In the end with Henderson Alvarez, it came down to a basic risk-reward issue. The Marlins saw more risk by keeping the pitcher than the reward that might have resulted in doing so. Nobody knows when Alvarez will be ready to return to the mound, and therein lay the decision Wednesday to non-tender the one-time All-Star.
"A very difficult decision," said Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations.
The Marlins tendered contracts to eight of their 10 arbitration-eligible players, including Jose Fernandez, Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria. But Alvarez and reliever Aaron Crow were told 'no thanks,' allowing each to become a free agent. The price tag to keep Alvarez alone would have been about $4 million, and given the uncertainty surrounding the quirky right-hander as he works his way back from shoulder surgery made him a risky investment.
Best-case scenarios have Alvarez missing the first month or so of next season, and the Marlins -- on their limited budget -- are in no position to cross their fingers and wait.
"As we looked into the offseason, we are going to need depth (in the rotation), and we're going to need innings," Hill explained. "He's not going to be able to provide those for us for some time."
Alvarez only began playing catch this week.
"It was step one in a long process," Hill said. "It was playing catch. It was not even to the point where you could even envision or gauge when he would be able to return. Given our challenges, we have to have our dollars on the field, performing for us. We felt like we could better allocate the dollars in other areas."
Hill said the Marlins are open to the idea of re-signing Alvarez and Crow at reduced salaries. Crow, who missed all last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, stood to make $2 million in arbitration. But other teams will also have a shot at the two pitchers.
"We hope to keep the lines of communication open with both," Hill said. "Both are free agents. But if there is a creative way to keep them both, we'll look to do that."