No franchise is more susceptible to evil doppelgängers than the Miami Marlins.
The Miami Marlins have had some astounding trade and free agency misses during their 30-year existence as a Major League ball club. Not just subtle misses, i.e. the guy who signs a big deal, plays well for the first few seasons, then suffers a string of injuries that make his contract an albatross in the final years of his career. I'm talking splurging on players in their primes coming off career seasons who suddenly, inexplicably, lose the ability to baseball. No injury to speak of. No off-field turmoil to speak of. They just suck now.
Surely, this has happened to other franchises. But for whatever reason, joining the Marlins seems to induce a sudden and precipitous loss in all abilities related to professional sports, more so than joining other, happier teams.
Here's a list of the evil twins of the Miami Marlins who, unbeknownst to the organization, took the place of their superior counterparts for the duration of their time in South Florida.
*cue General Hospital soap opera music*
WARNING: the following list is not for the faint of heart. If you experience nausea, vomiting, and/or a sudden urge to listen to David Samson's podcast, Nothing Personal, please seek immediate medical attention.
Career before Miami: 46-32, 3.72 ERA, 110 ERA+
Year before Miami: 11-8, 3.34 ERA, 123 ERA+
Career with Miami: 13-19, 5.10 ERA, 78 ERA+
Coming off a career season as a 29-year-old in Baltimore, free agent Wei-Yin Chen signed a 5-year, $80 million contract, which is the largest free agency pitcher deal ever given out by the Fish. The contract made sense on paper; here you have a flyball-inducing southpaw, in his prime, coming off a career year in which he thrived in the tiny ballparks of the AL East. You stick him in the spacious grounds of then-Marlins Park, against weaker competition in the DH-less NL East, and surely he will experience a bump in production, right?
Wrong. Wei-Yin Chen battled injuries in Miami that may have sapped some of his velocity and bite, and even when he was healthy, he wasn't the same guy he was with the O's. He was a 32% worse pitcher in Miami than Baltimore, based on ERA+. He was designated for assignment in the 2019 offseason with one year and $22 million still left on his contract.
Career before Miami: 3.06 ERA, 127 ERA+, 134 SV
Year before Miami: 2.44 ERA, 147 ERA+, 43 SV
Career with Miami: 5.09 ERA, 80 ERA+, 18 SV
Bell was one of the many signings the new-look Miami Marlins made in the 2011 offseason as they got ready to move into their shiny new ballpark. Bell signed a 3-year $27 million contract as a free agent, after three straight All-Star Game appearances and back-to-back Rolaids Reliever of the Year awards with the Padres. He was one of the most bankable closers in the game at that point. So naturally, he fell apart.
Bell got removed from the closer role multiple times throughout his nightmare of a 2012 season, butting heads with manager Ozzie Guillen all along the way. He was traded to the Diamondbacks that offseason, with the Marlins agreeing to pay a chunk of the remaining two years on his contract.
Career before Miami: 3.58 ERA, 119 ERA+
Year before Miami: 4.17 ERA, 108 ERA+
Career with Miami: 6.57 ERA, 60 ERA+
Junichi Tazawa signed with the Marlins for two years and $12 million in the 2016 offseason, after seven seasons with the Red Sox. He was hardly a lights-out bullpen arm for the Sox, but he was always solid and thrived in big situations (1.23 ERA across 13 playoff appearances). Consistent. Reliable. Steady. Then he got to Miami...
Junichi Tazawa's effectiveness was nearly cut in half for the two seasons he played for the Marlins. He had far less strikeouts, far more walks, and gave up far more home runs. The Holy Trinity of how to suck as a pitcher. The Marlins finally saw enough in May of 2018, after 20 innings and 20 earned runs, designating Tazawa for assignment. That's a 9.00 ERA, for those scoring at home.
Career before Miami: .270/.325/.431, 105 OPS+
Year before Miami: .262/.330/.490, 119 OPS+
Career with Miami: .215/.256/.310, 60 OPS+
Avi, Avi, Avi... Before signing a 4-year, $53 million deal with Miami, Garcia was a solid run producer for the Rays, White Sox, and Brewers. He had issues with consistency and plate discipline, sure. But overall, he had established himself as an above-average middle-of-the-order bat with surprising athleticism for a man of his size. Now he's one of the worst players in baseball.
