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Offseason-in-Review: Despite a good offseason, the Marlins can’t fill their biggest hole

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The loss of Jose Fernandez still looms over every decision in the front office and everything that will happen on the field.

Philadelphia Phillies v Miami Marlins Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

Miami Marlins (79-82)

Key Additions

Acquired Dan Straily from Reds for Luis Castillo, Isaiah White, and Austin Brice

Signed Brad Ziegler for 2 years, $16 million

Signed Junichi Tazawa for 2 years, $12 million

Signed Edinson Volquez for 2 years, $22 million

Signed A.J. Ellis for 1 year, $2.5 million

Signed Jeff Locke for 1 year, $3 million

Key Subtractions

Andrew Cashner signed with Rangers

Mike Dunn signed with Rockies

Jeff Mathis and Fernando Rodney signed with Diamondbacks

The death of Jose Fernandez has cast, and will continue to cast, a shadow over the Marlins organization for years to come. The untimely and tragic death of someone so young is always a tragedy, but the promise represented in Fernandez’s smile and his magnificent right arm are things that the Marlins can only hope to replace in the long term. There simply is no way to make up for their loss.

Nevertheless, the Marlins did their best this offseason, trading for Dan Straily of the Reds and signing Edinson Volquez to fill holes in their starting rotation. They also made smart moves to upgrade what was a surprisingly effective bullpen in 2016. Brad Ziegler, probably the most consistently excellent reliever in baseball, was undervalued in a market that saw the salaries of elite bullpen arms explode. If Tazawa comes back strong from the arm issues that have plagued him, he’s also a big get at what’s become a low price.

Thanks to some pretty strong front-line talent, the Marlins left their lineup alone, subbing out Jeff Mathis for A.J. Ellis as the backup catcher for their only real change to the roster of position players. As such, they’ll return standouts like Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Martin Prado, J.T. Realmuto, and Marcell Ozuna. Justin Bour will again serve as the primary first baseman, perhaps platooning with Derek Dietrich.

The Marlins definitely could have used upgrades over Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria up the middle, but Gordon is stuck in a long term contract, and there was nothing worth pursuing on the shortstop market, so you can hardly blame them for sitting out.

Still, this is a team that’s going to struggle to get better in 2017. No one can match Fernandez, for one thing, let alone Straily (who broke out in a hitters park in spite of pedestrian underlying stuff and numbers) or Volquez (who took a big step back in 2016). Also, Stanton seems completely unable get through a season without some kind of major injury. And it’s unclear how productive Gordon will be going forward after last year’s suspension for PED use. Finally, no one seems to know what will happen this summer as Jeffrey Loria tries to sell his Marlins, and whether GM Mike Hill will have the freedom to make moves again to shore up his club, or will be allowed to sell off assets if things go south.

It’s a shame for southern Florida baseball fans, who deserve better. With Fernandez, they had a bright and exciting future in front of him. Sadly, fate and Fernandez’s poor decisions have doomed them to another disappointing year.