Plethora of decisions loom on Marlins' offseason horizon

October 5th, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- There’s a new standard for Marlins baseball, so how does the organization go about exceeding it?

Not long after the Marlins’ 7-1 loss to the Phillies in Game 2 of the National League Wild Card Series on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park, manager Skip Schumaker and his players reflected on the reality of what’s to come following the series sweep.

“The sad part about it is, because it's baseball, you're not going to see all the same people in Spring Training,” Schumaker said. “That's what sucks, because I came to the field every day away from my family but [I'm] so grateful to be a part of another family that's outside my real family.”

Here are three players whose futures could affect the Marlins’ chances at reaching the postseason again in 2024.

No one felt the loss as much as Alcantara, whose season was cut short due to a right elbow UCL sprain. Alcantara’s future remains in the balance. Surgery is an option, one that both he and the Marlins would like to avoid.

“Not yet,” Alcantara said of whether a decision had been made. “I don't know, so let's see. Maybe next week. I'm waiting like you guys do.”

Should Alcantara require surgery, it would be a huge blow to the Marlins. Not only is the 28-year-old one of the Majors’ best starters, but he also personifies the journey the organization has taken. Alcantara was part of the early stages of the rebuild, then started Game 1 of both the 2020 NL Wild Card Series and the Division Series. He signed an extension in December 2021 to remain in South Florida for the foreseeable future, then became the first NL Cy Young Award winner in franchise history last November.

Without Alcantara as the ace, Miami would look to left-handers Jesús Luzardo and Braxton Garrett, both of whom stayed healthy -- and productive -- over the course of a full season for the first time in their MLB careers. Right-handers Eury Pérez and Edward Cabrera have elite stuff, while southpaw Trevor Rogers (right lat strain) and prospect Max Meyer (Tommy John surgery) should be back.

Designated hitter
Miami knocked the eighth-fewest homers and scored the fifth-fewest runs in the Majors in 2023. Imagine those numbers if the offense hadn’t gotten a bounceback year from its designated hitter?

In March 2022, Soler signed a free-agent contract with consecutive player options. After pelvic issues limited him to 72 games that season, he opted in to his $15 million deal for ‘23. Soler played in 137 games (third most in his career) and belted 36 homers (second most), garnering his first All-Star selection.

It seems unlikely Soler will activate his $9 million player option for 2024 ($4 million extra based on plate appearances in ‘23). Soler, who had yet to speak to his agent about his future, will consider several things when deciding whether to remain in South Florida.

“I will say this is a young team, hungry to win and with great energy, great environment,” Soler said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. “There's a few things we still need to ... fix and improve for next season, but yeah, those are the things I'll consider.

“We've been thinking about playoffs, and we achieved that. But at this point, we have to start thinking a little bigger, right? We’ve got to think about the World Series, and that has to be part of the goals.”

First baseman
Acquired ahead of the Trade Deadline from Cleveland for Jean Segura and prospect Kahlil Watson, Bell -- along with fellow addition Jake Burger -- was a big reason why the Marlins reached the postseason in a full season for the first time since 2003.

After a lackluster showing in 97 games for Cleveland (11 homers and a .701 OPS), Bell turned it around for Miami in 53 games (11 homers and an .818 OPS).

The switch-hitting Bell, whom the Marlins tried to sign over the offseason in an attempt to upgrade their lineup, has a $16.5 million player option for 2024.

“I'm just going to unplug for the next few weeks and enjoy family and talk with my agent, talk with my family about what happens next,” Bell said. “Had a really good time here. But I’ve got to make decisions for my little ones and whatnot. We'll see what happens, and I'm definitely excited for when that time comes.”