Let’s rip the Band-Aid off before we get started: the Miami Marlins aren’t making the playoffs in 2023.
Sorry to Marlins Man and the 14 other actual fans of the Fish, but it’s true. This team lost 93 games last year and while certainly not as bad as they were when Jeffrey Loria owned the team, Bruce Sherman hasn’t proved much better. The only saving grace of Derek Jeter selling his stake prior to last season is his hand-picked GM, Kim Ng, who has since kept her job. Even better, Sherman seems to trust her process.
So should the Yankees worry about the Marlins during a short weekend visit to Miami in August? Probably not. The Mets, on the other hand, have 13 games against the Marlins, six of which are in September.
So what does that mean? Well, any Mets fan who’s paying attention knows the Marlins, while not a playoff squad, still have more than enough talent to play spoiler. Hopefully, for the Mets’ collective sake, they have a nice wide lead in the NL East by that point.
Greatest Addition: Luis Arraez. The reigning AL batting champ can sub out Minnesota’s cold for the South Florida sun after hitting .316 last year. Arraez also posted a solid .795 OPS and struck out just 43 times in 144 games. He doesn’t walk much either but sees the ball well.
In Miami, Arraez will be the everyday second baseman and probably the leadoff man too. Even better, he doesn’t hit free agency until 2026 and it’s hard to see his price tag rising drastically. The Marlins would be wise to extend him even if he simply maintains his production from last year rather than building off of it.
Greatest Loss: Pablo Lopez. The downside of acquiring Miami acquiring Arraez was the cost of sending the soon-to-be 27-year-old to the Twins. Lopez posted a 3.75 ERA in 180 innings in 2022 and has quietly established himself as a frontline starter. He could definitely be Minnesota’s Opening Day starter either this year or next.
Miami might have a good amount of young arms, but it will be hard to replicate Lopez’s balance of soft contact and timely strikeouts. Thankfully, adding veteran Johnny Cueto should help offset the loss.
Greatest Strength: Young pitching, headlined by reigning NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara. He’s 27, posted a 2.28 ERA last year, and allowed just 16 home runs in 228.2 innings. Alcantara is also in the second season of a five-year, $56 million extension signed in November 2021, and thus easy on the team’s payroll.
Best of all, Alcantara is Miami’s most expensive starter. Jesus Luzardo and bounce-back candidate Trevor Rogers, by comparison, will make just a shade over $3 million combined this year. Spearheaded by Jeter, Sherman’s ownership group started the rebuild by focusing player development on young pitching. If Alcantara can get some innings-eating support behind him, this decision will pay off tremendously in a few years.
Greatest Weakness: Avisail Garcia. The easy answer would be ownership, but the veteran outfielder is a perfect example of how bad decisions still haunt Miami. In this case, it was signing Garcia to a four-year, $53 million deal. Not an ungodly amount of money, but the fact that some of you probably forgot he was still playing says it all. He’s been injury prone his whole career and isn’t worth it, even if he can slug 20ish home runs when healthy.
Last season, Garcia was limited to 98 games and hit just .224 while posting a -1.1 bWAR and -0.6 fWAR. The Marlins are his fifth team as he enters his 12th season. Outfield prospect Victor Mesa Jr. is at least two years away from his debut. But hey, what’s three years and $36 million more of Avisail Garcia, plus a club option?
Will the Marlins ever contend again? Not to be overly optimistic, but yes. Just because the Miami Marlins aren’t a likely playoff team in 2023 doesn’t mean they’ll automatically tank. This isn’t a team of cast-offs and minor leaguers who may or may not be ready, a la the infamous 2012 team.
Rather, the 2023 Marlins will likely be a team that keeps games close and punches above its weight by spoiling important games for contenders. This is where the Mets need to be concerned. If they’re slumping by the two series in September, Miami’s lineup is competitive enough to make things interesting.
And in a few years, they might be fighting the Mets for the division.
Follow ESNY on Twitter @elitesportsny.