MIAMI -- The Marlins made a promise to be active this offseason, and they kept it before the lockout. But have they done enough to contend in the ultra-competitive National League East, where the defending World Series champion Braves reside? Though the Phillies and Nationals were relatively quiet before the stoppage, the Mets splurged by signing Max Scherzer and Starling Marte, among others.
Let's revisit what happened during the early stages of the Hot Stove season and look ahead at what might come next for the Marlins.
Which deals are already done?
It was no secret Miami hoped to address its catching situation, and the club wasted no time delving into the thin market by acquiring reigning Gold Glove winner Jacob Stallings from the Pirates. Finding a strong defensive backstop to support the talented staff was a clear priority since the Marlins will only go as far as their pitching takes them.
Who is no longer with the club?
Those new faces plus a full 40-man roster meant letting go of players who had been acquired in blockbuster trades from 2017-19: outfielders Lewis Brinson (Christian Yelich trade) and Magneuris Sierra (Marcell Ozuna), catcher Jorge Alfaro (J.T. Realmuto) and former pitching prospect Jorge Guzman (Giancarlo Stanton). Backup catcher Sandy León elected free agency.
What does the coaching staff look like?
Marcus Thames and Al Pedrique are the Marlins' new hitting and third-base/infield coaches, respectively, after Trey Hillman and Robert Rodriguez departed the organization. Thames spent the past four seasons as the Yankees' hitting coach, while Pedrique was Triple-A Jacksonville's manager. Edwar González also joined Miami as assistant hitting coach. Eric Duncan, the club's hitting coach each of the last two seasons, was named quality assurance coach -- a new position within the organization.
“You want to make sure that these coaches have all the information that they can,” GM Kim Ng said of the new role on the coaching staff. “We felt that there was a bit of a hole for us, and so it was great that Eric Duncan, who is very analytically minded and who's got a great working relationship with our current staff as well as with our player development people, we thought this would be a really good position for him. Throughout the year he'll be making sure that all of our coaches have the information that they need. We'll be communicating better with the Minor Leagues and the development, and making sure that we are carrying out all the player plans that we've established at the beginning of the year for these guys.”
What are the biggest remaining needs and who might they target to fill these holes?
In 2021, the Marlins ranked toward the bottom of nearly every offensive category. As a result, the front office intended to acquire multiple bats to support a strong pitching staff. Though García and Wendle certainly help, another veteran impact bat would truly make a difference. Local Nick Castellanos and former Mets outfielder Michael Conforto -- both of whom received a qualifying offer -- are interesting targets that fit the bill, but they might be out of Miami’s price range. The same likely could be said for Kyle Schwarber.
Other options include Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler, the 2021 NLCS MVP and World Series MVP, respectively. The Marlins could use a closer, but they won’t be able to find one at a cheap price.
"I would just say that I'm optimistic that we'll be able to complete our club, and we're going to be able to make some future moves that we're going to be proud of," Ng said.
Are there any players they are looking to trade? Which outstanding arbitration cases are on the docket?
These two questions relate to each other. The Marlins tendered contracts to all eligible players, including first baseman/outfielder Garrett Cooper, first baseman Jesús Aguilar and utility player Jon Berti. But that doesn't necessarily mean they will all stay with the club. With a universal designated hitter in 2022, does that mean Cooper and Aguilar remain on the roster? Both are coming off season-ending surgeries. One of them would be expendable should Miami acquire an impact bat.
The addition of Wendle could impact Berti, who didn't return from a concussion sustained in late July. Third baseman Brian Anderson appeared in just 67 games last season due to shoulder trouble, and he is recovering from left shoulder surgery. Up for arbitration for the second time, Anderson was considered a prime extension candidate last offseason.
The Marlins have 10 arbitration-eligible players: Aguilar, Cooper, Anderson, Berti, Wendle, Stallings, left-hander Richard Bleier and right-handers Dylan Floro, Elieser Hernandez and Pablo López.
How many open spots are there on the 40-man roster?
The 40-man roster is full.
What’s next now that Jeter has left the club?
The Marlins and CEO Derek Jeter, who also owned a four percent stake in the team, parted ways after four years. Jeter was part of the ownership group that purchased the franchise in September 2017. The Marlins went 218-327 during his tenure, with the club reaching the playoffs for the first time in 17 years during the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season. The organization also replenished its farm system, going from one of the worst to Top 5.
"We have a deep bench of talent that will oversee both business and baseball decisions while we work to identify a new CEO to lead our franchise,” principal owner Bruce Sherman said in a statement. “The ownership group is committed to keep investing in the future of the franchise -- and we are determined to build a team that will return to the postseason and excite Marlins fans and the local community."