The death of Jose Fernandez still lingers within the Miami Marlins and throughout the baseball community in general. Grief and emotions about his death still remain fresh at large. For the Marlins, it a tough season without their best pitcher.
Last season saw the Marlins end on a low note after they failed for the 13th consecutive year to reach the playoffs. They managed 79 wins and things don’t look much better this year. Vegas has released their expected win totals and Miami comes in at 77.5.
The question I’m asking, and is anybody’s guess, is how will the Marlins manage to get there in 2017 and the beyond without one of their best starters. It is now over four months since Jose Fernandez died together with his two companions in a boat crash off South Beach. However, the team is yet to come to terms with the reality. The road ahead is an uphill task for everyone. At the time of his death, he was a two-time All-star and the NL Rookie of the Year (2013). His loss is being felt by the whole team.
At the club’s media luncheon at the Marriott, Giancarlo Stanton confided that pressing on without Fernandez this season is something that the team has to contend with. The Marlins will be missing the energy that he brought to the team. Jeffrey Loria, the club owner announced that jersey number 16 will be retired in the new season. To pay tribute to their colleague, the players wore the jersey number 16 for the last time during their recent game where it ended with Dee Gordon hitting a sentimental walk-off home run. The season will also see the Marling wear jerseys with a black patch that has number 16 in remembrance of Fernandez.
Michael Hill, Marlins’ president of baseball operations and his senior staff will have to try hard to put the team in order. My imagination is still unclear on how they will bring in another pitcher that matches Fernandez’s caliber. For the Marlins, with their perennial frugal nature, the task of signing a new pitcher will be a tall order. If they are not ready to splash out the cash, there is a higher likelihood that they will be outbid in their search for a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Replacing Jose is most likely to involve bring in several newcomers.
During the end season news conference, the Marlins admitted that they did not have immediate answers on how things will turn out this season. The team roster will be without one of its strong links. Michael, however, believed that they will work together to put forward the best possible combination on the field this season. How they will manage this is still unclear at this point.
I foresee the Marlins maintaining their core players which include Dee Gordon, Justin Bour, Mercel Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton, J.T. Realmuto and Christian Yelitch. But if things don’t work out in its pitching then they might be forced to trade in one of them since there are no prospects from the minor league. In their rotation, they will depend on Wei-Yin Chen, Adam Conley, and Tom Koehler. There is also an option of including David Phelps in the starting mix. I will not be surprised if they also retain Suzuki in 2017. The signing of Martin Prado on a three-year contract as a third baseman seem to be working in their favor.
Outside the pitching, the uncertainty of the ownership of the club will also remain one of the developments to watch out during this season. Some reports indicate Jeffrey Loria, could be potentially selling the franchise in the near future to a New York business man.
Finally, the scandal surrounding the death of Fernandez seems not to be ending soon. The families of his two friends (Eduardo Rivero and Emilio Jesus Macias) have sued Fernandes for negligence and personal injury. Each of the families is demanding a $2 million compensation from the estate of the deceased baseball player. The family, through its attorney has, however, ruled out settlement citing the incomplete investigations.