Even though new ownership parted ways with former Marlins players Andre Dawson and Jeff Conine and former manager Jack McKeon (all were offered contracts with pay cuts), the organization quietly has hired three former Marlins for off-field roles.
Former Marlins catcher Charles Johnson said that he, Gaby Sanchez and Alex Gonzalez have been hired as Marlins ambassadors.
“It started a little last year at the end of the year,” Johnson said. “This is the first full year being part of the alumni ambassador role here with the Marlins. Mostly, it’s about bridging that gap between the community and the Marlins.
“It’s spreading the word about the Marlins. I went to a school [recently] in Coconut Grove and spread the word about the Marlins. It’s going out, doing events, also doing events at the stadium and visiting suites and doing things of that nature.”
Johnson met with part-owner and Marlins CEO Derek Jeter before Johnson was hired.
“Derek has a vision where he is going to build his team from the minor-league system up,” Johnson said. “It’s going to take a little while from the route he’s trying to go, but I believe he will bring that winning mind-set to Miami.”
Incidentally, Johnson and fellow former Marlins catcher Pudge Rodriguez both were initially interested in being part of different groups to buy the team.
“There was a small exploration but nothing where I was ready to sign a deal or anything like that,” Johnson said.
It’s surprising that the Marlins weren’t able to trade Dan Straily, even for a marginal prospect, and instead released him outright on Monday.
The upshot is that the Marlins — at least to start this season — no longer need to give any starts to pitchers who aren’t potentially part of the team’s future. It’s smart to invest your starts in the young arms (Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Caleb Smith and Trevor Richards) plus Jose Urena (who’s only 27) so Miami can get a definitive read on which of them will be long-term pieces.
If there’s an injury to a starter, Miami could start Wei-Yin Chen or dip into the minors for another prospect such as Nick Neidert or Zac Gallen.
▪ The Marlins will pay Straily $1,209,677 in termination pay rather than the $5 million he would have made if he had been on the team.
So why did the Marlins tender him this winter? Because they thought they might need him. Instead, their top four young pitchers all earned rotation spots alongside Urena.
▪ I like the decision to go with Garrett Cooper over Peter O’Brien in right field because making consistent contact and hitting for average (as Cooper has displayed he can do) should be prioritized over the feast-or-famine results with O’Brien, who has superior power to Cooper but sometimes struggles to put the ball in play.
▪ ESPN’s Keith Law — who evaluates farm systems among other responsibilities for the network — served up his top 10 list of Marlins prospects, and topping it is right-hander Sixto Sanchez, acquired from Philadelphia last month in the J.T. Realmuto trade.
Sanchez is the only Marlins in his top 100 minor-league prospects; he’s rated 35th best overall.
Here’s the rest of his top 10, in order: outfielder Victor Victor Mesa, outfielder Connor Scott, right-hander Edwin Cabrera; infielder Isan Diaz; outfielder Monte Harrison; left-hander Braxton Garrett; left-hander Will Stewart, left-hander Will Stewart; right-hander Jordan Holloway and right-hander Sandy Alcantara.
Of Mesa and Scott, Law said: “Mesa is a potential defensive standout, a plus runner with good range in center and has a plus arm, but scouts came away from the workout with real questions about his bat, both his ability to make contact and potential for power. He’s 22 and has barely played in the past two calendar years, so he may need to start in high A. … Connor Scott was Miami’s first-round pick in 2018, a plus runner and also a potentially plus defender in center, with a good, functional swing that looks like it should let him tap into power down the road.”
Law said Cabrera “has been up to 101 mph and can hold upper 90s deep into games, with the ability to spin a curveball at 79-82 but lacking the feel for the pitch right now.... Diaz could be Starlin Castro’s replacement at second base next season, with Castro entering the final season of his contract. I’m still bullish on Diaz as at least a solid regular, but he has to have a full, healthy season at some point.”
Strikeouts remained a problem for Harrison in spring training (12 in 23 at-bats before being sent to minor-league camp) and Law calls him “an all-or-nothing prospect who led the minors last year with 215 strikeouts, a 36.8 percent rate, but does damage when he puts the ball in play and was a homer short of a 20/20 season. He’s going to swing and miss, but some of his problem in 2018 was being too passive, taking too many fastball strikes early in counts rather than ambushing those pitches.”
Garrett is ready to resume his career after missing the past 1 ½ seasons because of Tommy John surgery.
MISH AND JENNINGS
▪ Former Marlins executive (and for a time, manager) Dan Jennings shared some interesting perspective and anecdotes on the Marlins’ history in Sirius XM Radio host Craig Mish’s latest podcast, Swings and Mishes.
Jennings, now with the Washington Nationals, expresses regret that the Marlins didn’t go through a rebuild during previous ownership.
“We went through a period of time where we totally didn’t hit the reset button,” Jennings said. “It was kind of a partial reset, and that was a mistake. When you look back now, we should’ve done what the Cubs have done in the past, what the Astros did a few years back, and hit the reset. And I know Larry [Beinfest] wanted to do that. His mind-set was ‘You know what? Let’s just blow it all up, start from ground zero and rebuild this thing the right way. And to Jeffrey [Loria’s] credit, Jeffrey always wanted to win, but you either had to go way out there with the financial commitments, which, you know what, at that time, the turnstiles weren’t turning… It was time to do a total tear down and a rebuild and we never completely hit the reset, and it set the organization back because of it.”
Here’s the full Mish podcast with Jennings.