MIAMI -- For the past two years, Marlins management has spoken frequently about building a sturdy organization from the Minor Leagues on up. Now after enduring plenty of growing pains at the big league level, Miami's focus in 2020 is shifting from building to improving.
It’s time for results, and manager Don Mattingly noted as much at the Winter Meetings in San Diego in December.
Asked to sum up where the organization stands entering the third year under the Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter ownership group, Mattingly responded: “It's getting to that point where it's kind of time, as we talked about the build and trying to get up this hill. We're starting to feel like you're getting to the top of the hill, and it's going to be a little more gravity behind us moving forward and having an opportunity to truly start competing with teams in our division, which we know is rough with the things teams are doing and where they're going.”
Obviously, the organization knows the 2020 Marlins are not a finished product in terms of being a true playoff contender.
But management also has raised expectations after a disheartening 2019, when Miami finished 57-105.
“We're looking at it like it's time to start moving forward,” Mattingly added. “A lot of guys we think are going to be part of the future are moving to that Triple-A range and have been through Double-A. Knowing that they're right there, obviously, hitting the roster this year with some guys, and more guys to come.”
In many ways, the third year of the build is being viewed as a turning-point season, as the franchise aims to push the wins total closer to 81.
Jeter, the Marlins’ chief executive officer, frequently talks about being patient, and upper management has been just that as the Minor League system has improved. But frankly, at the big league level, the results haven’t been good enough.
The Marlins’ combined record in 2018-19 was 120-203 (.372 winning percentage). In that span, they ranked last in the Majors in runs (1,204), home runs (274) and slugging percentage (.366).
Their pitching has been more promising, but still inconsistent. Their ERA was 4.75 the past two years, 23rd overall, and their 1,220 walks was the second most of the 30 teams.
While the Marlins were mostly under the radar in the offseason, the front office was active. Miami made a series of potentially shrewd -- and certainly sensible -- free-agent acquisitions, coupled with a few well-calculated trades.
All are expected to help advance the building process while providing veteran leadership.
But the brightest part of the building process is that the next wave of prospects making it to the big leagues is on the horizon.
At some point in 2020, top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez and hard-throwing right-hander Edward Cabrera are expected to join the rotation. Outfielders Monte Harrison and Jesús Sánchez and shortstop Jazz Chisholm could reach the big leagues this season.
Those are a few of the expected building blocks for the future, which is coming more into focus in 2020.