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The 2023 Marlins Show Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Jesus Luzardo pitches on the road for the Miami Marlins.

The Marlins made a rare appearance in the playoffs, but unnecessary front office changes might have doomed them for 2024.

The Miami Marlins had an objectively good 2023 season. They made the playoffs for only the fourth time in the team’s 30-year history. They won 84 games, a 15-win improvement over 2022. Losing in the Wild Card Round is a bummer, for sure, but reaching the postseason was the real accomplishment.

Even so, the Marlins now have a new person in charge of baseball operations. Kim Ng had an expiring contract, and instead of gleefully offering a long-term extension, owner Bruce Sherman instead merely accepted his side of a mutual option. Apparently, Sherman wanted to hire a PBO to work above Ng even though she built a playoff team. Ng understandably declined her end of the mutual option instead of taking a de facto demotion.

Coaches and players, naturally, were upset with the decision. Ng picked Skip Schumaker to run the clubhouse, and he rewarded her by winning Manager of the Year in his first season. The Marlins are now in the midst of a tumultuous offseason of changes, when it could have easily been a smooth one. Peter Bendix is now running the show after being second in command for the Tampa Bay Rays. He certainly seems worthy of being in charge of a team’s front office, but there is no reason for that team to be the Marlins.

Bendix kicked off his tenure by trading with his former organization. He is betting on a couple of unproven players to show their worth in 2B/SS Vidal Brujan and RP Calvin Faucher. Just as his front office is doing right now, let’s go over what went right and wrong for the Marlins in 2023, and how that will impact 2024.

Mediocre Offense, At Best

Despite 2B Luis Arraez hitting for the cycle and flirting with a .400 average for half the season, the Marlins were lacking on offense. They finished 20th in the Majors with a 94 wRC+, mostly due to empty averages. The Marlins were fourth in batting average but only 19th in on-base percentage and slugging. Finding more walks and home runs on the market is essential, especially since DH Jorge Soler is now a free agent. Ng prioritized contact hitters in her acquisitions, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Bendix has different preferences.

Fortunately, Ng shrewdly traded for home runs at the deadline while cutting ties with flawed prospects. 1B Josh Bell and 3B Jake Burger both had a robust two months and figure to be the 3-4 hitters in the lineup. OF Jazz Chisholm Jr. had a solid season broken up by injuries, so there is good reason to think he can improve at the plate and in center. It is also possible that the new regime moves him back to the infield.

Beyond the three of them, there isn’t much to get excited about. OFs Bryan De La Cruz and Jesus Sanchez both had seasons, but “fine” doesn’t really cut it in the corner outfield. INF Jon Berti had the best year of his career playing all over the place, and he will be essential to Miami’s plans in the near future. Now that the Marlins have a very thin farm system, they need to find other ways to improve the bench and the catcher position. C Nick Fortes isn’t exactly worthy of the starting job.

Solid but Fraught Pitching

The Marlins have built their team around a strong rotation in recent years, but they suddenly have less depth than in the past. The staff as a whole finished 16th in ERA. After winning the Cy Young award in 2022, SP Sandy Alcantara’s peripherals dipped a bit this year and his ERA almost two full runs. He will now miss all of 2024 after Tommy John Surgery, so the Marlins will need to cover those innings. SPs Jesus Luzardo and Braxton Garrett will front the rotation after breakout seasons.

Further down, SP Eury Perez was excellent as a rookie and SP Edward Cabrera showed flashes, but both will be on an innings limit. The fifth spot is anyone’s guess after SP Johnny Cueto looked washed. SP Trevor Rogers will look to rediscover his rookie form while swingman SP Ryan Weathers aims to live up to his prospect potential. There are plenty of starting pitchers available in free agency, but Marlins owners are rarely willing to spend. That said, signing a back-end starter is certainly doable.

The good news for the Marlins is that their bullpen is in a really stable position, unlike most teams at the moment. The unit contains more than a handful of relievers from this season that Schumaker can pencil into the Opening Day roster. CP Tanner Scott finally cut his walk rate and had his best season as a result. RPs Andrew Nardi, Steven Okert, AJ Puk, Anthony Bender, and JT Chargois are all solid options already in the Majors. Even so, every team could use another relief pitcher.

Offseason Priorities

The Marlins still have a decent foundation to build on, but it is clear that they need to make consecutive postseason appearances for the first time. The ownership group needlessly through off the organization’s rhythm, but the only thing executives and coaches can do is keep preparing for the coming season. Players will train on their own regardless of who is calling the shots.

Now that Bendix is that person, he must figure out which players are worth keeping and which positions need an upgrade. Similar to Craig Breslow and the Boston Red Sox, he is not stepping into a barren situation, so he does not have to start from scratch. Catcher is a clear need, but finding a true shortstop or center fielder would go a long way towards improving both the offense and defense.

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