After acquiring a few All-Stars in the offseason, the Phillies seem poised to win the National League East in 2019. Since the other teams in the East have yet to concede to the Phillies’ greatness, it’s worth taking a look at each division rival and determine how much of a hindrance they’ll provide towards the Phillies’ playoff hopes.
First up is the Miami Marlins, a team that seems unlikely to be playing meaningful baseball past the first month of the season.
2018 Finish: 63-98, 5th place in National League East
The Marlins were bad in 2018. They finished 26.5 games out of first place, and 13.5 games behind the fourth place New York Mets. An optimistic Marlins fan (assuming such a thing exists) might think that the team has hit rock bottom, and there’s no place to go but up. A more realistic fan would acknowledge that the other divisional teams have all seemed to improve while the Marlins traded away their best player. 100 losses feels like a real possibility.
Did they do anything this offseason?
They have new uniforms!
Your 2019 Miami Marlins uniforms pic.twitter.com/dXte7lBjEh— Baseball Bros (@BaseballBros) November 16, 2018
As far as the on-field product, those changes aren’t quite as encouraging. They traded their best player - catcher J.T. Realmuto - to the Phillies. They also traded their best reliever - Kyle Barraclough - to the Nationals. So not only are they apparently trying to make their team as bad as possible, but they’re also improving their division rivals.
They also cut veteran starting pitcher Dan Straily, but I can’t decide if that was done in order to make the team better or worse.
Is there anyone left?
Team owner Derek Jeter is still the most famous member of the Marlins organization, but the active roster does contain a few guys you’ve heard of: Curtis Granderson, Starlin Castro, and Martin Prado are projected to be regulars in the Marlins’ lineup. I understand that Castro and Prado were traded to the Marlins, so they didn’t have any choice but to be there. But why would Granderson subject himself to this? Did he figure a year with the Marlins is the next best thing to retiring to Florida?
As for the unknowns, outfielder Brian Anderson had a good rookie season in 2018, so he might be a bright spot for Marlins fans until they inevitably trade him in a few years.
How about the pitching?
Jose Urena made some headlines in 2018. Unfortunately for the Marlins, most of those headlines involved him intentionally throwing at a player. Still, he was able to keep his ERA under 4 last season which qualifies him as an ace on this team. The rest of the rotation consists of unproven youngsters with varying degrees of promise.
Absolutely LOVE the Rotation. pic.twitter.com/GTWrEWIVAi— SouthFloridaAnalysis (@AnalysisMarlins) March 25, 2019
I was about to mention that the Phillies have generally fared poorly against unknown pitchers in recent years. Then I remembered that the Phillies now have the likes of Bryce Harper and Jean Segura in their lineup, and its hard to picture them being shut down by someone named Sandy Alcantara.
The closer will likely be veteran Sergio Romo, who will probably end up making the All-Star team, simply because the Marlins have to send somebody.
Former Phillie alert
The Realmuto trade was somewhat overlooked by Phillies fans, mostly because we were still in Macharper limbo at the time. In case you forgot what happened, in order to get Realmuto, the Phillies had to send away young catcher Jorge Alfaro. There were mixed opinions regarding Alfaro’s future, but considering his power potential and strong throwing arm, it’s conceivable that he could rank in the upper half of catchers in 2019.
Why the Phillies should beat them
The Marlins seem to be the least talented team in the National League.
Why the Phillies should be wary
It’s possible that some of the young players on the roster will have breakout years, and the Marlins will exceed expectations. And sometimes, even though one team is clearly more talented than the other, they still struggle in head-to-head matchups. (Remember when the Phillies were good, but always had trouble with the Astros?)
Why don’t they contract the Marlins?
It feels like the only reason this franchise exists - or has ever existed - was to make money for the team owners at the expense of the Florida taxpayers.
I think it’s pretty safe to write the Marlins into the fifth spot in permanent ink.