If the Marlins think times are bad now, just wait.
One Major League scout who follows the team said that “short of a miracle happening with their starting pitchers, it’s going to continue to spiral downward.”
“They’re in crash and burn mode,” the scout said.
Only 43 games into the season, the Marlins — despite having the highest payroll in franchise history — own the second-worst record in the majors and are only one game better than the hapless 1998 Marlins at the same point. That awful team lost 108 games.
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How bad is it?
“My recommendation to the next owner, whoever that is, would be to go in and blow it up,” the scout said.
While the Marlins are working behind the scenes to sell the franchise, the product on the field is flailing. They’ve lost 20 of their past 25 games, with no end in sight to the misery.
Only six Major League teams have scored fewer runs.
Only two starting rotations rank lower in terms of ERA.
Only one other bullpen has had to throw more innings.
“Those guys are already out of gas, and it’s only the end of May,” the scout said.
Marlins baseball executives aren’t blind to the problem, but there is little they can do at this point to fix it. Key injuries and under-performance have forced them to scavenge for help from a minor-league system that is low on talent. When the 2003 World Series Marlins started off poorly, they brought up Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera for a quick boost.
As it stands now, no players of that ilk exist in their farm system.
Speaking to reporters before Sunday’s setback to the Dodgers, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said the problems aren’t limited to any one particular area: pitching, hitting or defense.
“You wish you could put your finger on one thing,” Hill said. “But there are just so many things that aren’t going as you thought they would.”
Added Hill of the general mood: “I’d say frustrating is an understatement.”
It is all but a given that an overhaul will become necessary. But with franchise ownership in limbo, nobody can say for certain how or when that might occur. If the losing continues, the Marlins stand to be “sellers” at the July 31 trade deadline.
Those players that scouts say would attract the most interest — and net the Marlins the best returns — include outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, closer A.J. Ramos, and late-inning reliever David Phelps.
“The guy who could really bring you back something is Yelich,” the scout said. “[Catcher J.T.] Realmuto is probably the No. 1 guy they could move because he’s cheap and controllable. But that kills you going forward. So you’ve got to start with the guys who are going to cost you, like Ozuna and Yelich.”
He and another scout both agreed that the best solution of any for the Marlins in a rebuild situation would be trading Giancarlo Stanton, simply to take his salary off the books and provide financial relief. Stanton’s salary jumps from $14.5 million this season to $25 million the next, and he’s guaranteed $295 million over the remainder of a contract that extends to 2028.
“Stanton is fixing to get real, real expensive,” the scout said.
But any trade involving Stanton would almost certainly require the Marlins to eat a chunk of his salary.
“It’s just a pipe dream if you think you’re moving Stanton’s entire salary,” the scout said.
Said another scout: “It’s got to be a money-for-money trade.”
Both scouts agree that the Marlins’ roster requires significant revision, especially in terms of pitching, if the team expects to return to relevancy.
“If they hadn’t had the injuries hit so hard, they would probably be .500,” one said. “They were never going to be more than that because their pitching is so [bad].”
Any rebuild is going to take time.
“Five years minimum,” the scout said. “It’s going to be really hard.”
▪ Tuesday: Marlins RHP Jose Urena (1-2, 1.91 ERA) at Oakland Athletics RHP Jesse Hahn (1-3, 3.02), 10:05 p.m., Oakland Coliseum.
▪ Wednesday: Marlins RHP Edinson Volquez (0-6, 4.87) at Oakland A’s RHP Sonny Gray (1-1, 3.97), 3:35 p.m., Oakland Coliseum.