Marlins Notes: Payroll, Garrett Cooper, Avisaíl García

The Marlins are consistently among Major League Baseball’s lower spenders, and it doesn’t seem they’re in for major changes in that regard this offseason. As part of a wider-ranging feature on the state of the franchise, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that owner Bruce Sherman is “open to increasing (payroll) somewhat this offseason.” Nevertheless, Jackson notes that the organization has shied away from making any public commitments to spending in the $90MM – $100MM range.

The Fish entered the 2022 campaign with a player payroll just south of $80MM, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. That ranked as the fifth-lowest Opening Day payroll of the 2022 season, although that was the franchise’s highest placement in payroll rankings since 2018, the first year of Sherman’s ownership.

In the five seasons since the franchise sale, the Marlins have made the playoffs just once, during the pandemic-shortened season. They’ve had a losing record in every 162-game campaign of Sherman’s ownership, although the franchise’s woes stretch well back into Jeffrey Loria’s ownership tenure. Aside from the 60-game year, the Marlins are finishing up their 12th straight losing season. In 10 of those seasons, the Marlins have lost 85 or more games, and, more recently they’ve lost at least 90 games during the past four full years.

Miami was amidst a rebuild for much of that time, but they pushed forward with their most aggressive offseason in years last winter. The Fish signed Avisaíl García to a four-year, $53MM contract and Jorge Soler to a three-year, $36MM deal. Soler can opt out of his contract after this season but assuredly won’t do so after a rough year. Miami also acquired Jacob Stallings from the Pirates and Joey Wendle from the Rays as part of an offensive overhaul.

That series of moves hasn’t panned out as hoped. García is currently set to finish the 2022 season with career lows in batting average (.230), on-base percentage (.267), slugging (.316), and OPS (.583) while striking out a career-high 28.4% of the time. Soler has been marginally better, slashing .207/.295/.400 with a 29.4% strikeout rate. Regardless, neither player has lived up to any expectations put on them when they signed with the Marlins. Stallings is having his worst year since 2018, posting a .225/.294/.297 slash line while surprisingly rating as a below-average defensive catcher. Wendle has been slightly better, hitting .258/.297/.366 while missing time with hamstring strains.

Overall, the Marlins rank near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories. They’re hitting .231 (25th in MLB) with a .295 on-base percentage (27th) and .395 slugging percentage (also 27th). Their 89 wRC+ suggests they’ve been 11 percentage points below league average offensively, the sixth-lowest mark in the league. This is not a new problem for the Marlins, who posted a collective slash line of .233/.298/.372 with the third-lowest wRC+ in 2021.

The starting rotation, on the other hand, has again been productive. Fronted by Cy Young favorite Sandy Alcantara, the group has posted a combined 3.78 ERA (9th lowest) in 839 innings (9th highest). They rank 10th in strikeout rate at 23.2% and have a roughly average 7.6% walk rate. Even with Trevor Rogers taking a step back from his breakout 2021 campaign, Miami has gotten solid work behind Alcantara from Pablo LópezJesús LuzardoBraxton Garrett and Edward Cabrera.

Miami general manager Kim Ng and her staff will explore the possibility of dealing from that rotation depth in search of controllable offensive help this winter. The trade market may be the more attainable route to bringing in external additions, as Miami already has a fair amount of commitments for next season. The Marlins have around $51MM in guaranteed money on the 2023 books, in the estimation of Roster Resource. They also have a rather hefty slate of arbitration-eligible players, including Wendle, Stallings, Garrett CooperBrian Anderson, López and Jon Berti. Miami will presumably trade or non-tender a couple players from that group, but they’re likely to spend upwards of $15MM – $20MM on arb-eligible players even with a few subtractions mixed in.

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