Marlins miss out on 16th consecutive postseason, but may have tipped their hand on new strategy

It’s not easy being a Miami Marlins fan. The Marlins are going to miss out on their 16th consecutive October, the second longest postseason drought in the majors, behind only the Seattle Mariners. In recent years, the Fish have traded away multiple MVP winners, and have suffered through two of the worst seasons in franchise history — and that’s saying something, given the club has enjoyed six winning efforts in its 27 years of existence. 

Yet the 2019 season has revealed the path the Marlins might take to get back to respectability. While it’s always dangerous to oversimplify these kinds of things, Miami’s formula goes a little like this: leverage young arms and gamble on risky bats. To contextualize this, let’s take a look at some of the moves the Marlins made over the summer.

At the trade deadline, Miami cumulatively dealt pitchers Zac Gallen, Trevor Richards, and Nick Anderson for shortstop Jazz Chisholm, outfielder Jesus Sanchez, and reliever Ryne Stanek

The Marlins were able to make those moves because, despite their horrid record, they have a respectable amount of rotation depth. Coming into Tuesday, the Marlins ranked 14th in baseball in starter’s ERA, and that’s with more intriguing young arms on the way — Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera, and Braxton Garrett being the most notable of the bunch. 

Ignoring Anderson and Stanek, Miami essentially swapped rotation surplus for a pair of intriguing boom-or-bust hitting prospects. Both Chisholm and Sanchez could develop into All-Star-caliber players thanks to their immense innate abilities. But there is immense downside in both cases, with Chisholm posting substandard contact rates and Sanchez having too swing-happy of an approach to foresee him maximizing his hit and power potential.

The Marlins are banking on their ability to get the most from both. Whether or not they can do so is to be determined, but to some extent Miami took a similar approach in the draft. Their two first-round picks were collegiate outfielders — J.J. Bleday and Kameron Misner — each of whom either has an unusual swing or one that evaluators feel needs to be tweaked as a professional. (It’s worth noting the Marlins selected five consecutive hitters to begin its draft.)

It’s at least possible the Marlins resume this approach during the winter. They’re likely to entertain offers for Jose Urena, if no one else. Caleb Smith, who was said to be unavailable at the deadline, figures to draw renewed interest as well. 

There’s no telling if Miami will be able to extract the most from these hitters. But, unless all of the above is a total coincidence, it does appear the Marlins have tipped their hand on what their acquisition strategy is these days. We’ll have to see if it works. At least it’s a plan borne from baseball interests, and that’s a step forward for a franchise that’s often been more focused on cutting costs than winning games. 

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