Since their 2003 World Series win, the Marlins haven't been back to the playoffs. Since 2003, they've had 12 seasons where they finished under .500 and in the decade of 2010, they haven't had a single winning season.

The 2012 season looked like a promising one as the offseason prior, they brought in big names like Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle to pair them with guys like Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson and Giancarlo Stanton but that season ended up being a disaster as they finished last in the division with a 69-93 record. Just one year into their deals, all were shipped off.

With that core gone, the Marlins were looking to start fresh with a new core to bring competitive baseball to Miami and if it weren't for poorly made trades and one tragic incident, the Marlins could have been a great team and even be a strong team today.

What could have been: The lineup

Offensively, the Marlins were a solid team with the top half of the lineup being as dangerous as any other in the league. The bottom half could have used some upgrades but the top of the lineup would have done most of the heavy lifting. Here's what their typical lineup looked like in 2016 and 2017:

1) Dee Gordon 2B

2) Marcell Ozuna CF

3) Christian Yelich LF

4) Giancarlo Stanton RF

5) Justin Bour 1B

6) Derek Dietrich 3B

7) J.T. Realmuto C

8) Adeiny Hechavarria SS

9) Pitcher

If the Marlins wanted to get the most out of their lineup, here's what the lineup should have looked like:

1) Gordon 2B

2) Yelich LF

3) Stanton RF

4) Bour 1B

5) Ozuna CF

6) Realmuto C

7) Dietrich 3B

8) Hechavarria SS

9) Pitcher

You have possibly the fastest runner in the MLB in Gordon who has stolen 188 bases before the 2016 season and won the batting title in 2015 with an average of .333.

Next up you have Yelich who has gotten better every season he has played and if Gordon gets on base, you can pull a ton of hit and runs where a single to right field will easily get Gordon to third and possibly even home to score a run cause he's that fast. Then Stanton comes up who crushes the ball and if he gets a home run, the Marlins already have a 3-0 lead.

When on the Marlins, Bour was a decent hitter who hit 73 HR in a Marlins jersey. Let's say he gets out, you have Ozuna after him who in 2016, hit 23 HR with a slash line of .266/.321/.452 but in 2017, he was a whole different player as he hit 37 HR with 124 RBIs while slashing .312/.376/.548. Realmuto is set to hit after him in which he is the best offensive catcher in the game and it's not even close as he batted a combined .290 in both the 2016 and 2017 season.

Then comes Dietrich to the plate where his best season was in 2016 where he slashed .279/.374/.425. Then comes Hechavarria who's only in the lineup due to his outstanding defense at short. After him comes the pitcher who most of the time is an automatic out. That's 7 batters you could get through without getting out once and scoring as much as 4 runs or more in the first inning.

What could have been: The pitching staff

While the offense was strong, the pitching was weak. The Marlins pitching could have been strong but it was decimated by poor judgment, both by the front office and by a player.

Here is what the Marlins rotation could have been in the past two years and even today:

1) Jose Fernandez

2) Luis Castillo

3) Chris Paddack

4) Domingo German

5) Trevor Williams

Other than Fernandez, none of these guys pitched for the Marlins in the major leagues.

Here is how each player found his way out of the Marlins organization.

Luis Castillo

He was originally traded to the Padres but was sent back to Miami as it was found that Padres GM A.J. Preller lied about Colin Rea's physical. In the coming offseason, he was one of three prospects traded to the Reds for Dan Straily. Since his MLB debut in 2017, he's made 78 starts with a record of 28-27 and a 3.68 E.R.A. He has struck out 489 batters compared to 361 hits given up with an opponent average of .219. He is one of baseball's brightest young arms.

Straily was a solid pitcher for the Marlins but was nowhere near as good as Castillo has been for the Reds.

Chris Paddack

Paddack was involved in one of the worst trades in Marlins' history.

He was sent to San Diego during the 2016 season in return for Fernando Rodney. At the time of the trade, Paddack's stats were absolutely ridiculous. He had an E.R.A. of 0.95 over six starts with 48 strikeouts compared to just nine hits given up for an opponent average of .098 and only two free passes. He made his major league debut last season where he went 9-7 with a 3.33 E.R.A. over 26 starts with 153 strikeouts over 107 hits in 140 2/3 innings with an opponent average of .204. He will be the future ace of the Padres.

Meanwhile in 39 games pitched for the Marlins in 2016, Rodney struggled to a 5.89 E.R.A. and a .289 opponent average and signed with the Diamondbacks in the offseason.

Domingo German

In the offseason of 2014, German was traded to the Yankees along with Nathan Eovaldi and one other player for David Phelps and Martin Prado.

In 55 games (38 starts), German is 20-11 with a 4.52 E.R.A. Last season was his best as he went 18-4 with a 4.03 E.R.A. until he got injured and suspended.

Phelps was a starter in his first season with the Marlins which didn't yield great results but was converted into a reliever in his second season where he fared much better but was traded to the Mariners midseason. Meanwhile, Prado was a serviceable player on the Marlins who provided solid contact hitting and good defense but was nothing special.

Trevor Williams

Williams was involved in a trade that brought the Marlins an addition to their developmental staff but it was still a poorly executed trade for the Marlins. After the 2015 season, Williams was shipped to the Pirates for a pitcher named Richard Mitchell.

Since the 2016 season, Williams has appeared in 95 games for the Pirates (83 starts) and is 29-29 with a 4.22 E.R.A.

Mitchell never appeared in a game in the Marlins minor league system.

