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Updated: 2018-03-17T11:05:02-04:00


We now know what a J.T. Realmuto contract extension would look like


Another rebuilding MLB team just set a clear precedent for the negotiations. Before it was overshadowed by a much richer transaction later in the afternoon, the Cincinnati Reds and Eugenio Suarez agreed on Friday to a seven-year, $66 million contract extension. You may not be familiar with Suarez, who’s been stuck on terrible teams that past several seasons. He just emerged as a high-quality third baseman in 2017, batting .260./367/.461 with 26 home runs in 156 games. This deal is a big development for the Marlins, believe it or not. Consider the following table: You read the introduction to this article, so you know one of these players in Suarez. And you (hopefully) have enough common sense to deduce that the subject of an article on Fish Stripes would be a Miami Marlins player. I’ll even give away his identity—it’s J.T. Realmuto. But can you tell who is who? It becomes a bit easier to distinguish the pair on Sunday, when Realmuto turns 27 years old. As of this publication, though, he is Player B. Suarez is Player A. It doesn’t really matter because their resumes are so comparable. Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports Suarez has a .836 OPS in 20 career games against the Marlins. Realmuto and Suarez were born four months apart. They’ve spent parts of four seasons in the major leagues. Before news of this extension broke, both were going to be eligible for free agency after 2020. These slightly-above-average hitters performed better than ever last summer, providing All-Star-caliber production (despite being snubbed from the actual game). The players’ teams won their arbitration cases against them to suppress their 2018 salaries. We can quibble about their subtle differences, most of which seem to favor Realmuto. For example, there are far fewer quality players at catcher than third base right now. Realmuto is a top-five MLB backstop, according to both MLB Network’s objective and subjective rankings. Suarez, on the other hand, barely contends for recognition at the fringe of the hot corner’s top-10 list. So the Reds would have more alternatives for replacing their young cornerstone than the Marlins would. That factors into the price of buying out free-agent years. With both of them coming off strong campaigns, can we be certain of their sustainability? Realmuto’s track record is more encouraging. His 2016 numbers (.303/.343/.428, 109 wRC+, 3.5 fWAR) and 2017 numbers (.278/.332/.451, 105 wRC+, 3.6 fWAR) were extremely similar. It took years of gradual improvement for Suarez to develop into his current form, as Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs explains. However, the arbitration process is another major component of this calculation. Traditional counting stats—games played, home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases, etc.—influence a player’s worth, and that archaic criteria disadvantages certain positions and skill sets. Whereas Suarez would’ve earned $3.75 million this season if not for the new contract, Realmuto will take home only $2.9 million. The panel’s ruling established a team-friendly baseline for when he seeks arbitration raises the next two years. The specific breakdown of Suarez’s extension is as follows: $2.25 million in 2018 plus a $2 million signing bonus; $9.25 million in 2019 and $10.5 million in 2020 (remaining arbitration-eligible years); $11 million annually from 2021-2024 (first four free-agent years); and a $15 million club option—or $2 million buyout—for the 2025 season. If the option is exercised, he will finally reach the open market at age 34. The contract length and total expenditure would suit Realmuto, although his would need to be restructured differently to reflect his lack of leverage in 2018-2020 and added leverage beyond that. In other words, a more back-loaded deal. Cincinnati’s motivation for committing to Suarez is simple: the franchise expects to be competitive a few seasons from now and envisions him as part of a successful foundation. Waiting longer would’ve made a deal more expensive, or even tempted him to test free[...]

Brian Anderson: Marlin on the Rise



2018 could become a breakout year for Miami’s third baseman of the future, Brian Anderson.

With their pick in the third round of the 2014 MLB draft, the Miami Marlins selected Brian Anderson out of the University of Arkansas.

When Miami drafted Anderson, they saw a massive amount of potential in his bat and his glove and it seems like he will finally get his chance to shine as the Marlins third baseman in 2018.

Following Martin Prado’s setback with his knee injury, Anderson now has the starting job in his control for opening day.

According to MLB Pipeline, the third baseman ranks as Miami’s No. 9 prospect heading into the 2018 season as well as the No. 9 third base prospect in MLB.

