Miami Marlins Offseason Serves As Giant Missed Opportunity

The Miami Marlins are seemingly taking a step back this year, having not addressed their roster much after making the playoffs in 2023.

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 19: Miami Marlins designated hitter Jorge Soler (12) gets a big hug from Miami Marlins second baseman Luis Arraez (3) in the dugout after his homer int he third inning during the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Miami Marlins on Monday, June 19, 2023 at LoanDepot Part in Miami, Fla. (Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Miami Marlins have not signed a single Major League free agent this winter.

Read that again.

The Miami Marlins have not signed a single Major League free agent this winter.

They are the only team in the league that has not signed a Major League player this offseason. That’s right, the Marlins have signed less Major Leaguers than the A’s, Pirates, Rockies and likely even some international teams.

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As the Fish head to their first Spring Training under a new regime–headed up by new President of baseball operations, Peter Bendix–it is hard not to feel like they missed a huge opportunity this winter.

The Marlins cracked the Postseason for the first time in a full season since 2003 last year. The fanbase felt more engaged than they had in years, and it seemed like they were on the verge of building a legitimate playoff contender.

Anytime a team goes an entire offseason without signing a Major League player it can be quite shocking. For a team just off their first playoff berth in two decades, it feels like a real shot in the foot.

The Marlins are certainly going in a new direction under Bendix, and I’m not even sure it’s a bad one. However, it feels like this regime change came at a really tough time for the club. Kim Ng had one way of doing things, and Bendix is seemingly going to do them completely differently.

That is perfectly fine, the issue is it does not line up with the timeline of fans who wanted to build off last year. The caveat is, this likely had to come at some point and it may be better for the long-term sustainability of the franchise.

There is good news and bad news with how the Marlins have operated this offseason. Let’s get the bad out of the way, before turning to the sunny picture of what could be down the road.

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The Bad

It has to be extremely frustrating for Marlins’ fans to watch what has unfolded this winter. In fact, I know that many fans of the team are highly discouraged. Fans wanted to see the team build upon their best season in years, and they have done anything but.

The Marlins only free-agent signings were on Minor League deals, and the trades they have made are far from blockbuster deals. So far the best deal they have made was acquiring Nick Gordon from the Twins, a former top prospect who has a 92 wRC+ and 1.0 fWAR in 245 career games.

Other exciting acquisitions include Christian Bethancourt, with his 72 wRC+ and 0.7 fWAR in 366 games, and Vidal Bruján, who has a 28 wRC+ and -1.5 fWAR in 99 games. The rest of the list includes bullpen arms and non-roster-invitee veterans like Trey Mancini and Curt Casali. Thrilling!

None of these deals are going to make the Marlins significantly better in 2024 than they were in 2023. Miami won 84 games last year, and as of now it is hard to see that total going up this year. The Marlins punched above their weight last year, so it’s possible, but nothing about this offseason inspires confidence.

With the possible departure of Edward Cabrera as well, the Marlins could be facing another setback to the Major League roster. Cabrera’s performance has been up-and-down in his career, but his potential is undeniable.

The Marlins also let Jorge Soler and his 36 home runs walk this offseason. They did not even choose to extend him the Qualifying Offer, which would have scored them a compensation draft pick after he signed with the Giants.

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Failing to improve the roster–and arguably getting even worse–the year after their first playoff appearance in 20 years is a giant missed opportunity for the Miami franchise. This market is begging for a team worth rooting for, and Marlins brass had a chance to build on a great 2023. Instead they have done the opposite, and it has left the fanbase feeling dejected.

The Good

The best way to reverse that feeling of dejection is for the franchise to start winning. The good news is, Peter Bendix is bringing a plan that should help the Marlins do that more sustainably.

The goal for any low-payroll team is to be the Tampa Bay Rays. They are the model for how to win with a small budget, and the Marlins have been trying to be like them for years. They have had little-to-no success so far, but what better way to become the Rays than have one of their own run their franchise?

Bendix has made his way through the Rays organization over the years, rising the ranks to General Manger in 2021. When the Marlins let go of Kim Ng, it made a ton of sense for them to try and pluck an executive from the Rays to run their baseball operations.

Bendix has spent most of the offseason building out the infrastructure of his front office. He has hired more executives than he has added players, and he clearly has a goal for what he wants from his front office.

He is also going to be leading the Marlins into the analytics age, something that is long overdue. The Fish have lagged behind in that department for years, something that cannot happen considering their budget.

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I do believe Bendix has a vision for the Marlins and it will take time. I think it is a good vision, and will lead to winning. Miami’s farm system is just a wasteland of talent, and they need to replenish it fast to build a sustainable foundation.

The last regime tried, and failed miserably, to build a solid foundation with the farm system.

For a long time it seemed promising, but the Marlins have still yet to develop an everyday player that they have either drafted or signed on the IFA market. They loaded up on pitching talent, but have had to move on from much of it in an attempt to add offense.

Bendix trying to replenish the farm and change the Marlins’ development tactics is not only good, but imperative. I am not sure if the Marlins drafted miserably or developed miserably, or both, but they have failed in that department. Nobody drafts and develops better than the Rays, and I’m open to letting Bendix build out that kind of infrastructure in Miami.

This is all good, but it is also bad. That is because the truth is this is going to take a lot of time. Bendix is not just going to turn the Marlins into a development monster in one year. It will take years of stacking and developing talent before Miami can have a truly sustainable winner.

Of course, we also know what the Rays tendency has been when that talent starts to age and becomes less controllable. Will a Miami fanbase that has rarely had any superstars to attach themselves to accept many of their top players may be traded at their peak value?

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Will they buy into the fact that it is for the better long-term health of the franchise? Baseball people will know why it can be, but it may be a tough sell for more casual baseball fans.

I think the biggest question is when will Marlin fans lose patience with the constant turnover and give them up for good? I will admit, I have been close to that in the past, and being like the Rays is not super appealing to me.

You know what is appealing though? Winning. Nothing will put people in seats more than winning, and this is likely the best path to make the Marlins a serious contender. It will not get anybody excited for 2024, but it should get fans interested in the future.

However, if it goes poorly it could spell serious trouble for baseball in Miami. How much longer will people put up with one of the most unsuccessful franchises in sports? Will fans continue to believe the promises of “doing things the right way”?

Marlins fans are tired of being told that starting over is best for the franchise, they just want to win. If Peter Bendix builds a winner in Miami, we will look back at this offseason as the turning point for a franchise lacking in history.

I imagine then, and only then, fans will look back and be glad the Marlins added more executives than Major League players in 2024.

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