Marlins hungry to defy odds, make '24 postseason

February 20th, 2024

JUPITER, Fla. -- For years, the Marlins opened camp speaking optimistic platitudes of the season to come. Each of those clubs held postseason aspirations. None backed those statements up in a non-COVID-affected campaign until 2023.

While underdog Miami securing the franchise’s first full-season postseason berth in two decades was a feel-good story, the team got eliminated in two games by Philadelphia in the National League Wild Card Series. Afterwards, players spun the narrative to be about setting the standard moving forward.

So how do the Marlins build off that momentum and take the next step? Tuesday marked the first full-squad workout at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex, but most of the roster has been at camp for nearly a week.

“I think we're just hungry after last year,” Josh Bell said. “Obviously, leave the ballpark with a sour taste in your mouth, leaving Philly, everyone traveling in different directions. So we're itching to get back. The first week was pretty easy, just getting the cobwebs off, but it's go time now. We’ve got a game on Saturday, and I know we're excited to get after it.”

Still, it felt like the first day of school with principal owner Bruce Sherman, president of baseball operations Peter Bendix and manager Skip Schumaker taking turns to address the team.

“[Once Skip] started to talk, wow,” Luis Arraez said. “I wanted to start the season already when he started to talk. That’s why he's one of my favorite managers.”

Schumaker’s messaging remains the same as last season when he was a first-time manager: Winning is the most important part of everyone’s day from the top to the bottom of the organization. Everyone is held accountable. Everyone must trust each other.

Miami made the postseason despite a 23.6 percent chance to do so, according to FanGraphs. After defying the odds in 2023, Schumaker’s words hold even more weight because belief became a reality.

“I was expecting to make the playoffs last year,” Schumaker said. “I'm expecting to make it this year, and then see what happens in the playoffs. You never know once you get in the playoffs who's going to get hot at the right time and make a run at it. The expectation in there is to try to get to the playoffs from our staff. So I don't think the messaging is any different. I hope it's not. If I did, I didn't do a good job. And I'm going to try to keep that message throughout the year.”

Returning to the postseason will be difficult without the services of ace Sandy Alcantara (Tommy John surgery rehab) and All-Star slugger Jorge Soler (signed with Giants). According to FanGraphs, the Marlins have 28.9 percent odds in 2024.

Since Bendix took over on the baseball operations side in November, the offseason has centered on bolstering the front office. Miami has made smaller trades and Minor League free-agent signings. The club is hoping contributions from formerly injured players like Trevor Rogers and Anthony Bender, as well as full seasons from Bell and Jake Burger, will offset the aforementioned losses.

“Making the playoffs was great,” Sherman said. “It was really an exciting stretch for them. I want to have that same stretch run again. I want to be in the playoffs every year, and I want to win. And as I said, Peter’s empowered to do all the things he needs to do to win, and we're going to do those things.”

Does that mean there will be additions before Opening Day? Or are the players that worked out on the chilly backfields on Feb. 20 the ones the Marlins will rely on to make a run in 2024?

“We're always having conversations,” Bendix said. “I can never answer that question with any kind of certainty. I will tell you that I feel really good about this roster right now. I feel really good about the balance of some veteran players, some young talent, some power, some average, a lot of speed, some good defenders and just a lot of really good young position players -- in addition to the fact that I think we have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.”