Miami Marlins' best-case and worst-case scenarios for 2024 season

Mar 1, 2024; Clearwater, Florida, USA;  Miami Marlins  pitcher Jesus Luzardo (44) throws a pitch in
Mar 1, 2024; Clearwater, Florida, USA; Miami Marlins pitcher Jesus Luzardo (44) throws a pitch in / Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins have two World Series trophies in the franchise’s possession, yet they’ve never won a division championship and never reached postseason play in consecutive seasons.

That’s two fresh goals for newly named president of Baseball Ops Peter Bendix to pursue entering 2024.

The Marlins qualified as a Wild Card in 2023 after an 84-78 season, but the biggest news of the offseason came when the team’s GM, Kim Ng, abruptly resigned, reportedly following a dispute over the club’s plan to add a higher level of management authority. Bendix, the general manager at Tampa Bay, got that job and will function as GM as well.

Best-Case Scenario for 2024 Miami Marlins

Any hopes the Marlins have of ending their streak of never having won the NL East are probably forlorn as long as the Braves and Phillies are in the division, so the focus immediately shifts to a postseason Wild Card return. In the 2024 National League, that should require at least a few more wins than Miami’s 84 of last season.

The guy in the spotlight is starting pitcher Jesus Luzardo, who inherited the role of team ace when Sandy Alcantara went down late last season with arm problems that will sideline him for all of 2024. In his fourth full season, Luzardo was 10-10 with a 3.58 ERA in 32 starts encompassing 179 innings.

Those stats, plus his 125 ERA+ -- marking Luzardo as 25 percent better than the average major league pitcher --  establish 2023 as the best season of the 25-year-old’s career. But with Alcantara out, Miami will need all that in 2024, with an All Star-worthy ERA in the low 3s at worst if the team hopes to challenge.

The Marlins also need somebody to rise up from the pitching pack and play best supporting actor to Luzardo’s lead. The logical candidate is Braxton Garrett, 9-7 with a 3.66 ERA in 30 starts last season. But Garrett first has to work through his own spring shoulder issues, and those will sideline him until mid-April at minimum -- emphasis on the term at minimum.

Veteran A.J. Puk, who has never gotten a chance as starter in Oakland or last season in Miami, will get one this year, and the Marlins desperately need Puk to seize it. He’s a career 3.72 ERA arm in 142 relief appearances and coming off four excellent spring starts, so there’s hope.

The offense obviously begins with two-time batting champion Luis Arraez. He hit a career best .354 with an .861 OPS in 2023, so the challenge is assembling a supporting cast. That support must first come from Jazz Chisholm, whose potential for excitement has always superseded his career .245 average.

Miami picked up Josh Bell in a deadline deal with Cleveland last summer, and Bell performed well at first base, batting .270 with 11 homers in the final two months. Bryan De La Cruz emerged in 2023 as an outfielder of substance, delivering 19 homers and 78 RBI, but with only a .715 OPS.  A serious Marlins contending effort needs Bell and De La Cruz to at least repeat and really improve on their offensive potential.

Worst-Case Scenario for 2024 Miami Marlins

The Marlins took two big personnel hits, losing Alcantara to injury and Jorge Soler to free agency. Beyond Arraez and Soler (36 homers, an .853 OPS), Miami really had little productive offense last season; those two were first and second in team OPS by distances of 84 and 76 percentage points. The team ranked 26th in runs scored per game, a stat that only underscores the challenge of replacing Soler.

But it’s on the mound where the concerns are deepest. Miami enters 2024 with only two proven starters – Luzardo and Garrett – and Garrett’s status is not guaranteed. Behind them the rotation lines up as the aforementioned Puk, plus Ryan Weathers and Trevor Rogers.

That rotation is fraught with peril. Weathers is getting his fifth shot at a starting job he’s failed to hold four straight seasons in San Diego or Miami. He’s a career 5-15 with a 5.88 ERA who last season got shelled in his only two starts with the Marlins.

Rogers has much the same profile: He’s 13-23 with a 4.12 ERA in 59 career starts for Miami stretched over four seasons, and his 2023 season was cut short in June by biceps soreness. The backup crew includes top prospect Eury Perez and Edward Cabrera, both of whose springs have been marred by arm issues and neither of whom will be ready for the season’s start.

Most realistic scenario for 2024 Marlins

The Marlins have tried to patch their everyday lineup issues with retreads. They got Tim Anderson off Chicago’s discard pile to play shortstop, and added Jake Burger from Chicago for a minor leaguer in a trade deadline deal last year. The hope is that Burger can play third and produce a reasonable facsimile of his .860 OPS in 217 Miami plate appearances last August and September.

But those numbers go against Burger’s career .220 average, not to mention his nearly 30 percent strikeout rate. Besides, if Burger and Anderson were the answer, how’d they get out of Chicago so cheaply?

The reality is that this year's Marlins are a team with too many problems, both in their rotation and lineup, to profile as a serious postseason threat. In the NL East, they’ll have to fend off the Mets and the improving Washington Nationals for whatever’s left after the Braves and Phillies are through feasting.

Miami may never have won the NL East, but they’ve finished last nine different times. In 2024, they’re a better bet to add to that record than any of their other ones.

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