The Marlins find themselves in a much more enviable spot than they have been in the past few offseasons.
No longer is the organization building for the future. Expectations now are to contend, and that was only reinforced by reaching the postseason in 2020.
The latest Marlins Inbox addresses expectations and roster projections heading into Hot Stove season, which begins after the World Series.
Has the Marlins’ amazing leap from 100-plus losses to the second round of the playoffs had any impact on plans for the coming season, in terms of free agency and trades? Do you see it as a sign they should stay the course, or accelerate to capitalize?
No question the bar has been raised. There are now higher expectations, and the Marlins will continue to seek ways to improve. They also will be under new leadership since Miami is parting ways with Michael Hill as president of baseball operations. Whoever is the eventual replacement will be looking to build off this season.
When you talk about free agents, though, I don’t see the Marlins shopping at the top of the market. The Astros’ George Springer, obviously, is a tremendous player, but Starling Marte’s club option for 2021 is expected to be picked up, and he will be in center field. Chief executive officer Derek Jeter on Sunday repeated the team’s desire to pay Marte his $12.5 million salary for ‘21. Corey Dickerson is signed for next season and once again will be in left.
That leaves right field a little up in the air. Matt Joyce likely won’t be re-signed, and then there are internal candidates like Magneuris Sierra, Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison and Jesús Sánchez, who all saw time this year. Prospect Jerar Encarnacion is also getting closer to being big league ready. I could see Miami in the market for a left-handed-hitting free-agent outfielder.
Is Garrett Cooper the leading candidate in right field, and then who plays first base and designated hitter? What would the potential lineup look like?
No, Garrett Cooper’s days in the outfield probably are over, barring emergency situations. Cooper might have the inside edge to start at first base; he played the position in the playoffs. Right now, it is not a certainty there will be a designated hitter in the National League in 2021. If there is no DH, then perhaps Cooper or Jesús Aguilar could be traded. My guess is Cooper would likely be the one who stays. The organization has plenty of outfield candidates to handle right. The potential lineup should look a lot like it did in the playoffs at this point.
Any chance they add that veteran starter this offseason? Or do they give José Ureña another shot at it in Spring Training?
The rotation is the strength of the organization, and this team doesn’t need a “veteran” to mentor. The club is well past that. As for José Ureña, he suffered a fractured right wrist in the last game of the season. Until he is back throwing, we don’t know exactly what to expect. Ureña is about to enter his final year of arbitration, and he would qualify for free agency after the 2021 season. My guess is the team will move in another direction, probably seeking a trade.
As for the rotation itself, Sandy Alcantara, Sixto Sánchez and Pablo López are a formidable front trio. Elieser Hernandez took great strides before suffering a strained right lat. Left-handers Trevor Rogers, Braxton Garrett and Daniel Castano each gained valuable experience. Right-hander Nick Neidert is another option, and then there is hard-throwing prospect Edward Cabrera, who has top of the rotation potential. He would have made his MLB debut this year, if not for a minor right arm issue.
Harold Ramirez didn’t play much due to COVID-19 and injury. Is he still in the Marlins’ plans for 2021?
Harold Ramirez’s season never got on track, starting off with being one of the 18 players to test positive for COVID-19 in the first week. He was reinstated on Sept. 5, and the next day he was back on the injured list with a season-ending left hamstring strain. Ramirez is still under club control, so he will have an opportunity to compete for a job. But he will face plenty of competition.
Going forward, the pitching looks solid, but the offense is an issue. Is there reason to believe the rookies will dramatically improve over this year?
In terms of runs, the Marlins improved from 29th in the Majors in 2019 to 21st in ‘20. Miami still isn’t a huge home run-hitting team, but the offense overall made strides in this 60-game season. In the playoffs, the Marlins were shut out twice by the Braves in the NL Division Series, but runs in general are tough to come by in the postseason. I also think not having Marte (broken left pinkie) against Atlanta was a big loss. With a full year of Marte, and the natural maturation of players, the offense should be fairly solid in ‘21.