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2021 Miami Marlins Needs: Priorities Entering December

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Having to field a winning team, this time in a full regular season, the Miami Marlins’ needs are very apparent entering the month of December.

The offseason has been going slow, nevertheless, the planned start of the 2021 Spring Training is less than three months away. This means that some of the dominos have begun to fall, such as recent moves involving Charlie Morton and Trevor May. Both high-profile pitchers signed with NL East rivals of the Marlins, the Braves, and the Mets, respectively.

This argument usually applies even more to low-budget clubs like the Marlins, however, there is an incentive in waiting around for such teams as player prices will fall due to decreasing demand amidst the teams’ financial woes. There’s nothing indicating that December will be much more active. Now that the option and the non-tender deadlines have passed, teams have access to a pool of free agents available.

The Marlins have two main needs that could cause many problems if not addressed. This time of the year, new general manager Kim Ng has the chance to choose her first targets. Considering Miami’s financial capabilities and the slim chance of closer Brandon Kinzler coming back, here is how she might elect to go.

Miami Marlins Needs: Bullpen

On December 4th, Ng herself stated that the bullpen is the top priority from now on. Not only will the Marlins focus on both quality and quantity here, but they’ll also perhaps be willing to allocate the biggest chunk of their money here.

Miami has already addressed its relief needs in recent trades. The Marlins added Adam Cimber in a trade with Cleveland at the end of November, but there is no doubt that a lot more changes are bound to come.

Relief pitching was an issue last season due to a lack of depth but departures could leave Miami with even less of that. With a bullpen ERA of 5.50, the group ranked as the fifth-worst in all of MLB. That was despite a standout year by Brad Boxberger and a solid campaign by star closer Brandon Kintzler. Fast forward to the offseason, both Boxberger and fellow relievers Nick Vincent and Brian Moran are free agents.

That’s not even the biggest challenge for the Marlins front office. The club previously declined Kintzler’s $4-million option for 2021. This makes the event of him coming back even less likely.

If the Marlins really cannot afford $4 million, they will struggle to improve their bullpen. Signings like Boxberger’s prove that the Marlins have found low-cost alternatives, and such exist on this year’s market in large quantities.

Miami Marlins Needs: Top Candidates

If the Marlins want a good reliever with experience as a closer, low demand, and low expenses, Ian Kennedy is one of their best options. While with the Royals, Kennedy posted consecutive abysmal campaigns as a starter in KC’s rotation. This prompted a move to the bullpen, where he thrived as a closer in 2019. Kennedy had an ERA of 3.41 that year, accompanied by 0.9 HR/9, 2.4 BB/9, and 10.4 K/9.

At the age of 35, Kennedy doesn’t offer much in the long term, however, he is more than perfect on a one-year deal, especially with Spotrac estimating his market value at $1.3 million.

In order to provide bullpen depth, Keone Kela could be a welcome cheap alternative to the top relievers on the market. Kela was once considered a star in the making while with the Rangers and the Pirates. He was very solid throughout 2017 and 2018, striking out an average of 11 batters per nine innings. Kela allowed less than a home run per nine and managed to improve his control.

Keone Kela spent the majority of the 2020 season on the Injured-List. He threw just two innings across three appearances on the mound. A quiet year may have brought his value down. This could be a blessing in disguise for the low-budget Marlins in the quest to get great value at a cheap price.

Kela received $3.175 million in each of his last two seasons. Missing the 2020 season and experiencing a drop in his 2019 workload could make him a lot cheaper. That’s not even applying the teams’ worsening financial situations and potential lack of demand. Kela could be a bargain for Miami’s desperate bullpen.

Miami Marlins Needs: Outfield

Entering December, Miami’s infield group looks set so it is much more sensible to chase an impactful outfielder in free agency.

Starling Marte, a productive centerfielder acquired from Arizona during the summer, has one-year left on his current deal. In addition, Corey Dickerson is back to post a bounce-back campaign. The former Ray and Pirate was inefficient in 2020 but has a decent history of consistency in full campaigns. Most notably, Dickerson posted an OBP over the league average in each of the two seasons leading up to the shortened 2020 season.

The last remaining question mark might be in right. Players like Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison, both of whom have struggled on the MLB level, or the surprising Magneuris Sierra could compete for the job, despite this, the Marlins might need to take to the market to find upgrades to a lineup that finished 21st in runs scored.

Miami Marlins Needs: Top Candidates

As things stand after the non-tender deadline, Adam Eaton could be the most intriguing target for Miami. The Nationals paid Eaton $9.5 million in his last season in our nation’s capital. The looming question is how much this could drop for the Marlins to be interested.

In any case, given his age and his track record, Eaton is one of the best outfielders that would not require Miami to spend unaffordable bucks.

Eaton is amongst the free agents with the best ability to get on base and has been consistent for a long time. Eaton had an on-base percentage north of .360 for six seasons in a row prior to his 2020 decline. In four of those six years, he had more than 500 at-bats – workload, which goes to justify his success.

Given the workload, 2020 has little to no significance, however, it might cause his value to drop slightly. He could be more expensive than most Marlins players under contract. Eaton will still be the best affordable option if the Marlins are keen on improving their lineup. Given that they were 21st in runs and 17th in OBP, this is likely the top priority after the bullpen is sorted out.

Another suitable option could be former Braves outfielder Nick Markakis. Markakis has similar figures in the OBP department at his best. He had an OBP of .356 in 469 at-bats as recently as 2019, despite this, Markakis has been much more inconsistent while entering his upper 30s. He might be twice as cheap as Eaton but provides no long-term value due to his age.

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Teodor Tsenov is a writer in the NFL Department of Overtime Heroics. Teodor joined the media in March 2020, previously writing for Franchise Sports UK. Also a second-year International Sport Management student at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in Den Haag, the Netherlands. Originally from Sofia, Bulgaria.