By Dan Schlossberg
Kim Ng, the only female GM in the major leagues, is making her mark with the Miami Marlins. But she faces the double whammy of tight purse-strings and a division dominated by three juggernauts: the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies, the 101-win New York Mets, and the Atlanta Braves, seeking their sixth consecutive division title — the longest active streak in the majors.
The Fish floundered in 2022, finishing fourth with a 69-93 mark that left them 32 games from the top of the NL East. If not for the Washington Nationals, who lost a team-record 107 times, the Marlins might have finished last.
Miami ranks 26th among the 30 teams with a 2023 payroll of $70,425,000, according to Spotrac, but that’s expected to jump to $91,537,150 once arbitration arguments end.
Take away outfielders Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia, both free agents added last year, and the team would save a $27 million. Both are strong candidates for mid-season trades.
Derek Jeter resigned as CEO in protest of the team’s money-saving ways. But he had a thankless job anyway, since there’s virtually no hope the Marlins or Nationals can compete against the Big Three — even in a season where each team plays each of the other 29 teams at least once.
But Ng doesn’t give up. She sent veteran shortstop Miguel Rojas to the Los Angeles Dodgers and pitcher Pablo Lopez to the Minnesota Twins, signed versatile infielder Jean Segura, flirted with former batting champion Yuli Gurriel, and imported highly-respected coach Skip Schumaker to succeed the overly-patient Don Mattingly as manager.
As a result, the Fish will field the worst defensive team in the league, if not the majors, and sabotage one of the best young pitching staffs.
Arraez, the 2022 American League batting champion, lacks speed, power, and a position, since he’s best deployed as a designated hitter. He’s likely to compete with Garrett Cooper at first base, though he could also play second and third.
Holdover Jazz Chisholm, Jr. is a rising star but has no experience in center field, the position he’s been asked to play this year.
Segura, who gave the Phillies a fine season last year, is also moving elsewhere: from second to third.
That leaves Joey Wendle, a movable infield piece in 2022, at short with Arraez his most likely double-play partner. The Marlins will miss third baseman Brian Anderson, who rowed the murky waters of free agency to the Milwaukee Brewers.
More than anything, the Fish need to find offense. Their .230 team batting average last year tied Arizona for next-to-worst in the National League and was better only than Pittsburgh’s pathetic .222.
The pitching, on the other hand, showed potential. Sandy Alcantara won the Cy Young Award and was the major reasons the Marlins led the majors with six complete games. Collectively, Miami starters posted a respectable 3.87 earned run average that ranked eighth in the majors, though the bullpen placed 22nd with its 4.15 ERA.
Blessed with an excess of talented young arms, Ng didn’t hesitate to swap Lopez for a hitter, albeit one who won’t add anything to the defense. Adding both Arraez and Segura should help Miami score more runs but don’t expect a repeat of 1997 or 2003, when the Marlins paylayed wild-card wins into world championships.
This may be a year of surprises but the Marlins won’t be one of them. Sorry, Kim.
Here’s The Pitch weekend editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 40 baseball books and regular articles for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and Memories & Dreams. E.mail him via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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