How do you replace the most dominant pitcher on your staff? How does one account for the loss of wins, strikeouts and ERA? Can a team find someone to fill the hole in the rotation, but not replace the man who meant so much to an organization?
Those are the questions the Miami Marlins must answer when they begin the offseason trying to fill Jose Fernandez’s role with the team. The 24-year-old who meant everything to the pitching staff wasn’t able to help Miami make the playoffs last season before he died in a boating accident. Trying to find someone to lead the team to the Promised Land might be that much more difficult.
The Marlins have a tall task ahead of them this offseason, explains Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. When they try to upgrade a roster that is now missing not just their best pitcher but one of the best in the majors.
“Obviously, everything changed when we got that phone call about Jose,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “We know we have a challenge ahead of us.”
Even if the Marlins had the money to splurge on one, there is no pitcher of Fernandez’s caliber — or even close to it — in what is an underwhelming free agent market.
There has been talk the team might pursue Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals, but the club would have to forego picking up the pitcher’s option for 2017. There has also been talk of other pitchers being on the radar. What the Marlins plan to do is really a crapshoot of sorts with Hill and the organization not tipping its hand at this time.
The fact Miami does not have the pieces in the minor leagues to try and trade for an arm puts them in a bind. The core of players on the current major league roster might be untouchable, or Hill and management may decide to use a piece or two to acquire a starter. The next few months heading into spring training could be tense and could tell fans a lot about what the club is thinking about its future.
“I think the fairest answer is we’ll have to look at everything,” Hill said. “We know it’s not going to be easy. We know what the marketplace is free agent-wise, and we’ll have a better feel for what the trade market is [in the coming months].”
At their season-ending news conference on Wednesday, the Marlins all but conceded that the task is one without immediate answers and provided few clues on how the front office will go about finding them.
“It’s impossible to sit here and wrap up the season and not talk about Jose, and not talk about the reality of what it means, both on and off the field,” Marlins president David Samson said.
While Miami has been at home the past month while other teams have enjoyed a trip to the postseason, nothing has been set in stone as to where the team will start first. Nothing can be accomplished until after the season officially ends – following the World Series. After that, Miami and the rest of the league will begin the process of looking toward 2017.