Why? Because Miami Marlins, that's why. His plate discipline has regressed and his quality of contact has fallen into the Grand Canyon. Avi's weight was a bit of a talking point last season, for he seemed to be carrying a few extra pounds. He put in the work over the winter and is in much better shape this season. Yet the results have somehow gotten worse. Can he somehow turn it around? How much longer will the Marlins allow him to soak up at bats? With multiple outfielders tearing the cover off the ball in Triple A, his days of regular playing time are numbered unless he pulls a miraculous 180. He's probably too expensive to DFA and has almost no trade value, so the bench seems like the only option.
Career before Miami: .246/.310/.428, 95 OPS+
Year before Miami: .273/.338/.466, 118 OPS+
Career with Miami: .209/.310/.351, 85 OPS+
Everything came together for Salty his final three seasons in Boston. His tantalizing power from the catcher position finally started to show itself at the Major League level, leading to a .457 SLG from '11-'13. Now 28, firmly in his prime, and looking to cash in on his recent success, Jarrod signed a 3-year, $21 million free agent contract with Miami.
What do you think happened next? Salty struggled and never stopped 'til he was out of Miami. His moments of brilliance were outweighed by his propensity for prolonged slumps and lackluster defense. After a bad 2014, he began the 2015 season by going 2-for-29 with 12 strikeouts. The Marlins DFA'd him, but no one picked up the hulking backstop. He cleared waivers and Miami released him, which required they pay him the 15 million bucks left on his contract.
Career before Miami: 2.44 ERA, 168 ERA+, 85 SV
Year before Miami: 2.25 ERA, 200 ERA+, 22 SV
Career with Miami: 4.36 ERA, 90 ERA+, 20 SV
There are many awesome powers in the universe. A Gamma-ray burst. A quasar. A supernova. All of them pale in comparison to the power the Miami Marlins wield when it comes to ruining reliable Major League Baseball players. Miami is where consistency goes to die, a concept exemplified in the sudden fall of Brad Ziegler.
When Ziegler signed a 2-year, $16 million deal with the Fish during the 2016 offseason, it was seen as a savvy, win-now move. The highest his ERA had been in his nine previous MLB seasons was 3.49. There was no more devastating groundball pitcher on Earth. In South Florida, though? Ziegler was now, somehow, a below-average reliever. Those groundballs got through for base hits. Some of them left the ballpark. He was sent to Arizona at the 2018 trade deadline and retired after the season.
Career before Miami: .254/.331/.370, 89 OPS+
Year before Miami: .246/.335/.369, 91 OPS+
Career with Miami: .214/.285/.284, 63 OPS+
Another guy currently doing his darnedest to play himself out of Miami. Stallings was fresh off a Gold Glove season in which he produced 3 bWAR in 112 games for the Pirates. He was never a masher, but he did produce three straight sevens with an OPS over .700. Not bad at all for a glove-first catcher.
He can't hit now. He could never run. And even his glove has taken a step back. He signed a one-year deal for $3.35 million back in January (he was acquired via an offseason trade in 2021), so this season will likely be the last we see of Jacob Stallings in South Florida.
Career before Miami: 3.71 ERA, 111 ERA+, 236 SV
Year before Miami (2016, before being traded to Miami): 0.31 ERA, 1279 ERA+, 17 SV
Career with Miami (after 2016 deadline trade): 5.89 ERA, 67 ERA+, 8 SV
Fernando Rodney's short tenure with the Miami Marlins was as disastrous as anyone could have imagined. He went from having a historically great 2016 first half in which he allowed just one earned run across 28.2 innings, to putting up a 5.89 ERA in Miami. Unhittable to unusable. In the blink of an eye.
Rodney's reign of terror lasted just half a season, thankfully. Chris Paddack, the prospect he was traded for, had a promising rookie season in 2019, but has hit a few injury and performance speedbumps since then. Rodney last pitched in the Majors in 2019 and now plays in the Mexican League.
Same Old Tricks
There's a pretty clear pattern with most of these trade/free agency disasters; good-not-great player reaches a level of play that is probably unsustainable, but the Marlins seem to think it is. Then everything goes to shit. Expeditiously. You'll also notice that none of these debacles occurred when they were the Florida Marlins because...they really didn't. Not to this magnitude at least. I'm not sure what that means, but it probably means something.
I decided not to include the litany of top prospects the Marlins gave up major assets for who never panned out (Lewis Brinson, Andrew Miller, Cameron Maybin, etc.). Just wanted to stick to the ones they spent the big bucks on, lest I have an aneurism while writing this.