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Eury Pérez’s Tommy John Surgery Is Just the Latest of the Marlins’ Losses

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Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Though they made the playoffs last year for just the fourth time in franchise history, the Marlins’ chances of repeating that feat took a pair of significant hits even before the World Series began. First Sandy Alcantara underwent Tommy John surgery, and then just over a week later, general manager Kim Ng departed after owner Bruce Sherman announced his intent to move her down the pecking order. Following a very quiet offseason and a rash of pitcher injuries this spring, the Marlins are off to their worst start in franchise history at 0-8, making them the majors’ only team without a win. Adding injury to insult, on Thursday the team announced that Eury Pérez would undergo Tommy John surgery as well.

The loss of Pérez is a serious gut punch, particularly given Miami’s efforts to monitor his workload. Signed out of the Dominican Republic for a $200,000 bonus on July 2, 2019, he rocketed through the minors, growing from 6-foot-5 and 155 pounds to 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds by last spring, when he placed fourth on our Top 100 Prospects list while still seven weeks shy of his 20th birthday. After striking out 42 hitters across 31 innings in six starts at Double-A Pensacola, he was called up by the Marlins. He debuted on May 12, made 11 major league starts, then spent most of July and early August back at Pensacola so the team could limit his innings. After returning to the majors on August 7, he wasn’t as effective, and was shut down following his September 20 start due to inflammation in his sacroiliac joint. He finished his rookie season with a 3.15 ERA, 4.11 FIP, and a 28.9% strikeout rate in 91.1 innings. His four-seam fastball averaged 97.5 mph and touched triple digits a handful of times, while his slider, curve, and changeup each produced whiff rates of 46.2% or better and xwOBAs of .227 or lower. That’s a recipe for dominance.

As that midseason interlude suggests, the Marlins handled Pérez with care. He threw just 78 innings split between two levels of A-ball in 2021 and 77 innings (all but two at Double-A) in ’22. He never threw more than six innings or 93 pitches in any of his professional starts and broke 90 in just three at the major league level. Fourteen of his 19 major league starts were made on five or six days of rest, with only five on four days. He threw a total of 128 innings last year, and the Marlins planned to limit his innings this year as well, though they hadn’t publicly disclosed the target.

Pérez was slowed early in the spring by a broken nail on his right middle finger, which forced him to exit his Grapefruit League starts on March 2 and March 13. After the latter, he reported soreness in his elbow and underwent an MRI. The Marlins soon decided he would begin the season on the injured list due to mild elbow inflammation, though they didn’t shut him down from throwing. After experiencing elbow tightness that cut short a bullpen session on Tuesday, he made a second visit to Dr. Keith Meister, who recommended surgery.

Apparently, Pérez had gotten something less than a fully clean bill of health at his previous visit. Here’s what Marlins president of baseball operations Peter Bendix told reporters on Thursday:

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster… Initially having the frustration of the elbow soreness and followed by the positive outlook on you don’t need surgery right now. There was an understanding that the ligament was not in great shape and essentially, you can pitch with it until you can’t, and nobody knows when that’s going to be. You have to try and see when the symptoms return. And unfortunately, that happened now. Better now than in the middle of the season.”

Ugh. For as careful as the Marlins were, some arms just don’t stand up to throwing in the high-90s 40 or 50 times a night. Pérez will undergo surgery and miss all of this season and likely a good chunk of 2025. Unfortunately, his injury is just the latest in a wave of them among Miami starters dating back to last fall, a significant blow even to a franchise whose strength in recent years has been founded in its deep stockpile of young arms. From 2018–23 — a time period that dates back to the arrivals of Alcantara and Pablo López — no team has even come close to the 35.0 WAR generated by Marlins starters in their age-25 or younger seasons, with the Guardians second in the majors at 27.9. The gap is even larger if you shorten that window; those starters’ 28.2 WAR from 2020–23 is 11.1 more than the second-ranked Mariners.

The thing about young pitchers is that keeping them healthy is as challenging as herding cats. Alcantara won the 2022 NL Cy Young on the strength of a 2.28 ERA, 2.99 FIP, and 207 strikeouts in 228.2 innings, the highest total by any pitcher in six years, but he took a step backwards last year in terms of stuff and performance. He threw 184.2 innings with a 4.14 ERA and 4.03 FIP before being shut down in early September with what was initially diagnosed as a flexor strain. After reporting renewed tightness in his forearm following a September 21 rehab start, he was diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament, and underwent surgery on October 6.

As Michael Baumann detailed a couple weeks ago, this spring 26-year-old lefty Braxton Garrett and 25-year-old righty Edward Cabrera both joined Alcantara and Pérez on the sidelines, though thankfully they’re on their way back. Garrett, who made 30 starts and threw 159.2 innings last year with a 3.66 ERA and 3.68 FIP, showed up to camp with a sore shoulder. He’s scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Jacksonville on Sunday and will probably need at least two starts to build up his pitch count before joining the Marlins. Cabrera, who made 20 starts and threw 99.2 innings for the Marlins with a 4.24 ERA and 4.43 FIP, was scratched from his March 10 start due to shoulder tightness and was diagnosed with an impingement, a condition that cost him a month last year. He’s already made one 43-pitch rehab start for Jacksonville and is scheduled for a second on Friday, with a third likely to follow.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that these outages have allowed for the major league returns of a couple pitchers we haven’t seen enough of lately, namely 25-year-old righty Max Meyer and 26-year-old lefty Trevor Rogers. The third pick of the 2020 draft out of the University of Minnesota, Meyer reached the majors just two years later but started just twice before tearing his UCL and undergoing Tommy John surgery on August 9, 2022. He hadn’t pitched in another competitive game until Monday, when he threw five innings and allowed two runs against the Angels. Rogers, who made the NL All-Star team in 2021 but slipped to a 5.47 ERA in ’22, was limited to four starts last year due to biceps and latissimus dorsi strains. His March 31 start didn’t go great, as he allowed four runs in five innings against the Pirates, but he lived to tell the tale.

