New Marlins ownership took over a franchise in distress and immediately put their stamp on it. Derek Jeter and company made wholesale changes to the roster and front office last offseason. They reimagined the local marketing strategy and ditched the pre-existing player development approach.
As one of the few holdovers from the Jeffrey Loria regime, president of baseball operations Michael Hill has a unique perspective on this transitionary period.
Listening to his interview on the “Swings and Mishes” podcast, Hill comes off as confident and rejuvenated by the freedom he’s been given to construct a contender from the ground up:
“There are definitely exciting things going on with the Miami Marlins. We are extremely happy with where we are going, the talent that we have brought in, that we will continue to bring in. Excited for what the future holds. I will say that, at some point, we will be bringing another championship here to South Florida.”
The longtime executive questions the “commitment”—or lack thereof—that Loria had to pursue a World Series title after they won one together in 2003. He notices a “change in mindset” under Jeter’s watch.
As one example, Hill never previously had the green light to over-spend the Marlins’ MLB draft bonus pool. But the new boss agreed the pay a tax this past June to ensure they had a deal in place with No. 69 overall pick Will Banfield. The high school catcher decided to accept their above-slot offer and forego his commitment to Vanderbilt. Banfield was already promoted to Low-A Greensboro earlier this month, a leap you seldom see from such a young player.
At the major league level, fans are anxious to know how the Marlins will handle J.T. Realmuto. The first-time All-Star could bring back several premium prospects as a trade chip, or embrace the rebuilding process and sign the largest contract by a Marlins player since Giancarlo Stanton.
Hill doesn’t provide much clarity on that situation.
“At the appropriate time, we want to talk to him,” he says, “and hopefully this is something we can work out moving forward.”
Speaking of Stanton, the reigning NL MVP returns to Miami this week for the first time as a visiting player. The December blockbuster sending him to the Yankees was largely seen as a salary dump. The Marlins received veteran second baseman Starlin Castro and a pair of exciting yet volatile prospects, Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers.
Reflecting on that negotiating process, Hill admits that the veteran’s full no-trade clause left him “at the mercy of the player.” He confirms reports that there were agreements in place with other teams, but Stanton exercised his contractual right to choose New York as his destination.
Podcast host Craig Mish challenged Hill on the context behind January’s Christian Yelich deal. Mish notes that Yelich has elevated his game at age 26. Many across the baseball industry anticipated the improvement, and with a team-friendly extension already in place, why did the Marlins see such an urgency to move him?
“Strictly a baseball move,” Hill claims. The Brewers’ package of Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Isan Diaz and Jordan Yamamoto was too rich to turn down.
It was Mish’s understanding that Yelich wanted out from a losing environment. He was prepared to be a malcontent in the clubhouse if the Marlins didn’t respect those wishes. Hill wouldn’t corroborate that version of the events.
However, Hill insists that he remains on good terms with the departed stars:
“We all have jobs to do, and my job was to put this organization in a position to win year in, year out. We aren’t in that position with those players on the roster. We needed to make those changes.”
This detailed conversation lasted more than 40 minutes, touching on international free agency and snippets of Hill’s personal life in addition to everything mentioned above.
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