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Miguel Rojas Nearing Vesting Option Threshold

Two years  ago, almost to the day, Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas inked a two-year, $10.25MM extension that bought out his final arbitration year and first free-agent season. The contract carried a $5.5MM vesting option for the 2022 season, and as the Miami Herald’s Jordan McPherson points out, that option will likely vest this weekend — perhaps as soon as tonight.

Rojas’ $5.5MM salary for the 2022 season becomes guaranteed if he reaches 500 plate appearances in 2021, and he’ll enter play tonight at 496 plate appearances on the year.

The contract looked plenty affordable at the time and has been nothing short of a bargain for the Fish, as Rojas has improved at the plate and continued to play high-end defense at shortstop. In 160 games over the life of the contract, he’s hitting .278/.342/.421 with a dozen homers, 39 doubles, four triples and 17 stolen bases (in 20 tries). The rate stats are a bit inflated by an uncharacteristic power surge in last year’s shortened season, but even this year’s .270/.327/.400 mark is a bit better than league average, by measure of wRC+ (102).

On the defensive side of the coin, Rojas has been excellent. He’s committed just 13 errors in that span of 160 games, and newer defensive metrics all agree that he’s been sharp. Since the beginning of the 2020 season, Rojas has been credited with six Defensive Runs Saved and a hearty 9.3 Ultimate Zone Rating. Statcast’s Outs Above Average isn’t quite as bullish put still rates him as a positive defender at plus-1.

When Rojas’ option does officially vest, he’ll become only the second player on the Marlins with a guaranteed contract for the 2022 season, joining reliever Anthony Bass, who’s set to earn $3MM next year. Miami has some players in line for arbitration raises, which will add to that modest total.

Right-handers Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Elieser Hernandez are among the team’s first-time eligibles in arbitration. Dylan Floro, Garrett Cooper and Brian Anderson are all up for their second arbitration raises. Richard Bleier and Jesus Aguilar are up for their third and final raises. Aguilar figures to be the most expensive, as he’s due a raise on a $4.35MM salary. That said, even he doesn’t seem likely to eclipse $7.5MM or so, making it a relatively light class on the whole.

Suffice it to say, while the Marlins aren’t ever going to be mistaken for a high-payroll club, they’ll have some money to splash around with this winter. Miami spent roughly $63MM payroll in 2021, per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez. The combination of Rojas, Bass and that arbitration class shouldn’t clock in at much more than $40MM. Second-year general manager Kim Ng ought to have some resources to strengthen this club via free agency or by taking on some salary on the trade market.

Turning back to Rojas, he again made clear to McPherson that he hopes to play in Miami well beyond the 2022 campaign — a stance he’s expressed in the past. That’ll be up to the front office and ownership, of course, and while Ng declined to discuss any possible extension talks with McPherson, she had nothing but positives to say about Rojas and what he means to the club.

“He really does embody all the things that we look for in a player to represent the organization, to represent the sport and that is a big compliment,” Ng said of Rojas. “…If all players had Miggy’s character and outlook, we’d be ecstatic.”

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