SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — It’s just 33 days until the Cubs open the regular season in Miami against the Marlins.
The way Derek Jeter and his executive team have been trading off veteran players, the only one we might recognize when the Cubs get there is former Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro.
Castro came to the Marlins in the biggest selloff, the one that sent Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees. Other Marlins veterans traded: Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.
If you’re keeping track, that’s the entire outfield and their leadoff hitter.
The Marlins were not a bad team last year. They won 77 games. As late as August 27 they were 66-63 and 4½ games out of the second wild-card spot before their 11-22 finish put them out of contention.
But a team with players like Stanton, Yelich and Ozuna could contend if they had some pitching, right?
Here’s what Jeter had to say about that:
“When we were at the town hall,” says Jeter, referring to an event when he took questions from season ticket holders last December, “one of the fans said, ‘All you needed to do was sign two pitchers.’ I said, ‘Okay, who are those two pitchers?’ He couldn’t answer. You could have added two pitchers to this team and they still wouldn’t have won.”
Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, the top free agent pitchers?
“No,” Jeter says. “They still wouldn’t have won. So you just dig a bigger hole, and eventually you have to get out of it. That’s a lot of work.”
Well, instinctively you know Jeter’s wrong, and here are numbers to back up that feeling:
they just traded away 15 wins in the OF, meaning they would have been projected to be better than or even with the Mets right now. Yu and Arrieta? Another 6.5 wins? They’d be projected to be between the Angels and Cardinals. Top ten team in bigs going in. Horse poop.— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) February 9, 2018
Eno Sarris is right. If the Marlins would have kept the players they traded and signed Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, they’d have been a pretty good baseball team, at the very least a wild-card contender. Not only that, but signing those two pitchers would have made a huge splash in the market and probably generated some ticket sales and corporate sponsorships. (Personally, I’m glad they didn’t do this and that Darvish is a Cub.)
But no. Jeter and his minions have ripped the Marlins down to the point that ex-Cub Dan Straily is their No. 1 starter. At least that’s what their depth chart says.
Now, Straily did actually have a pretty good year in 2017: 4.26 ERA, 1.299 WHIP, 1.6 bWAR. But that’s not No. 1 material. The Marlins have a couple of other decent starting pitchers in Jose Urena (who really should be listed No. 1) and Wei-Yin Chen. The rest? Uh... next question?
Brad Ziegler, who is 38 and who posted 10 saves for the Marlins last year, will close. Kevin Barraclough, whose name is charmingly pronounced “Bear-claw,” is the main setup man.
The offense? They scored 778 runs last year, fifth in the National League. They’ll be lucky to get to within 100 runs of that.
Lewis Brinson, who came over in the Yelich trade from the Brewers, is a young player to watch, a potential Rookie of the Year candidate.
Apart from that, it’ll be a long year for manager Don Mattingly.
I would expect Marlins Park to be filled with Cubs fans in the opening series from March 29 through April 1. The Marlins will be at Wrigley Field May 7-9. That means the Marlins will be the Cubs’ opponent for seven of the first 36 games of the season, and then the teams won’t meet again until 2019. Thanks, schedule-makers.