EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a two-part offseason series, looking back at the Miami Marlins’ run to the playoffs as well as looking ahead to their first season under new team president Peter Bendix. To read part one, click here. TODAY: What will Bendix change in 2024?
Just more than a month removed from their elimination in the National League wild-card round, and with a new team president in the fold, the Miami Marlins face a ton of uncertainty as the MLB General Manager Meetings roll on this week in Arizona.
Miami, coming off an 84-win season and a two-game sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies, saw the departure of general manager Kim Ng last month quickly turn into the arrival of Peter Bendix this week. And as MLB teams scurry to build their rosters, the new boss has a lot to do in Little Havana.
Hired away from the Tampa Bay Rays, Bendix, 38, is among many young general managers across baseball, who subscribe to the “Moneyball” principles of advanced metrics and finding players who fit best without breaking the team’s bank.
He will be tasked with replenishing a depleted farm system in Miami, and building the internal talent pool back up, while tactically adding to it at the major-league level. And he’ll have to do so in the wake of a surprising exit by Ng.
On Oct. 16, she announced her decision to part ways with the ballclub after spending three seasons at the helm. Hired in November 2020, Ng became the first female to serve as a GM in any major professional men’s team in North American sports. She took the Marlins, who had the worst record in all Major League Baseball since 2004 to rise for one of the best seasons in Marlins history since 2009.
Ng was offered an option to stay in the 2024 season, but ultimately decided to depart for other opportunities. “In our discussions, it became apparent that we were not completely aligned on what that should look like, and I felt it best to step away,” Ng said in a statement.
Ng’s fingerprints are still all over the franchise, especially in the dugout. She, after all, hired first-time manager Skip Schumaker last offseason, and on Monday, he was named a finalist for NL Manager of the Year.
“I told her when we hugged on the field (after clinching a postseason berth), ‘thank you for trusting me’,” Schumaker said last month. “She could have picked anybody, and she decided to pick me.”
Schumaker will have to develop a new rapport with Bendix, but if he continues to make the most of his roster, his prospects for staying long into this new regime will increase.
Marlins fans will get to see more of that relationship next week, when Bendix is introduced to the Miami media on Monday. In the interim, let’s take a look at a few of the storylines this new management team will weigh across the winter months:
PRESSURE FROM THE OWNER’S BOX
When Miami owner Bruce Sherman announced the search for a president of baseball operations last month, he pronounced the club’s desire to think big.
“We will immediately begin a thorough and extensive search for new leadership as we plan to continue to invest in the Marlins organization both on and off the field,” he said. “We are committed to our fans and the South Florida community and look to build off the momentum of the great progress of this year.”
According to reports, Sherman had concerns around player development and international signings within the organization, during the Ng tenure. A lack of position players brought up in the farm system was alarming to him.
On Miami’s postseason roster, the only homegrown talent was backup catcher Nick Fortes, drafted by the Marlins in 2018.
It will be a long time before you see Bendix’s true impact on the club’s lower levels, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a priority this offseason. His first MLB Draft with the club will be in July of next year.
OFFENSIVE DECISIONS LOOMING
First baseman Josh Bell, one of Ng’s trade-deadline acquisitions, opted into his $16.5 million player option to stay with Miami next season. But he’s sure to have some new teammates around him in next year’s lineup.
“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 last month, reflecting on the reality of the MLB offseason. “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.”
All-Star outfielder Jorge Soler is now a free agent and won’t be back after Bendix did not offer him a qualifying offer on Monday. Soler belted 36 home runs this year, the second most in his career, while playing in 137 games.
The 31-year-old slugger signed a three-year, $36 million dollar contract in 2022, but the option loomed large given the management change. Soler played just 72 games last year, and Bendix might not have seen that type of value in an aging player.
“We’ve been thinking about playoffs, and we achieved that,” Soler said at the end of the season. “But at this point, we must start thinking a little bigger, right?”
Apparently, the Marlins saw their future without him.
Bell, 31, might be able to make up for that lost power, though. After a sluggish start in 2023 with Cleveland, where he posted an OPS of .701 with 11 home runs in 97 games, Bell turned a major corner with the Marlins. In 53 games, Bell belted 11 home runs with a .818 OPS and hit to the tune of .273.
The well-traveled switch-hitter found a fit in Miami, saying after the playoffs that he “had a really good time here. But I’ve got to make decisions for my little ones and whatnot.”
With Bell’s decision over now, the Marlins can get to the business of finding additions around him. Boston Red Sox designated hitter Justin Turner and Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson are a few of the free-agent names who have been linked to the Marlins in the early going.
A ROTATION WITHOUT ALCANTARA
Already with question marks surrounding the major bats in Miami’s lineup, one question answered on the mound is the loss of Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara, who will miss the 2024 season following Tommy John surgery.
After a 2022 season that earned him the Cy Young Award, Alcantara followed up by topping 184 innings and posting an ERA slightly above 4.10. He was tied for first in the league with three complete games, but he wasn’t the same.
Alcantara was diagnosed with a right forearm flexor strain, putting him on the 15-day injured list for the first time in his career on Sept. 6. However, after tossing four scoreless innings in a minor-league rehabilitation assignment on Sept. 21, it was announced two days later that the 28-year-old would be shut down with forearm tightness for the rest of the season, including postseason play.
Two days following Miami’s exit in the postseason, news of the surgery hit social media.
“I give this game my all, I give this city my all. And so, I promise I will not take a day off as I push to be back better than ever,” Alcantara said in a statement. “I am there giving my support. Nothing can take away from my love for Miami and the Marlins’ fans.”
Heading into the season without Alcantara, Miami will look to 40-man options that include lefties Jesus Luzardo, Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers. In addition, righties Edward Cabrera and rookie standout Eury Pere are in the mix, And top prospect Max Meyer, who comes off the same surgery as Alcantara, will also be an in-house option for the rotation.
Externally, Michael Lorenzen, who pitched a no-hitter for the Phillies last season, could be a veteran option with a decent price tag.