The most coveted aspect of Anderson’s game has to be his plus fielding ability as well as his above-average arm strength at the hot corner. He has the makeup to be a solid everyday third baseman.

Last man standing

Clark Spencer has a great story about Rock Hughes, the last full-time employee of the Marlins who was around at the beginning.

Realmuto ready?

Andre C. Fernandez wonders if J.T. Realmuto is going to be ready for Opening Day.

Erstwhile Marlin signs

Former Fish Hunter Cervenka has signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles.

Dolphins or Marlins?

Dave George of the Palm Beach Post says that the Dolphins are taking a page out of the Marlins playbook with their recent moves.

Here at Fish Stripes

Ely profiles Justin Nicolino as a potential rotation candidate.

Got a Miami Marlins-related story you feel is worth reading? Send it to and we’ll put it in the links!

Marlins Rotation Candidates: Justin Nicolino


The last man standing from the 2012 Blue Jays trade tries to make the most of his last chance in Miami. Who’s more to blame: the former Marlins front office or their former player development staff? Doesn’t really matter at this point. The 2017 sale of the franchise brought with it wholesale changes to the decision-makers in those departments. Evaluation tools and philosophies are different—and hopefully, better—moving forward. Following the example of several recent World Series champions, the Marlins have switched their focus to amassing young, impact talent. The intent is to nurture these controllable players into the core of a consistent major league contender. There’s finally a future worth getting excited about. However, we can’t escape the reminders of mediocrity under the previous regime. Like left-hander Justin Nicolino, who is vying for a spot at the back end of the 2018 starting rotation. Nicolino came to Miami with a strong pedigree—second-round draft pick in 2010, dominant in his first full season of pro ball in 2012. The following winter, he was regarded as a consensus top-100 prospect in baseball. The Blue Jays decided to sell high, sending him south with six other players in their controversial trade with the Marlins. Nicolino was called up from Triple-A New Orleans in June 2015 for his MLB debut and sent back down, then recalled and demoted again, up and down, up and down, up and down. Which brin—WAIT, not done yet! He went back and forth two more times, and the Marlins brought him up again in August 2017, where he remained through the end of the season. *check Nicolino’s transaction log one more time before continuing* Which brings us up to speed (finally). The 26-year-old survived Friday’s first round of cuts from major league spring training, partially because all that movement left the Marlins out of minor league options. Deciding not to carry him on the Opening Day roster would mean making him available to the other 29 clubs, an embarrassing turn of events considering what was originally expected. Did the Marlins overrate Nicolino as a key piece of that Blue Jays trade package? Or did their coaches just fail to prepare him for advanced batters in the upper minors? By any standard, his 4.65 ERA and 4.84 FIP in 50 MLB regular season appearances is disappointing. Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports There’s still time to salvage this situation, but not much of it. Nicolino will either earn one of the three rotation openings or seek employment elsewhere—manager Don Mattingly intends to fill the mop-up roles in the bullpen with pitchers who have options remaining, according to Craig Davis of the Sun Sentinel. That roster manipulation ensures the team always has fresh arms for emergency situations. Within that same Davis report, Nicolino explains how he spent the entire offseason searching for solutions. There were conversations with Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer, rededication to his slider and recognition of what previous caused his struggles: “Now with the mentality of throwing a slider, I’m basically throwing through the baseball instead of trying to manipulate the baseball. It’s allowing me to get on top of everything else—it’s out front, it’s better bite, better depth. I’m just gripping it and ripping it.” Don’t be so quick to pooh-pooh these adjustments. Nicolino had a very difficult time enticing swings-and-misses with his old pitch selection. His 9.8 percent strikeout rate is by far the lowest in the majors since 2015 among 204 pitchers who completed at least 200 innings. It’s possible to overcome that by limiting hard contact and keeping balls in play on the ground in a homer-happy league, but he has not been checking those boxes, either. So at least Nicolino is barking up the right tree. Has it helped? The 2018 spring training stats are—and always will be—inconclusive. As of Tuesday morning, Nicolino has pitched six innings in three games, already allowing [...]