For three years the Miami Marlins have been teased and ridiculed for their decision to trade their plethora of positional stars. Friday afternoon they hushed the baseball world.
On a windy afternoon in Wrigley Field, the Marlins put the finishing touches on a first-round series sweep of the Chicago Cubs, winning 2-0 and outscoring Chicago 7-1 over the two games. This comes after they finished the regular season second in the National League East (31-29), making the playoffs for the first time since their 2003 World Series championship.
Another tidbit of these feats is them clinching a playoff berth in Yankee Stadium against the New York Yankees. Why is that significant?
Marlins skipper Don Mattingly is revered for his days manning first base for the Yankees. However, he was passed on for the Yankees’ managerial gig in favor of Joe Girardi in 2008. Albeit, Girardi won a World Series in 2009, the hire surprised some, as Mattingly was Joe Torre‘s hitting coach from 2004-06 and his bench coach in 2007; he seemed like the favorite for the job.
Mattingly got to celebrate making the playoffs in front of the ownership and front office group that felt he wasn’t the right person for the job.
These two teams are also linked by means of a 2017 blockbuster trade, which leads into the heart of this Marlins’ run.
Miami, freshly bought by the tag team of Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman, sent the 2017 NL Most Valuable Player Award winner, Giancarlo Stanton, to the Yankees in an essential salary dump. Miami acquired veteran infielder Starlin Castro, right-hander Jorge Guzman, and shortstop Jose Devers while sending roughly $265 million of the remaining $295 million on Stanton’s contract to New York.
Guzman and Devers are yet to make their mark in the major leagues. With that said, Stanton has struggled to stay on the field due to recurring injuries, and the Marlins are 27th in Major League Baseball in payroll this season. Miami also traded Dee Gordon, who has accrued roughly $10 million per season since 2016, to the Seattle Mariners.
Just a couple days later, Miami sent Marcell Ozuna, coming off a season where he hit .312 and totaled 124 RBIs, to the St. Louis Cardinals for right-handers Sandy Alcantara and Zac Gallen, outfielder Magneuris Sierra, and left-hander Daniel Castano.
Alcantara has been Miami’s ace over the last two seasons, and he answered the bell in Game 1 of the Wild Card round, surrendering just one run across 6.2 innings; Gallen was traded for Jazz Chisholm, who has a chance to be the team’s shortstop of the future, in 2019; Sierra has been a rotation player in their positional depth chart; Castano recorded a 3.03 ERA across seven appearances, six of which were starts in the regular season.
Brinson has given them starting reps; Harrison gradually rose up the farm system and is playing a role on their playoff roster; Yamamoto held opponents to a .191 batting average across 15 MLB starts last season; prior to opting out of the 2020 season — and then coming back — Diaz had a chance to be the Marlins starting second baseman.
An offseason later the Marlins sent perhaps the best catcher in the game, J.T. Realmuto, to the Philadelphia Phillies for catching prospect Jorge Alfaro, right-hander Sixto Sanchez, and left-hander Will Stewart.
Alfaro appeared in 130 games for the Marlins last season; Sanchez has been a force to be reckoned with in the beginning stage of his MLB career, striking out hitters at a plausible rate, pitching deep into games, and tossing five shutout innings in Game 2 of the Wild Card round.
There was and still is merit behind these trades for all involved. From Miami’s perspective, these deals are panning out well.
The Marlins offense is growing on the scene with a handful of young legs wreaking havoc on the basepaths and in the field; the youngsters are accompanied by productive veterans like Brian Anderson, Miguel Rojas, Jesus Aguilar, Corey Dickerson, and Garrett Cooper.
The Marlins epitomize why we as baseball fans shouldn’t be so quick to judge a rebuild. Let’s be honest: we’re all guilty of making fun of a rebuilding team, especially one that moved on from the bulk of its big-league roster. In three years Miami went from being a cellar-dwelling team to one of the brightest young teams in the sport.
Let’s put this moment in context by looking at some of the Marlins’ divisional foes.
The New York Mets have been lauded for their starting pitching for the better part of the last decade, as well as some recent positional developments. The Philadelphia Phillies have gone bonkers over the last three years to field a contender, signing or trading for Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Zack Wheeler, Andrew McCutchen, and Jake Arrieta.
Since the Marlins began their roster purge (December 2017), they’ve made the playoffs once. The Mets and Phillies haven’t made the playoffs once; the Phillies haven’t posted a winning record. The Atlanta Braves haven’t moved past the Divisional Series round since 2001.
Who’s laughing now?
Will the Marlins keep the ball rolling and beat the rival Braves next round? The matchups say no, but why don’t they have a chance? Did you think they’d be competitive in a division where they were the worst team at face value? Did a .500 or better record seem feasible? How about making the playoffs? Don’t shut the door on the friendly fish of southern Florida spoiling the Braves’ championship aspirations.
There’s a time and place for everything. This is a moment for the Marlins organization and fan base to cherish.
The Miami Marlins deserve this moment.