Marlins are in transition, their direction uncertain
MIAMI (AP) — Discussing another disappointing season, Miami Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill stood on the field with his back to the scoreboard, as if shunning the source of the bad news.
The Marlins finished 77-85, their eighth consecutive losing season, which is the longest streak in the majors. They’ll sit out the playoffs for the 14th year in a row, the longest streak in the National League.
And with the Marlins in transition, their direction is uncertain.
Last week Major League Baseball approved the sale of the team by Jeffrey Loria to a group headed by venture capitalist Bruce Sherman that includes former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter. The deal leaves the future of many in the organization in doubt, from clubhouse boys to Giancarlo Stanton.
“We’re just all waiting to see what happens,” Hill said.
The new ownership group has yet to publicly discuss its plans regarding personnel or payroll. Here are things to know as the Marlins head into an offseason sure to be eventful:
The Marlins kept their everyday core intact for the third year in a row. There won’t be a fourth.
Despite Stanton’s major league-leading 59 homers and 132 RBIs, Miami sputtered on offense while pitching poorly. The Marlins dug a hole with a dismal May, crept back into the wild-card race at 66-63 in late August, and then collapsed.
“We just went away,” manager Don Mattingly said. “That has been disappointing. We haven’t seen this group take charge when you can smell it.”
The Sherman-Jeter group will take over a team that finished last in the NL in attendance for the 12th time in the past 13 years, and the resulting payroll constraints make a lineup shake-up inevitable.
Stanton could lead the parade of departures. His salary will nearly double next year to $25 million in the fourth season of record $325 million, 13-year contract.
Likely to be shopped is All-Star left fielder Marcell Ozuna, who hit .312 with 37 homers and 124 RBIs.
Among those expected to return next year is catcher J.T. Realmuto, who is going into arbitration but remains a bargain. He hit .278 with 17 homers but was overshadowed all season by his slugging teammates.
“He has been the most consistent guy we’ve had all year,” backup catcher A.J. Ellis said. “It’s just a matter of time before baseball wakes up and sees this is an All-Star-caliber catcher.”
NOT SLOWING DOWN
Fourth outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who turns 44 this month, looked ageless the second half of the season. He was batting .202 on July 4 but hit .315 the rest of the way to finish at .255 with a franchise record 27 pinch hits.
“As the season went on, he quickened his gait, and in the second half his at-bats have been really good,” Mattingly said. “What he has been able to do is to keep being Ichiro. He is to me a treasure and a joy to watch.”
The Marlins were unable to fill the void created by the death of ace Jose Fernandez in a boat crash on Sept. 25, 2016. Starting pitchers averaged barely 5 innings per outing, worst in the majors.
Best of the bunch was right-hander Jose Urena (14-7, 3.82), whose final win came on the anniversary of Fernandez’s last start.
“It’s sad when you remember things like that,” Urena said. “But we’ll always have him as an inspiration to us, and not just for us, but for all the people that were there and knew what kind of person he was.”
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