Those five above would form a solid major league rotation with the Marlins possessing a very strong top of the rotation with Fernandez, Castillo and Paddack. Instead of that, this was what the Marlins rotation looked like:

1) Jose Fernandez

2) Tom Koehler

3) Wei-Yen Chen

4) Adam Conley

5) Jose Urena

The Marlins rotation was led by ace Jose Fernandez who was a top 10 pitcher in the league, maybe even top five, but a tragic boating accident got him killed at the age of 24.

Koehler was never one to strike fear in opposing batters but he did fine.

While he gave up a lot of hits, he was able to get outs thanks to strong defense behind him. Regardless, he should not be any team's number two pitcher, even on a rebuilding team. He hasn't appeared in the major leagues since a 15 game stint with the Blue Jays in 2017.

In the 2015-16 offseason, the Marlins handed Chen a five year, $80 million deal which turned out to be horrendous. In his Marlins career, he went 13-19 with a 5.10 E.R.A. in 102 games (53 starts).

Conley was a serviceable starter early in his career during the 2015 and 2016 seasons but after that, his career has gone down. He has two seasons where he's posted an E.R.A. over 6.00 including a 6.53 E.R.A. as a reliever in 2019.

In 2016, Urena posted a 6.13 E.R.A.

with 91 hits given up compared to 58 strikeouts. While he throws very hard and has done better since, he lacks quality secondary offerings and was being talked about into converting to a full-time reliever for the 2020 season.

With the Marlins in need of pitching, they traded their 2015 first-round pick Josh Naylor along with others for Andrew Cashner who was only on the Marlins for two months. This was a really bad trade before Cashner even made his first start as Cashner is no better than any of the Marlins starters, was not a good pitcher and was not worth a prospect of Naylor's calibur. Cashner was absolutely horrible for the Marlins posting a 5.98 E.R.A. with an opponent average of .301 over 12 games (11 starts).

The Marlins bullpen while wasn't particularly strong, it wasn't a weak spot either. The backend of the pen was A.J. Ramos, Kyle Barraclough and David Phelps. Ramos, the Marlins closer, was an all-star in 2016 notching 40 saves, Barraclough struck out 279 batters over four seasons for the Marlins and Phelps also had high strikeout numbers. The Marlins pen also consisted of the likes of Nick Wittgren, Dustin McGowan, Mike Dunn and others.

Outside help and free agency

With the offensive core being Stanton, Yelich, Ozuna, Realmuto and Gordon, other positions on the diamond could have used some upgrades. When Edwin Encarnacion was a free agent after the 2016 season, the Marlins were lightly linked to him but ultimately deemed his asking price too high.

Perhaps if the Marlins were a competitive team, they would make a stronger push to sign Encarnacion and have him replace Bour at first.

The Marlins could have also opted to upgrade the left side of their infield which consisted of Hechavarria at short and Dietrich at third. The best option would have been to find a better third baseman as that would have allowed Dietrich to be used in a bench role who would be a key bench player due to his versatility. They could have opted to upgrade within with Brian Anderson who is a career .267/.349/.425 hitter or could have attempted to make a trade or a free agent signing for a better hot corner presence. Some third basemen they could have pursued via trade or free agency were Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Eduardo Escobar, Mike Moustakas and others.

With a more competitive team that includes the would have been Marlins rotation, let's say they signed Encarnacion and were able to trade for Escobar or nab Moustakas from free agency, here's what a potential lineup with those guys would look like:

1) Gordon 2B 2) Yelich LF 3) Stanton RF 4) Encarnacion 1B 5) Ozuna CF 6) Realmuto C 7) Escobar/Moustakas 3B 8) Hechavarria SS 9) Pitcher

That right there is a very good lineup that can hit a ton of home runs and could even possibly be the league leader in home runs total from a team. Power aside, this lineup also has solid contact and speed.

Fernandez, Castillo and Paddack would provide a strong front of the rotation and German would fit perfectly in the fourth spot but perhaps the Marlins would want to upgrade from Williams at the backend. They can go after a free agent starter who they see as a good fit and flip Williams to a rebuilding team that has a relief pitcher they can trade and perhaps a minor league player or two. Whether it be Williams or a different pitcher, having Urena out of the rotation and in the bullpen would be beneficial as Urena's high-velocity fastball and lack of secondary pitches would fit better in a relief spot.

In the 2016 offseason when a trio of top tier closers in Mike Melancon, Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman were free agents, the Marlins went hard after Jansen and Chapman to try and create a 'super pen' but didn't land either of them. Chapman said his reason for not signing with the Marlins was due to the 'instability of the organization'. A better team would probably bring a more stable organization that could have very well brought Chapman to the south. A bullpen of Chapman, Ramos, Barraclough, Phelps and others would be dominant.

Aftermath

- Death of Fernandez led to the teardown of the team and former owner Jeffery Loria selling team

- Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter bought the team from Loria to become new owners of Marlins

- Gordon traded to Mariners

- Stanton traded to Yankees after MVP season for a dismal return to dump his salary

- Yelich traded to Brewers who netted Marlins Lewis Brinson, Isan Diaz, Jordan Yamamoto and Monte Harrison

- Yelich has gotten significantly better since he was traded to Milwaukee which includes 2018 MVP season

- Ozuna traded to Cardinals in a package that netted them Sandy Alcantara

- Realmuto traded to Phillies for Jorge Alfaro, Sixto Sanchez along with another player and future considerations

- Attendance at Marlins games have been very low with past two seasons totaling under 1 million fans

- Marlins rebuild accelerating nicely but still far from being contenders

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