3 questions surrounding the Marlins' 2024 roster

October 24th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Christina De Nicola's Marlins Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The 2023 Marlins reached the postseason during a full season for the first time in 20 years, but there is more work to be done.

Here are three questions concerning the Marlins' 2024 roster:

How do they fill the Sandy Alcantara-sized hole in the rotation?
Alcantara, who underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this month, will miss the 2024 season. Even though the follow-up to his Cy Young Award-winning season wasn't up to his high standards, Miami's ace still finished with the 15th-highest WAR among qualified NL starters. Alcantara tossed three complete games (most) and 184 2/3 innings (ninth) despite as many as six fewer starts than other top NL pitchers.

That type of workload will be hard to replace. Jesús Luzardo (178 2/3), Braxton Garrett (159 2/3) and Eury Pérez (128) blew past their career highs for innings, but look how those figures compare to Alcantara's output in a down year.

So will the Marlins pursue a top starter in free agency? Names like Sonny Gray and Aaron Nola won't come at a small price, especially when competing with higher-payroll ballclubs. What's more likely to happen is Miami banking on its existing group.

Luzardo, Garrett and Pérez will need to either recreate or improve upon their breakout 2023. Edward Cabrera must consistently throw strikes to reach his frontline potential. Ryan Weathers, whose acquisition ahead of the Trade Deadline resembled Luzardo's from two years prior, is a reclamation project that can show why he was the seventh overall MLB Draft pick in '18. Trevor Rogers (right lat strain) and No. 3 prospect Max Meyer (Tommy John surgery) should return from injury and provide depth.

How can they upgrade at shortstop and catcher?
Marlins shortstops produced the Majors' lowest OPS (.578), while the catching duo of Jacob Stallings and Nick Fortes recorded the second-lowest OPS (.570).

Veteran and 2021 American League All-Star Joey Wendle is a free agent after two disappointing seasons in Miami. During the final month of the season, manager Skip Schumaker went with the hot bat -- Jon Berti or Garrett Hampson -- rather than a platoon situation with the left-handed-hitting Wendle. Berti started both games during the National League Wild Card Series, sacrificing some defense for the possibility of offense. But he and Hampson aren't everyday shortstops; they are better suited in utility roles.

Looking outside the organization for a shortstop won't be easy. For one, why would a club trade away its MLB-ready or current shortstop? The free-agent market this time around doesn't offer what it did a year ago with the elite quartet of Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson. Instead, you're looking at solid players in varying stages of their career: Amed Rosario, Brandon Crawford, Tim Anderson and Paul DeJong. Miami's No. 5 prospect Jacob Amaya saw mixed results at Triple-A Jacksonville during his first year with the organization. 

Here's food for thought: Jazz Chisholm Jr. came up as a shortstop, though he has seen limited time there at the MLB level. He certainly has the athleticism to play the position; it's a matter of consistency. It might be easier to find a center fielder -- either internally or externally -- to replace Chisholm so he can make the move back to the infield.

Behind the dish, Stallings and Fortes are under club control, though the former has just one year left of arbitration and could be a non-tender candidate. While both did a nice job managing the pitching staff, the club needs to add offense -- and this would be an area to upgrade. Gary Sánchez and Mitch Garver are a couple of names on the free-agent market, while Rockies backstop Elias Díaz should be a trade target. The All-Star Game MVP's contract doesn't expire until after the 2024 season.

Will Jorge Soler and Josh Bell opt out of their contracts?
Soler ($13 million) and Bell ($16.5 million) have player options for 2024, meaning there's a possibility Miami will need to replace quite a bit of firepower. Soler is coming off one of the best seasons of his 10-year career, blasting 36 homers (second most) while staying relatively healthy (137 games). He accounted for 22 percent of the Marlins' home run total, and he often went deep in clutch situations to tie the game or put the team ahead.

Bell, who was a free-agent target of Miami's last offseason, instead signed a deal with Cleveland. Miami acquired the switch-hitter ahead of the Trade Deadline, and he turned around his season: Bell went from a .701 OPS in 97 games for the Guardians to an .818 OPS in 53 games for the Marlins and played a huge role in the postseason berth. Bell appeared to like his time in Miami, but did he do enough down the stretch to warrant a better deal?