Changes ahead after Marlins end disappointing season
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
MIAMI — It’s a wrap!
A disappointing 2021 season for the Miami Marlins ended on a high note Sunday with a 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at loanDepot park.
After taking the final two games with the Phillies, the Marlins closed out an otherwise frustrating season with a 67-95 record, and fourth place finish in a lackluster National League East, which ended up being the worst division in the Majors.
Expectations were much higher for Miami after the club reached the postseason in the pandemic-shortened, 60-game sprint in 2020. Clearly, there were miscalculations on the strength and depth of the roster, and now that that regular season is over, the focus will change to how to improve in 2022.
As is the case of any season, there were plenty of proud moments, and strong individual performances. Miami fans have seen plenty of these types of years before.
In 2017, for instance, Giancarlo Stanton was the N.L. MVP on an underperforming club. In 2015, Dee Strange-Gordon won the batting title, and in 2013, Jose Fernandez was the Rookie of the Year, are a few examples that come to mind.
In 2021, Sandy Alcantara’s campaign impressed. The 26-year-old right-hander made 33 starts, logged 205 2/3 innings with 201 strikeouts. His ERA was 3.19.
Alcantara raised his stock, and now he’s put himself in position for a hefty pay raise. Craig Mish of the Miami Herald reports Alcantara likely will sign an extension to remain in South Florida.
If/when that happens, congratulations to Sandy, he deserves to be financially compensated. He’s the franchise’s best and most dependable player, and the ace of the staff.
Trevor Rogers was an All-Star in 2021, and a Rookie of the Year candidate, and Jazz Chisholm Jr. is deserving of ROY votes. The flashy infielder made it through a full season and finished with 18 homers and 23 stolen bases. Both have promising futures.
Some personal performances aside, the Marlins have plenty of offseason work to do to put themselves in serious playoff position. You don’t make the leap from 28 games under to a divisional winner without significant changes.
From the top, the Marlins make it clear changes are on the way.
Marlins chief executive officer Derek Jeter said on Saturday that the club promises to be active in the free agent and trade markets. Miami plans to bump up payroll. By how much isn’t exactly clear. But the intention is to allocate dollars to upgrade a sluggish offense that finished 29th in runs (623), 28th in homers (158) and 29th in slugging (.372).
Catcher, center fielder, and bullpen are at the top of the shopping list.
“I expect this offseason to be active for us, whether that’s talking with free agents or exploring some other moves,” Jeter said. “But for the first time, really since we’ve been here as an ownership group, I expect to be pretty active, or I should say, have active conversations. There’s two sides to it.”
Manager Don Mattingly will return in 2022, but as far as the rest of the staff, and much of the roster, we shall wait and see.
Players like Jesus Sanchez and Lewin Diaz, showed promise, as did Bryan De La Cruz. But Mattingly stopped short of declaring any of these rookies as automatic starters for Opening Day next year.
“At this point, there’s no reason to anoint Jesus or anyone else as your projected guy,” Mattingly said when asked specifically about Sanchez.
Bottom line is the club lost 95 games. So while several young players showed promise, it’s too early to determine if they are viewed as the answers. There may be other options on the market.
“I will say that Jesus, obviously, has looked good,” Mattingly said. “We’ve seen progress. We expect him to keep progressing. We see power. His last couple of weeks against lefties has been good. You keep the adjustments coming. You see the energy. You see what his body can do. He’s high energy, for the most part, every day. He comes with the same energy.”
The left-handed hitting Sanchez appeared in 64 MLB games, and he connected on 14 homers with a .489 slugging percentage and .808 OPS.
Sanchez, 23, plays with plenty of personality and kind of does his own thing. During an at-bat at New York against the Mets, he lifted a fly ball out to left field, and ran to first holding the bat. He exited the game after that half inning, and respected Mets’ broadcaster Keith Hernandez questioned if Mattingly made the switch due to Sanchez not dropping his bat and running harder to first.
Turns out, a hamstring ailment was the reason for the decision.
I asked Mattingly Friday his thoughts on mixing personality with performance.
“If you ask me what I would prefer, I’d like the guy to put the bat down and go and run,” Mattingly said. “But, obviously, we see different things in the game today that we don’t necessarily agree with. But that definitely wasn’t the reason we took him out.
“There’s kind of a line there. What are your priorities, I should say. If your priorities are more about showing your personality than trying to win games, then that’s a problem. If you are worried more about the way something looks instead of getting a good secondary lead, that’s a problem. So, if you’re not playing baseball the right way, and doing the things that help your club win, if that gets in the way of that, then that’s a problem. It’s not the fact that these guys have got personality, and do stuff on Twitter, that’s all fine. It’s between the lines, play the game. You’re playing to win. Simple as that.”
Sanchez and Lewin Diaz, along with right-hander Edward Cabrera all are candidates to play Winter Ball. Mattingly includes right-hander Elieser Hernandez, who had some injury stints and logged 51 2/3 innings on the season.
“I’m a believer in it,” Mattingly said of Winter Ball. “It’s not my call. It’s the organization’s call. …. Elieser, who has had a couple of stints on the 60 [day injured list], and he wants to build his innings. Is that a positive. Those are not my calls. The organization will get together. I think there’s a number of guys who wants to play. Jesus wants to play. Lewin has in the past.”