row while getting $1 million. Furthermore, he allowed two home runs an average per nine innings. Meanwhile, he struck out less than seven batters per nine, marking a career-low for the 34-year-old.
Clearly, if his price really is around $1 million, he is not worth than money. The Marlins can be more efficient, finding a better reliever for less money.
Drew Steckenrider had two terrific seasons between 2017 and 2018. He posted an ERA of under 4.00 in both campaigns, as well as more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings. However, the 2012 eighth-round draft pick then experienced a dramatic decline, following his success up with 6.28 ERA in 2019.
After that, Steckenrider missed the whole 2020 season with a right elbow injury. Now that his rookie deal has come to an end, the Marlins get no upsides from bringing the 30-year-old relief pitcher back.
Other Departing Players
As mentioned above, almost all players slated to hit free agency were a part of the Marlins bullpen. Miami’s relief depth needs rebuilding and a lot of insignificant, low-workload relievers will not remain with the team. Those include Pat Venditte, Brandon Leibrandt, and Brian Moran, as well as second basemen Sean Rodriguez and Logan Forsythe.
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