Also checking in for the first time since 2020 is righty Sixto Sánchez, who’s now 25 years old. Sanchez made seven starts totaling 39 innings with a 3.46 ERA for the Marlins in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, then missed all of the next two seasons due to shoulder surgeries, first a posterior capsule repair in July ’21 and then a bursectomy in October ’22. After rehabbing he closed the 2023 season by throwing a single inning for Pensacola on September 12. Out of options, he made the team as a reliever thanks to an impressive spring training, but he’s been scored upon in all three of his appearances thus far. On Thursday against the Cardinals, he retired just one of four batters he faced, with Paul Goldschmidt reaching base on a Luis Arraez error, and Nolan Arenado and Iván Herrera following with singles. All three runners eventually scored, turning a 5-3 lead into a 6-5 deficit; Sánchez was charged with the loss. While his four-seamer was clocked as high as 98.2 mph in his March 28 debut, he maxed out at 94.2 mph in his next appearance two days later, and at 95.2 on Thursday. It’s great to see him back, but it could be a bumpy ride.

For as welcome as all these returns have been, the Marlins’ staff is carrying a 6.00 ERA (27th in the majors) and 4.94 FIP (24th), this after the rotation and bullpen respectively ranked 10th and 14th in our preseason positional power rankings, accounting for two of the three spots where they landed in the majors’ upper half; center field, where Jazz Chisholm Jr. and friends ranked 12th, is the other. Thus far the starters (Rogers, Meyer, Jesús Luzardo, A.J. Puk, and Ryan Weathers) have combined for a 5.35 ERA and 4.76 FIP, with Puk, who had previously spent the entirety of his career in the bullpen, getting rocked for a 9.00 ERA and 5.76 FIP in a total of just six innings in his first two starts. The bullpen has a 6.50 ERA and 5.10 FIP, and ranks in the majors’ bottom third in walks (11.6%), strikeouts (19.6%), and home runs (1.36 per nine). Closer Tanner Scott hasn’t had a single save opportunity yet, but has been charged with two losses; entering in the 10th inning on March 31 against the Pirates, he bobbled a leadoff sacrifice bunt and gave up two runs, and then the next day against the Angels, entered a tied game at the start of the eighth inning and walked Anthony Rendon, Nolan Schanuel, and Mike Trout before generating a groundout that brought home the go-ahead run.

The Marlins’ offense hasn’t helped, scoring just 3.63 runs per game and hitting a combined .204/.276/.313; their 60 wRC+ is 28th in the majors. Jake Burger is their only batter with a wRC+ above 92 or a WAR above zero, and even Arraez is hitting just .188/.316/.219.

Maybe Bendix, whom the Marlins hired away from the Rays after a 15-year run in Tampa Bay, the last two as GM, should have upgraded an offense that ranked dead last in the NL in scoring (4.11 runs per game) and 10th in wRC+ (94). He signed just one major league free agent all winter: Tim Anderson, who inked a one-year, $5 million deal after a dismal end to his eight-year run with the White Sox. He didn’t do anything to replace slugger Jorge Soler, whose 36 homers led the team and whose 126 wRC+ ranked third, after he opted out. Bendix has made just three trades since taking the reins, acquiring utilityman Vidal Bruján and righty reliever Calvin Faucher from the Rays in exchange for a trio of prospects in November, adding Nick Gordon from the Twins in exchange for lefty reliever Steven Okert in February, and — taking advantage of Brujan’s and Gordon’s versatility — dealing everyday utilityman Jon Berti to the Yankees last week. Miami’s current $99 million payroll ranks 25th according to RosterResource.

That minimal upkeep follows last fall’s drama. Ng presided over the Marlins’ first full season above .500 since 2009 with a team that made the playoffs despite having just a $110 million payroll, the majors’ eighth-lowest and the lowest of the six NL teams that made the postseason. But instead of granting her the latitude to expand and reshape the front office under her own vision, cutting ties with holdovers in the scouting and player development department that she didn’t mesh with, Sherman planned to bring in a president of baseball operations above her, which wasn’t what she had in mind. She declined her end of a mutual option for 2024, ending her groundbreaking three-year run. Bendix did fortify the front office by bringing in former Giants manager Gabe Kapler as an assistant GM, former Yankees Single-A affiliate manager Rachel Balkovec as director of player development, and former Rangers assistant direct of baseball operations Vinesh Kanthan as director of baseball ops, but when set against his management of the roster of a team that had playoff hopes, it looks like another cycle of kicking the can down the road.

Indeed, given this start — which not only has doubled the Marlins’ previous longest season-opening losing streak (from both 1995 and 2001) but also ranks as the majors’ longest since 2016 — more trades are likely in the offing if the losing continues, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal detailed earlier this week. Scott is a pending free agent, as is Josh Bell, who at $16.5 million is the team’s highest-paid player, but Bendix could look to make impact moves by dealing Arraez, who has one more year of arbitration eligibility, as well as Luzardo, who has two. It’s all par for the course in Miami. As we’ve seen throughout the history of the Marlins, regardless of owners, executives, or high-quality young players, this is a franchise where nothing good ever lasts long.

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