Redmond, Marlins ready to build after 2013 struggles
Veterans with postseason experience added to mix after 100-loss season
JUPITER, Fla. -- If adversity indeed makes you stronger, the Marlins certainly have plenty to look forward to as Spring Training officially began Saturday at Roger Dean Stadium.
After enduring a 100-loss season for just the second time in franchise history, the still youthful squad is ready for a new beginning.
For many returnees, they are a year older. The organization hopes personal experience will be their best teacher.
Manager Mike Redmond spent so much of 2013 reinforcing a positive message. He repeatedly said that the frustrations now can turn to elation in the future.
Redmond speaks from personal experience on the topic. The former big league catcher was part of the 1998 Marlins, which lost a club-record 108 games. The young core of that team stuck together and five years later, a number of them celebrated the second World Series championship in franchise history.
"You know on the darkest days ... it's going to get better," Redmond said. "As tough as it is at times, that experience is going to help a lot of players down the road. It will. Sometimes it's hard to convince people of that, and sometimes it's hard to convince yourself of that, but I've already been through it. I've seen the successes come at the end of it."
The Marlins aren't making any bold predictions entering 2014, other than they are striving to win as many games as possible.
In the past, there has been plenty of bravado surrounding the organization. In 2012, for instance, the team went on a major spending spree, acquiring a number of high-profile free agents such as Jose Reyes and added a big-name manager in Ozzie Guillen.
To celebrate moving into their spectacular new retractable-roof park, the team was all-in, pushing payroll to a franchise-high $100 million.
But rather than make a big splash in the standings, the Marlins were a major flop, finishing last in the National League East.
The bar is clearly raised as camp opens and the front office was reshuffled, now under the direction of president of baseball operations Michael Hill. Dan Jennings was promoted to general manager.
Still, with limited economic resources, the front office strategically reshaped the roster, sprinkling in some veterans who have been part of winners to provide direction.
Now, the time for talk is over. It's time for action on the field. In all, 69 players are scheduled to be at camp at Roger Dean Stadium.
Entering Spring Training, the Marlins don't necessarily have a face of the franchise. You can more safely say they have two profiles. Giancarlo Stanton, 24, is the major force in the everyday lineup, while Jose Fernandez, 21, is the young ace and reining NL Rookie of the Year.
An elite power hitter and a true No. 1 pitcher are ideal building blocks.
Despite losing 100 games, Miami's pitching was especially strong last year, establishing a franchise ERA mark of 3.71.
Pitching again promises to be the strength. Along with Fernandez, the rotation features flame-throwers such as Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez. There will be competition for the fourth and fifth spots.
Sparse run production was the major issue, as the club ranked last in the Majors in runs (513), home runs (95), batting average (.231), on-base (.293) and slugging (.335) percentages.
To help re-energize the offense, the Marlins went the free agency route and signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia (catcher), Rafael Furcal (second base), Garrett Jones (first base), Casey McGehee (third base) and Jeff Baker (utility infielder).
Free agent Carlos Marmol, the former Cubs' closer, also was signed to solidify the bullpen.
Marmol joins the competition for a late-inning setup role. He's in the mix of another newcomer, hard-throwing right-hander Carter Capps, obtained from the Mariners for Logan Morrison.
The bullpen is now loaded with power arms -- many boasting better than 97-mph fastballs.
In the overall "roster-building" plan, the objective was to infuse as much experience, raw talent and character as possible.
Saltalamacchia and Furcal have World Series rings, while Jones was in the playoffs last year with Pittsburgh, Marmol was with the Dodgers in the postseason, and McGehee was on a championship in Japan last year.
"We wanted to bring in guys with a little more experience to just add to our depth," Hill said.