MIAMI – The Marlins’ 2021 season was about as disappointing as you could get. There’s no way to sugarcoat it.
Not only did the team finish with 95 losses, the sixth most in baseball, but it ended the season with many more questions about the offense than when it started.
CEO Derek Jeter has said over and over again since arriving in Miami that the Marlins would spend in free agency if they had a player they wanted to sign.
Sure, they’ll spend. That sounds great. But when and on who? It’s always been his way of getting around the payroll question.
That’s been an acceptable answer for the first few seasons of this ownership group, but it’s not going to keep working. This team is past the rebuild stage.
I’ve given the Marlins plenty of credit for how they changed what had been an awful minor league system. Now it’s time to start seeing results from the overhaul.
When asked during the final weekend of this ugly season about the offseason ahead, Jeter said, “For the first time really since we’ve been here as an ownership group, I expect to be pretty active.”
I get that Jeter isn’t a fan of promises, but for a fan base that’s dealt with so much disappointment over the years, speaking in general terms isn’t going to work.
The Marlins need words and action.
It sounds like the front office is aware of what’s needed, but what is the plan exactly?
Is it to keep patching holes and hoping to hit on a Jesus Aguilar and Adam Duvall now and then on the cheap and trading for players like Starling Marte who they eventually don’t keep?
That’s just not going to work in the big picture.
Let’s get back to the main issue: The Marlins’ offense was abysmal.
Miami finished in the bottom three in all of baseball in runs scored, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and batting average. That’s unacceptable.
Yet, they traded away two of their most valuable pieces in Marte and Duvall and got very little in return. Now they find themselves in a spot to not only replace them but also have to add even more.
The development of Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Jesus Sanchez was the biggest positive for the future of the offense. Lewin Diaz showed some pop, but he has to prove more consistent to have a firm role moving forward. Bryan De La Cruz was a nice story after being acquired midseason, but I don’t think you can pencil him in as a starting outfielder as the Marlins enter the offseason.
Unfortunately, 2019 first-round pick JJ Bleday doesn’t look major league ready, while Monte Harrison and Lewis Brinson don’t look like more than fouth or fifth outfielders.
This team needs to add two outfield bats during the offseason, and one needs to be at the Marte level or above. That’s much easier said than done. The Marlins also need to fill the void at catcher.
You add that all together and when Jeter talks about being active, what he’s really talking about is re-doing the offense. That takes smart moves and money.
I’m a positive guy, so you want some good news? The Marlins still have one of the best young pitching staffs in baseball, when healthy.
Sandy Alcantara is an ace. Trevor Rogers was an all-star and has even more room to grow. Sixto Sanchez has ace potential and will hopefully come back strong and healthy after missing the season. Edward Cabrera got a taste of the majors late in the season. He was shaky, but you can see the potential.
Meanwhile, Pablo Lopez had a 3.07 ERA and over a strikeout per inning in his 20 starts but unfortunately got hurt. This doesn’t even include 2020 first-round pick Max Meyer, who looked dominant in the minors. He appears major league ready.
Miami also traded for Jesus Luzardo, though his 6.44 ERA in 12 starts didn’t inspire much confidence.
The Marlins will have to dip into this depth and make a significant trade to get some offense this offseason. If you think they’ll just spend big on free agents then you haven’t been paying attention. That’s not the way this regime has shown they will operate. Until they prove otherwise, expecting big spending doesn’t seem logical.
I do agree there has to be a balance with spending and making smart moves, but right now it’s slanted toward maintaining a lower payroll. Yes, Marlins fans are unfortunately used to that song and dance by now.
Disappointing season aside, I still do think the franchise is in a good position to be competitive soon. You can’t have that kind of pitching and think otherwise.
The question is what kind of active offseason is Jeter speaking of and will the team stop saying it will spend and finally do it?
The window is now for Miami to compete. Eventually, your young aces will get pricey and the math won’t add up.
Bottom line: 2021 was a swing and a miss. Let’s hope Jeter, GM Kim Ng and the Marlins front office can provide more consistent hits this offseason than the offense did during the season.