Miami Marlins Intro to Team
In their 28 year history, the Miami (formerly Florida) Marlins have made three playoff appearances, two of which resulted in World Series victories in 1997 and 2003. In the last 18 seasons, the Marlins have made it to the postseason just once, losing in the National League Division Series (NLDS) in the Covid-19 shortened 2020 campaign.
Although Miami is potentially a big market, covering all of the southeastern coast of Florida, the Marlins behave more like a smaller market team, with little regional interest and poor attendance. Unless they find a way to significantly increase their payroll, consistent competitiveness, especially in the deep pocket National League East, will always be a struggle.
Miami Marlins Last Season Performance
The Marlins failed to win more games than they lost for the 11th consecutive full season, posting a record of 67-95 to finish fourth in the five-team National League East, 21.5 games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves. The problem in Miami extends much farther than just the performance on the field, as the team has finished at the bottom of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) attendance figures in 2018, 2019, and 2021, with no fans in attendance for any team in 2020.
Despite a fairly new and modern stadium that opened in 2012, the Marlins averaged less than 8,000 fans per home game, the lowest by any team since Montreal in 2001, when they were already headed to Washington in a move orchestrated by MLB. Even pre-pandemic, the team barely attracted 10,000 spectators to go through the turnstiles in 2019.
The real problem on the field in 2021 was a lethargic offense, which managed a meager .233 team batting average with their best player to appear in over 100 games, shortstop Miguel Rojas, only posted an average of .265. The Marlins were 14th in the National League in batting average and runs scored, as well as 13th in home runs.
Any good news for the Marlins was on defense, with a pitching staff that was a respectable sixth in the National League in total ERA at 3.96. They were led by left-handed starting pitcher Trevor Rogers who posted a record of 7-8, an ERA of 2.64, and 157 strikeouts in 133 innings pitched. The 23-year-old was joined by right-hander Pablo Lopez with a 5-5 mark, a 3.07 ERA, and 115 strikeouts in 102.2 innings on the mound.
Miami lost six of their first seven games and never really recovered, although they did climb to within two games of .500 at 24-26. Eight straight losses followed and they ended up going 41-71 in their final 112 contests.
Miami Marlins Off-Season Changes
Despite the poor won-loss record in 2021, the Marlins retained manager Don Mattingly for the seventh season. The Marlins’ 2020 playoff appearance likely secured another year in Miami for Mattingly, but he’ll likely need to show some improvement if the former Yankee great and Dodger manager wants to stick around for 2023
The Marlins were busy in the limited offseason prior to the December 2nd lockout, adding four free agents and making three trades to prepare for the 2022 season. They also extended 25-year-old right-handed starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara with a five-year deal worth $56 million.
Alcantara is the workhorse of the Marlins’ pitching staff, with 33 starts and the team’s only complete game in 2021. His record was 9-15, but he compiled an ERA of 3.19 and struck out 201 opposing batters in a team-high 205.2 innings pitched.
Miami extended the aforementioned Rojas as well, adding two years and $10 million to his contract. The 32-year old has been with the Marlins since 2015, the longest of any active Miami player, and provides stability with his glove as well as his bat.
The Marlins moved away from catcher Jorge Alfaro, trading the 28-year-old to the San Diego Padres for a player to be named later, with the intention of opening up a spot on their 40 player roster for free agents or other trade opportunities. They also let 27-year-old outfielder Lewis Brinson test free agency, after he only managed to hit .226 in 89 games during the 2021 season.
Miami Marlins Key Additions
Early in the offseason, the Marlins acquired reliever Louis Head from Tampa Bay for a player to be named later. The right-hander, who can effectively throw both the fastball and the slider, saw limited action last season with the Rays but went 2-0 with an ERA of 2.31 in 35 innings pitched with 32 strikeouts.
Even though Head was left off the Rays’ postseason roster, he should be a welcome addition to a bullpen that needs to add some depth behind its stellar starting pitching rotation. Overall, the Marlins ended up on the good end of the deal with Tampa Bay.
In what was a terrific free-agent signing, the Marlins signed outfielder Avisail Garcia to a 4 year, $53 million deal after he opted out of the final year of his contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. The 30-year-old has plenty of good seasons left and is coming off a season where he batted .262 with 26 home runs and 86 RBI.
The Marlins picked up a key player by trading for catcher Jacob Stallings from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Zach Thompson, Connor Scott, and Kyle Nicolas, none of which were instrumental in the team’s long-term plans. The addition of Stallings shores up a position the Marlins have been targeting for an upgrade and they were able to get the player they wanted in the 32-year-old, six-year veteran who has a .254 career batting average.
Another player that came via trade is former All-Star utility player Joey Wendle, who the Marlins acquired from Tampa Bay by giving up promising prospect Kameron Misner, who the Rays rate as their 22nd best prospect in their organization. Wendle can play at second base, shortstop, and third base, providing depth for an injury-plagued infield and should give Miami immediate production that Misner can’t yet deliver.
