Miami Marlins start the season with optimism, look to build from last postseason

The greatest thing about Opening Day is that all teams are undefeated and the Marlins are still in the playoff hunt.

Miami Marlins skipper Skip Schumaker looks to lead the upstart Marlins to a second consecutive post-season appearance in 2024. Schumaker was the N.L. Manager of the Year last season in guiding the Marlins to the playoffs.
Miami Marlins skipper Skip Schumaker looks to lead the upstart Marlins to a second consecutive post-season appearance in 2024. Schumaker was the N.L. Manager of the Year last season in guiding the Marlins to the playoffs. / Brennan Asplen/GettyImages

MIami Marlins fans have grown accustomed to losing. It has been the same story, year after year. The Marlins finish the season with more losses than wins and break out the golf clubs the first week in October.

After winning World Series titles in 1997 and 2003, the Marlins have done nothing, but use a County-financed stadium that is empty on most nights, unless the New York Yankees, New York Mets or Boston Red Sox come to town. In that case, their fans come out and pay homage to their team.

This season marks the first time since the Marlins' inception, aside from the COVID-19 shortened season, that they return a playoff team that has not been gutted. The Marlins have never made the postseason in back-to-back seasons, and there is hope and optimism that this year's Fish will buck that trend.

Marlins are still rebuilding, their annual rite of passage

It seems like the Marlins are always rebuilding, as one-by-one they trade away their superstars that should be growing with the team, not jettisoned out for prospects that will never get past the Double-A level of the minor leagues. Keeping to their history, the Marlins traded infielder Jon Berti on Wednesday to the Yankees, in a three-team trade with Tampa Bay that will yield two young prospects that will never see loanDepot park.

This season is no different. The Marlins are young, lack superstars and have to fight the likes of the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets for a playoff position coming out of the National League East. Miami made the playoffs last season, which was nothing short of a miracle, as the lovable losers from Calle Ocho found October and manager Skip Schumaker was named National League Manager of the Year.

Miami finished the 2023 season with an impressive 84-78 record under their rookie manager before bowing out to the Philadelphia Phillies in the Wild Card playoffs. No one had any expectations that the Marlins would finish above .500, a feat that they have not accomplished in the past 13 seasons. Further, no one thought that the Marlins would be playing meaningful baseball in October. October usually meant that it was time to watch the Miami Dolphins and get ready for basketball season with the Miami Heat.

But this season there is something different in the air and there is reason for optimism. Schumaker comes back a year wiser, and most of their players from last season return with more experience.

Schumaker brought along an acronym that he likes to use that defines his managerial style. He uses the C.A.P.E. acronym to describe how he guides the organization. C.A.P.E. stands for communication, alignment, preparation and execution. C.A.P.E., he says, is what defines the team and is a motto that they live by.

"“Communication, talking to players and letting them know where they stand,” Schumaker explained. “Alignment with the front office all the way down to the clubhouse guys, speaking the same message from the minor leagues up and down the system. Preparation, that’s obvious. And execution, you can’t execute without any of the above.”"

Marlins manager Skip Schumaker

The Marlins were led by a strong first half last season and finished with a 53-39 record at the All-Star break. They were anchored by Jorge Soler, who hit 36 home runs in 2023, but has since left for greener pastures in San Francisco, where he signed a three-year, $42 million contract with the Giants. That will take a lot of power away from Miami, who did not replace it in the offseason.

It seems like every time the Marlins acquire a slugger, they stay for a little while, have a cup of Cafe con Leche and some pastelitos in Little Havana and then leave for more money. See Soler, Giancarlo Stanton and others before them.

Since Wayne Huizenga owned the team in the late 1990s, the team has always been near or at the bottom of the payroll charts.

However, Miami does return last season's batting champion in Luis Arraez, who batted .354, and a young pitching corps led by Jesus Luzardo, Edward Cabrera and Eury Perez. Perez will start the season on the injured list, with an elbow strain, but he should be ready to go in 15 days. Cabrera has a shoulder injury and Schumaker is looking at starting the season with a four-man rotation.

The rotation will include Luzardo, today's opening day starter, Ryan Weathers, A.J. Puk and third-ranked prospect Max Meyer, who will make the club due to the fact that Sandy Alcantara, the 2022 Cy Young Award Winner in the National League, will miss the 2024 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

The Marlins also traded for catcher Christian Bethancourt and signed free agent Tim Anderson to a one-year deal last month.

It was not a successful offseason, by any stretch of the imagination, as they also lost their head of baseball operations in General Manager Kim Ng. She helped orchestrate key trades at the deadline that saw Miami acquire Josh Bell and Jake Burger, who led the second-half surge to the playoffs.

So, Ng is out and owner Bruce Sherman has brought in Peter Bendix, the former general manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, to serve as president of baseball operations. Bendix brought in Gable Kapler to serve as Assistant General Manager and Rachel Balkovec as the organization's director of player development.

Bendix has done very little this offseason, but did participate in the team's annual ping-pong tournament, where he finished as the runner up to Ryan Weathers. If that is all that Bendix has on his resume in Miami, it will appear that his job will be up for grabs as well.