The Marlins announced that they have placed right-hander Sandy Alcantara on the 15-day injured list with a right forearm flexor strain. Also, outfielder/designated hitter Jorge Soler going on the 10-day injured list due to a right oblique strain and right-hander Geoff Hartlieb has been designated for assignment. Outfielder Dane Myers and right-hander Edward Cabrera have been recalled while left-hander Devin Smeltzer had his contract selected.
It’s a batch of unfortunate and ill-timed news for the Marlins, who are in the thick of a playoff race. They haven’t qualified for the playoffs in a full season since 2003 but have a chance this year, currently just half a game behind the Reds for the final Wild Card spot in the National League. The club hasn’t provided any specifics about the expected absences but it seems possible they might have to undergo the rest of the race without either their best pitcher or their best power hitter.
Alcantara is one of the best pitchers in the sport when at his peak, which he showed last year. He finished 2022 with a 2.28 earned run average over 228 2/3 innings, earning the National League Cy Young in the process. He struck out 23.4% of batters, walked just 5.6% and kept the ball on the ground at a 53.4% rate. Here in 2023, his ERA has jumped to 4.14, but he seemed to have righted the ship after a rough start. He had a 5.08 ERA through June 21 but has a much more palatable 3.13 ERA since then. Soler, meanwhile, is an incredibly inconsistent hitter but is one of the best in the league when on a heater. He has 35 home runs this year and is slashing .240/.329/.513 overall for a wRC+ of 124.
Subtracting that arm from the pitching staff and that bat from the lineup is obviously less than ideal, especially when considering the timing. There’s just over three weeks remaining in the regular season, which doesn’t give either player much time to get healthy before it could be too late. Further updates will undoubtedly come after more tests, but both injuries are worrisome. Oblique strains are notoriously frustrating and can often keep players sidelined for weeks, even in mild cases.
A flexor strain, meanwhile, can be even more serious. Both Dustin May of the Dodgers and Drew Rasmussen of the Rays were diagnosed with flexor strains earlier this year before each required season-ending surgery. That’s not to say that Alcantara is necessarily going to follow the same path, but it shows the potential severity of today’s news.
Looking ahead to the winter, Alcantara won’t be significantly impacted from a financial perspective as he signed an extension that runs through 2026 with a club option for 2027. Soler, on the other hand, has one year and $9MM remaining on his deal but can opt out at season’s end. Assuming he is healthy, he should be able to top that guarantee on the open market based on his strong season and the lack of impact bats available this winter.
For now, it seems as though Cabrera will jump into the rotation to replace Alcantara. The 25-year-old posted a 4.79 ERA in 17 starts earlier this year, with an unsightly 15.4% walk rate, before getting optioned down to the minors. In five Triple-A starts since then, he has a 2.22 ERA with a 10.6% walk rate that’s still high but a marked improvement over his major league results this year.
Hartlieb, 29, signed a minor league deal with the Marlins in the offseason and had his contract selected a month ago. He’s only been able to get into two big league games in that time, spending much of it on optional assignment. He has a 3.29 ERA in 38 1/3 Triple-A innings this year, with a 25.3% strikeout rate, 9.3% walk rate and 44.7% ground ball rate. He has less than two years of service time but will be out of options next year. The Marlins will place him on waivers in the coming days. If he were to clear, he would have the right to elect free agency by virtue of having a previous career outright.
Smeltzer, 27, signed a minor league deal with the Marlins in the offseason and has been on and off their roster all year. This is the fourth time the club has selected his contract this season, with each of the previous three instances eventually resulting in him being designated for assignment and accepting an outright assignment. He’s tossed 18 2/3 innings for the club this year with a 5.79 ERA, 18.1% strikeout rate, 4.8% walk rate and 32.8% ground ball rate.