JUPITER, Fla. -- After an offseason of infusing experienced big league level talent to blend in with a young core and high-end prospects, the Marlins on Monday took the field for the first time as a full squad.
Normally, you wouldn’t hear so much enthusiasm from a franchise coming off a 57-105 season, but from ownership on down, expectations are measurably higher in the third year of the building process.
“We continue to build a sustainable, long-term organization,” Marlins chairman and principal owner Bruce Sherman said. “We will do whatever is necessary to win. None of us got here to do anything but build a winnable, sustainable franchise. We are here for the long term. It's not a question of tomorrow, today or yesterday. It's sustainable.”
The ownership group headed by Sherman and chief executive officer Derek Jeter is entering its third season and clearly expectations are higher after back-to-back last-place finishes. Jeter, elected to the Hall of Fame this year, was not at Monday’s workouts due to feeling under the weather.
Sherman, president of baseball operations Michael Hill and manager Don Mattingly were among those who addressed the players before they took the field.
“The thing you can say when you look in that clubhouse is there’s a lot more talent,” Hill said. “There’s a lot more upper-level talent. There’s a lot more veteran talent. A better pitching staff. A better bullpen. A better lineup.”
“It's time,” Mattingly said of making significant improvement. “It's time for us to move forward. I say that from the standpoint of knowing where our guys are going, knowing what was going on with the pitching and the players we acquired.”
And then there are prospects like Monte Harrison, Jazz Chisholm, Lewin Díaz, Jesús Sánchez, and pitchers like Sixto Sánchez, Edward Cabrera, Jorge Guzman and Nick Neidert. All could reach the big leagues at some point this year.
“When you start to put all those pieces together, the expectation to win more games comes with that,” Hill said.
In a pre-practice meeting, a central message was delivered.
“Just go out and compete,” Hill said. “There’s a lot of talent in that room. We’re not putting limitations on what anybody can do in that clubhouse, because there’s talent in that clubhouse.
“You just need to go out and compete. You’re here for a reason. We believe in the talent in that clubhouse. We want you to go out and show what you’re capable of doing, so go out and let your talent shine. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Let it go. Go have fun.”
When the current ownership group took over, it made the tough call to tear down the previous core of players and embark on building from the farm system on up.
“Derek and ownership have been very clear of where we want to go,” Mattingly said. “The organization that we want to build. It just felt like it's time to get this thing to the hill, where we're not always fighting upstream. It's time we started going downhill a little bit.”
Over the past few years, the Marlins traded Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto. Those deals helped upgrade Miami's Minor League farm system, which has improved from ranking at or near the bottom to a top 10-caliber system.
Ownership has made ballpark enhancements at Marlins Park, which this year will have new synthetic turf, as well as shorter fences in both center and right-center field.
Upgrades also have been made at the Marlins' international academy in the Dominican Republic. And after Spring Training this year, Miami’s Spring Training home at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Complex in Jupiter, Fla., will be renovated.
“From Day One, we made some very difficult choices,” Sherman said. “We knew they wouldn't be popular. All we want to build is a very sustainable, championship team that competes at the highest level. We know it's been tough. We know it's been difficult. We know we have to earn the fans' support. And we know we have to provide all the resources. We've provided a lot of resources in the stadium, in the Dominican Republic, in Jupiter.”