MIAMI -- The 2020 Marlins were arguably MLB's biggest surprise story, with the club making the playoffs for the first time since 2003 and advancing to the National League Division Series.
Now that their improbable and magical season has ended, the Marlins are redirecting their focus on 2021. There is plenty of optimism as well as questions to answer -- from the top of their front office structure on down.
Here’s a primer for what the Marlins face with the Hot Stove season underway:
Finding a new head of baseball operations
For the first time since late September 2013, Michael Hill will not be the the club's president of baseball operations. Miami and Hill parted ways recently, and assistant general managers Dan Greenlee and Brian Chattin are overseeing the department on an interim basis.
Chief executive officer Derek Jeter said the role has evolved, and the organization will consider candidates from within and outside the organization. The one thing to expect is for the search to be thorough. Jeter doesn't rush into making decisions, and there is a chance the job description itself will be different.
Whoever gets the job may have a different title than Hill.
The success of the 2020 season has raised the excitement level throughout the organization, and there is a desire to keep building on the momentum. The intention is to have a '21 payroll in the neighborhood of $100 million. The Marlins get some payroll relief now that Wei-Yin Chen’s salary is off their books. Although Chen wasn’t with the club in '20, his base salary for the season was $22 million, and Miami was on the hook for most of it. Chen had signed a five-year, $80 million free-agent contract with the Marlins prior to the 2016 season,
The Marlins also are hopeful to have a new local television agreement with FOX Sports Florida finalized before the first of the year. Exact financial terms are still being worked out, but the belief is it would be about $50 million annually for the club. That’s a significant increase from the current deal, which was less than $20 million for 2020.
Which players are free agents?
Players without contracts for 2021 were free to begin signing with other clubs beginning at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, five days after the conclusion of the World Series.
Which players are arbitration-eligible?
The Marlins will be busy on the arbitration front with nine players eligible: first baseman Jesús Aguilar, catcher Jorge Alfaro, third baseman Brian Anderson, first baseman Garrett Cooper, right-hander Yimi García, right-hander Ryne Stanek, right-hander Drew Steckenrider, right-hander José Ureña and left-hander Richard Bleier.
Who might be a non-tender candidate, and when does the club have to make that decision?
Steckenrider missed the entire season with right triceps tendinitis, and he appeared in just 15 games in 2019 due to right elbow inflammation. Ureña is recovering from a fractured right forearm. He is entering his final year of arbitration.
Who needs to be added to the 40-man roster this winter to avoid the Rule 5 Draft, and do they have a crunch for roster spots?
A couple of players on Miami’s Top 30 prospect list, per MLB Pipeline, will need to be added to the 40-man roster. Infielder José Devers (No. 13) and outfielder Jerar Encarnación (No. 17) are safe bets to join the roster.
What areas of need must the Marlins address? Potential targets?
The Marlins are expected to be active in either the free-agent or trade markets, as they seek to strengthen their roster. Catcher has become a position of concern due to the fact Alfaro has not firmly won the job. Chad Wallach started in the playoffs due to his ability to handle the staff better. Alfaro is entering arbitration, so the question becomes, do they bring him back or move in another direction? Miami is not expected to be in the market for former Marlin J.T. Realmuto. They could make a play for free agents like James McCann, Austin Romine, Stephen Vogt, Sandy León or Kurt Suzuki.