The 31-year-old from Wilmington, Delaware had a .265 batting average with 11 home runs and 54 RBI in 2021. He is a lifetime .274 hitter in his six seasons of major league play with Oakland and Tampa Bay following a college career at West Chester College outside Philadelphia.
Miami Marlins Key Subtractions
Other than the organization-initiated moves on Alfaro and Brinson, the Marlins haven’t yet and aren’t expected to see any significant losses in talent, primarily due to an average age of just over 26 years for its 40 man roster. Following the lockdown, Jeter may find that some of that youth may be good trade bait, as he did in the transaction that resulted in Stallings moving over from Pittsburgh.
The Marlins have a fairly robust stock of young players in their farm system, especially at the starting pitcher position, which they have a depth of at the major league level. Jeter might choose to part with some of them in order to bring in some experience, especially to provide much-needed offense.
There will be a flurry of activity whenever the transaction floodgates open and the Marlins have shown they are open to making trades. It’s likely that Miami fans might see one of their high-profile prospects be dealt with elsewhere to give Mattingly more offensive options to help out his very capable pitching staff.
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Miami Marlins Head Coach Analysis
Mattingly has had prior managerial success, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to winning seasons in each of his five years with the club and the last three resulting in playoff appearances but falling short of a World Series appearance. His overall record with the Dodgers was 446 – 363, a .551 winning percentage and an average of 89 wins a season.
With the Marlins, Mattingly is in a tough situation, with Miami’s 2021 payroll at $55.7 million, ranked 27th among MLB franchises. To make matters worse, the revenue situation in Miami is also an issue, with attendance a problem and the lack of any regional broadcasting draw.
Team CEO Derek Jeter has committed to making moves to upgrade the talent on the Marlins, but outside of a solid starting pitching rotation, he still has a long way to go in providing Mattingly with a lineup that can consistently challenge the other teams in the National League East. It appears that the Marlins are off to a good start with their trades and free-agent signings, so perhaps Mattingly will have more to work with in 2022.
It’s hard to believe that the team will keep Mattingly for another season if the Marlins again fail to be competitive, with the manager generally becoming the scapegoat for front office ineptitude. At the age of 61, Mattingly may also decide to leave if Jeter doesn’t come through with a better lineup, as there should be other opportunities for his services. Check their MLB Odds for this season.
Miami Marlins Injured Players at the beginning of the season
The Marlins ended the 2021 season with a number of players that were banged up with a variety of injuries, including Miguel Rojas who was nursing a finger injury. Although there were several players on the injury list as of December 2nd, it wasn’t expected that any of them would require surgery or significant recovery time.
Because of the lack of seriousness, none of the injuries were expected to linger beyond the offseason and all of the players are expected to be at full strength for the beginning of spring training, whenever that occurs following the eventual end of the lockout. Depending on the length of spring training and the eventual start date of the season, there is always the possibility of future injury issues.
Miami Marlins Prediction for 2022 Season
The moves made by Jeter and the rest of the front office prior to the lockout were certainly promising for the Marlins, but there are still some needs to be addressed. The ability to generate consistent offense is one of them and neither Stallings nor Garcia represent immediate major upgrades, they’re a move in the right direction.
The Marlins averaged just 3.84 runs a game in 2021 while allowing over 4.3, despite having a solid starting rotation. For them to have any chance of moving up the standings, they’ll not only need to add some offense but also more reliable relievers, especially since they only had one complete game from their starters in 2021.
Miami recorded only 33 saves last season, led by Dylan Floro and Yimi Garcia, both of whom had 15. The newly acquired Louis Head could give them more depth at reliever, and if he can give the same kind of performance over more innings than he did with Tampa Bay, the Marlins could benefit greatly.
If Jeter can’t continue to plug holes through free agency or by the trade route, he’ll have to hope that the Marlins can find some prospects within their own farm system that can step up and deliver for the parent club. Miami has caught lightning in a bottle twice in their brief history and even though it’s unlikely in 2022, their pitching staff could be enough to give them a chance.
Realistically, the Marlins are playing in a division that houses the defending world champion Atlanta Braves as well as the winner in 2019, the Washington Nationals. Despite a spotty record in the recent pass, the New York Mets have made a concerted effort to upgrade their team while the Phillies also possess a fair amount of talent.
It will take a lot of factors to come together for the Marlins to be a contender in 2022, but the moves they’ve already made as well as retaining their best players could enable them to come close to a .500 season and move up in the NL East standings. The prediction here for the Marlins is that their pitching staff and recent roster moves could get them as many as 78 wins in 2022 as their rebuilding project progresses.
Longer-term, Miami has to address attendance and revenue issues if they are to be a viable contender and not just a team for other franchises to use for easy victories. Eventually, Major League Baseball will need to address the situation in South Florida from a competitive perspective. Check out their MLB Lines for the season.