Marlins 'want to make some noise' in 2020

February 8th, 2020

MIAMI -- For the first time in three years, Marlins FanFest wasn’t filled with comments about building for the future while asking fans to be patient. On Saturday afternoon at Marlins Park, the tone was more about winning and raising expectations in 2020.

That’s a refreshing change for Marlins fans, who have endured a combined record in 2018-19 of 120-203.

A large gathering of energized fans attended FanFest, getting a chance to interact with Marlins players, coaches and organizational staff members.

Granted, no one is boldly predicting a playoff run in 2020, but manager Don Mattingly spelled out there is an understanding that the Marlins are certainly capable of making some noise this season.

“This will be a year, if we don’t make significant improvements from last year, then there’s going to be disappointment within our group,” Mattingly said.

Defining “significant improvement” remains somewhat vague, because Mattingly noted that the goal isn’t merely a winning season. But he did add, bumping up the wins total and continuing to show organizational improvements is essential to becoming a more serious contender in the next few years.

“I don’t want to come out and say, ‘We’re trying to play .500.’ It’s just not something you want to do,” Mattingly said. “We want to make noise. I think we’re going to take strides forward, and I think the fans will see it. I think our division will see it because we’ll be a lot more competitive.”

After enduring a 57-105 record in 2019, from ownership to the players, there is an understanding that more is expected.

“Obviously, you can be significant pretty easily when you win 50-something games, right,” Mattingly said. “I think we have a group that’s going to be a lot more competitive, and has a chance. We know we’re in a tough division. We have the World Series winner [Nationals]. The division winner [Braves]. And the Mets and the Phillies are trying to do all they can to be there, too.”

The Marlins had what they feel was a sneaky-good offseason, adding outfielders Corey Dickerson and Matt Joyce, relievers Brandon Kintzler, Yimi García and Stephen Tarpley, catcher Francisco Cervelli, infielder Jonathan Villar, and first baseman Jesús Aguilar.

“We made a lot of trades, brought in a lot of talent, and we feel like we’re on very solid foundation, when you look at the layers that we have,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “That’s how you build something sustainable, it’s to have a solid foundation and continue to add talent through the Draft, through our trades, through our international signings. That’s the blueprint of how we’re building this. It’s exciting to see it’s starting to come to fruition.”

The Marlins open Spring Training with pitchers and catchers’ workouts on Wednesday at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. Full-squad drills get underway on Feb. 17.

With all the new additions, mixed with core returning players like third baseman/right fielder Brian Anderson, shortstop Miguel Rojas, catcher Jorge Alfaro and starters Sandy Alcantara and Caleb Smith, the Marlins have the makings of a strong foundation to work with.

José Ureña, the Opening Day starter the past two years, is expected to be back in the rotation. This decision was made after the organization spent the offseason weighing whether to use the right-hander in relief.

Spring Training also will settle what is shaping up as plenty of position battles. Villar, for instance, is expected to play all over the field -- second base, shortstop, third and outfield. Kintzler is the frontrunner to close, along with Drew Steckenrider and Ryne Stanek.

Lewis Brinson, who hit .173 with no home runs in 75 games last year, is at a point where he has to show more production to remain in the big leagues.

“Just let him play,” Mattingly said. “Lewis, obviously, is a guy who’s worked extremely hard. What the narrative has been over the winter is, this is Lewis’ year. He’s got to go or no-go. Success at this level comes at different periods. Some guys come and they jump right on and they take off. Other guys, it takes a little bit.”

The organization also has a wave of prospects that are expected to reach the big leagues at some point in 2020.

“The only step is to win,” said Hill. “That’s the overriding goal. Everything we’re working for, working towards, is to win championships. That’s the standard. That’s what we said from the beginning. We had to make tough decisions as we started, to put ourselves on solid foundation. But to build anything, you had to have a solid foundation.”