MIAMI -- The message from new manager Skip Schumaker is clear: The Marlins are in "win now" mode.
While Miami's talented and club-controlled rotation is the envy of nearly every organization, the lineup hasn't been able to back it up. In 2022 the starting staff compiled the eighth-lowest ERA in the Majors, but the offense scored the third-fewest runs. Providing the pitchers with support will be the primary goal when Schumaker, general manager Kim Ng and the rest of the Marlins' contingent arrive in San Diego for next week's Winter Meetings.
Here’s everything you need to know:
• Sunday, Dec. 4: HOF Contemporary Era ballot results released (Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling)
• Monday, Dec. 5: All-MLB Team announced
• Tuesday, Dec. 6: Inaugural Draft Lottery, AL/NL Relievers of Year announced
• Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rule 5 Draft
Though the coaching staff and front office are different, the club's biggest need remains the same: offense. This was the case last winter, and although Miami thought it had done enough by signing Avisaíl García and Jorge Soler, the two combined for just 21 homers and 69 RBIs, each playing in fewer than 100 games. That duo epitomizes themes of the 2022 Marlins: underperformance and injuries.
So what positions might Miami look to upgrade? It's safe to say center field is atop the list without a natural at the position. In 2022 the Marlins went with internal option Jesús Sánchez, who was demoted in August due to inconsistency. Free-agent options include Cody Bellinger and Brandon Nimmo, and trade targets range from Cedric Mullins to Bryan Reynolds. Other areas where the Marlins could seek help are shortstop and first base; Garrett Cooper is the only natural first baseman on the 40-man roster.
Potential Trade Candidates
How might the Marlins go about acquiring more offense? If the free-agent route turns out to be too pricey, Ng and Co. can turn to the organization's starting-pitching depth. Pablo López was the subject of rumors this past summer, and that shouldn't change this winter after he proved he could pitch the entirety of a 162-game season. López, 26, set career highs for starts (32) and innings (180) while finishing 15th among NL starters with a 2.8 fWAR. López, who lost his arbitration hearing in 2022, has two more years of club control -- something that makes him valuable. Thanks to breakthroughs from Jesús Luzardo and Braxton Garrett, plus a few prospects nearing MLB readiness, López could be considered "expendable."
Prospects to Know
Speaking of arms on the move, two starters who should arrive in 2023 are right-hander Eury Pérez (MLB Pipeline's No. 9 prospect overall) and southpaw Jake Eder (Marlins No. 4). Pérez, 19, dominated much older Double-A batters until an oblique injury skewed his numbers and sidelined him for a month. Eder, who missed the '22 season due to Tommy John surgery, expects to be ready for Spring Training. Before the procedure, he appeared in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, posted a 1.77 ERA and ascended to Top 100 status in his first professional season.
Rule 5 Draft
The Marlins didn't protect Triple-A first baseman/outfielder Troy Johnston (No. 20 prospect), Double-A outfielder Griffin Conine (No. 24) or High-A Beloit right-hander M.D. Johnson (No. 26), but they did add four homegrown relievers to the 40-man roster, leaving one open spot. Although the MLB phase of the Rule 5 Draft didn't take place in 2021 due to the lockout, Miami was active in the Minor League portion. Infielder Charles Leblanc was selected from Texas in the Triple-A phase, and he showed promise (104 OPS+) in a 48-game stint in 2022.
How can the Marlins close the gap in the National League East? During a disappointing 2022 season that saw Miami finish fourth in the division with 93 losses, Atlanta and New York each won 101 games, and third-place Philadelphia reached the World Series. Schumaker and Ng have said that keeping players healthy, including All-Star Jazz Chisholm Jr., is crucial to the club's success in '23. But that won't be enough to compete with those three organizations, which have much deeper pockets.