The World Series has come to an end with the Washington Nationals rallying to win a decisive Game 7 against the Houston Astros 6-2 on Wednesday night at Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
So that means the MLB offseason is right around the corner.
And it’s a pivotal one for the Miami Marlins as they prepare for their third season of their latest rebuild and latest attempt to get out of the National League’s cellar. A majority of the Marlins’ top prospects acquired through trades since the Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter ownership group took over are on the cusp of MLB call-ups and the club saw a group of its top young young players — namely Brian Anderson and Sandy Alcantara — take a big step forward in 2019.
So as the offseason begins, here’s a quick primer on what’s to come for the Marlins.
What’s the latest on the Marlins’ 40-man roster?
As of Thursday, the Marlins have 32 players on their 40-man roster after they outrighted catcher Tyler Heineman and pitcher Hector Noesi to Triple A, saw catcher Bryan Holaday and Cesar Puello elect free agency, and had relief pitcher Josh Smith claimed off waivers.
Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson and Martin Prado all became free agents Thursday.
This number still includes Starlin Castro, who has a team option (more on him in a minute).
What players are eligible for arbitration?
The Marlins have two players eligible for arbitration: pitchers Jose Urena and Adam Conley.
Urena, who made $4 million last season, was the club’s Opening Day starter each of the past two seasons but finished 2019 as a late-inning reliever after suffering a herniated disc in his lower back midway through the season. Urena went 4-10 with a 5.21 ERA, 62 strikeouts and three saves over 24 appearances (13 starts).
Conley, who made $1.6 million last year, went 2-11 with a career-worst 6.53 ERA in 60 relief appearances. He struck out 53 batters and walked 29 over 60 2/3 innings.
Who needs to be added?
Six of the Marlins’ top 30 prospects have to be added to the 40-man roster by Nov. 18 or else they will be subject to December’s Rule 5 draft. Those prospects: Pitcher Sixto Sanchez (No. 1 in Marlins’ system, No. 22 in baseball), shortstop Jazz Chisholm (No. 4 in Marlins system, No. 54 in baseball), pitcher Edward Cabrera (No. 6 in Marlins’ system, No. 99 in baseball), pitcher Nick Neidert (No. 11 in Marlins’ system), first baseman Lewin Diaz (No. 12 in Marlins’ system) and pitcher Will Stewart (No. 26 in Marlins’ system).
The Marlins also have four players who finished the season on the 60-day injured list and need to be added back to the 40-man roster: infielder/outfielder Brian Anderson, relief pitcher Drew Steckenrider, catcher Chad Wallach and infielder JT Riddle.
That’s 10 players for (as of right now) eight spots.
And that’s before factoring in any moves the Marlins could make in free agency.
A spot or two would free up if the Marlins opt to not tender one or both of Urena and Conley. Otherwise, more moves will need to be made in the interim.
What’s the latest on Starlin Castro’s option?
Starlin Castro, who started every game for the Marlins this season, has a club option worth $16 million on his contract for the 2020 season. The Marlins have until Monday to decide if they want to exercise the option or give Castro a $1 million buyout and allow the 10-year MLB veteran to go into free agency.
A source said the Marlins will decline Castro’s option, although the move is not official yet. It makes sense, considering the price tag and the team’s roster construction at this point. They view Isan Diaz as their hopeful second baseman, Brian Anderson as an eventual mainstay at third — he’ll likely split time between third base and right field again next year — and have shortstop Miguel Rojas on a two-year contract. Jon Berti, who had a breakout season in 2019, can play all three of those spots as well.
The main question to ponder: Would the Marlins consider re-signing Castro on a more team-friendly deal should he not find another landing spot? It’s not out of the realm of possibility.
What should be the Marlins’ free agency priorities?
Ideally, the Marlins would try to find at least one or two veteran players — most likely corner infielders or outfielders — who can hit for power and do something to shore up their bullpen.
These wouldn’t be mainstay players likely . wouldn’t be the biggest names on the market. Deals would most likely be for one year — two tops — and would provide a meaningful presence to the roster while the Marlins’ top-end prospects get the final tune-ups they need in the minor leagues.
What are some key dates to know?
▪ Nov. 18: 40-man rosters must be set. Any player inside an organization but not on the 40-man roster will be subject to the Rule 5 draft.
▪ Dec. 2: Non-tender deadline: The last day to offer a contract to a player on the 40-man roster who has less than six years of MLB service time. This includes players eligible for arbitration. Anyone who isn’t tendered by this date becomes a free agent.
▪ Dec. 9-12: MLB holds its annual winter meetings in San Diego. The four-day event is capped by the Rule 5 draft, in which select minor-league players not on 40-man rosters are eligible to be taken by other teams. Players selected in this process must remain on their new team’s active 25-man roster for the duration of the season.
▪ Jan. 10: Arbitration figures are exchanged. Teams and players’ agents have until early February to come to terms on a contract. If they can’t, each side submits a salary proposal and an independent arbitrator makes final decisions.
▪ Feb. 12: Marlins pitchers and catchers report to the team complex at Jupiter’s Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.