2024 Season Preview: Will the Miami Marlins soar?

2023 record; 84-78 – 3rd in National League (NL) East.

Jorge Soler, despite working out the whole winter in his Miami Marlins gear, opted out of his contract after his monster season with Fish and signed with the San Francisco Giants. His 36 home runs will be missed. Last person to do that was a bulked up Giancarlo Stanton.

Jacob Stallings and his monstrous batting average of .191 and 54 OPS+ in 88 games last season was also let go and he eventually signed with the Rockies, which seemed like the most Rockies move ever. Yuli Gurriel, one of the rascals of the Astros sign-stealing campaign, was released. He somehow played in 108 games last season for the Marlins, which was a surprise to me.

Another veteran player out of the club was Joey Wendle. At times last season, it felt like Marlins manager Skip Schumaker wrote his name first in the lineup card despite Wendle producing the worst season of his career. Division rivals Mets saw this and picked him up. I say this now: look for Joey Wendle turning into prime Barry Bonds in the games against the Fish in the upcoming season. It is inevitable!

The most action during the winter in Little Havana was in the front office – Peter Bendix was hired as the president of baseball operations and, to this day, he has, according to my calculations, made 54 hires to the front office or, at least, it has felt that way. The most notable person he has brought in is former Giants manager Gabe Kapler. At the moment, I don’t know what he has contributed to the organisation as the assistant general manager but somebody genius installed TikTok to his phone and the production of it has been on the comedy level of Dwight K. Schrute III, the assistant to the regional manager.

Filling up the major holes in the roster that Wendle, Stallings, Gurriel and Soler left, the Marlins didn’t hurry to sign the hottest free agents. Actually, the Marlins were the last team to sign a free agent. That free agent signing ended up being Tim Anderson, nicknamed the Iron Tim, in some other context. The White Sox legend had a really bad year in 2023, but the Marlins are hoping for a comeback season and with a 1-year, $5 million deal, it’s a low risk, high reward kind of contract.

Christian Bethancourt was brought in to fill up the giant boots of Stallings and he looks to be the first-choice catcher for the Fish, with Nick Fortes to serve up as a backup catcher. Trey Mancini was brought as a non-roster invitee and most likely will get a roster spot. The Marlins kept the hotline hot to the Minnesota Twins as they traded for Nick Gordon. Same as with Anderson, they are hoping for a bounce-back season from Gordon, who only played 34 games last season due to a major injury.

The pitching department, meanwhile, has made some experimental moves due to Sandy Alcantara being set to miss the entire season with injury and the legend of Johnny Cueto being no longer present in Miami. During the Spring Training games, the Fish have deployed A.J Puk, the closer for the Marlins most of last season, as a starter. Numbers from the Spring Training games have been promising, but, like always, we’ll have to wait to see the production in regular season games or I’ll just end up being heartbroken, like I did with Marlins legend Lewis Brinson.

Last year, this team battled through some tough games. The Marlins had 33 wins in one-run games – second most in the Major League – and they barely made it to the postseason, thanks to not blowing up those close games. Replicating that magic feels like an impossible job and it is a lot to ask from the bullpen. Especially when this team still isn’t producing a lot of runs.

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The manager Skip Schumaker has created in a short time a clubhouse culture that represents hard work and fighting through some tough times. This will be the Marlins mantra also for the upcoming season. Young pitching rotation needs run support.

I would say a lot of offensive baggage is on the shoulders of Luis Arraez, Jazz Chisholm, Jake Burger and Josh Bell. The Fish need constant production from these guys. Arraez is chasing his third batting title and, hopefully, will get extended. Jazz needs to stay healthy. I am happy to send him some Tom Brady nutrition and snake oil if needed. Jake Burger has said that he enjoys Miami and it will be fun to see a hopefully full season of Burger King. Josh Bell turned into Hank Aaron after he was traded to the Marlins and hopefully stays that way.

My biggest wish is to see this team show some grit and play as hard as they did last year. That is enough for me and let’s just see how far that will take them. My biggest fear is that this team folds into the fetal position before July and trades away Luis Arraez because the owner Bruce Sherman is a cheap pinchpenny.

Oh, and a free tip to the manager Schumaker; writing Avisail Garcia‘s name on the lineup card? Skip it!

Stay safe and go Fish!

Featured image – Al Diaz/Miami Herald

Tomi Korkeamäki is the Miami Marlins correspondent for Bat Flips & Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @TKorkeamaki.

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