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Grading the Sherman/Jeter rebuild so far

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CEO Derek Jeter attends Marlins batting practice at LoanDepot Park

Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter took over the Marlins in late 2017 and immediately commenced a rebuild. Some of the first words that Jeter said were, “we want to build an organization that’s sustainable over time.”

Nearly 4 12 years into this new era, the results look completely different from what we originally projected based on that opening press conference. The COVID pandemic has played a big part in that, cancelling a full minor league season, shortening a major league season and limiting baseball revenue overall—the Marlins had no control over that. But Miami has also made some unique decisions instead of following the same script used by other rebuilding teams.

In this piece, we will be looking at all the significant events that have occurred within the Marlins organization, on and off the field, from ownership’s arrival to the present day.


2017-2018

New Marlins ownership inherited easily one of the worst minor league systems. Even their top overall prospect, Braxton Garrett, had recently undergone Tommy John surgery.

To build up organizational depth, they traded away veteran stars. You know the names: Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Strange-Gordon and Christian Yelich. The biggest prize from that haul was Lewis Brinson who immediately took over as their No. 1 prospect and earned a starting job on the 2018 Opening Day roster.

Notable Transactions

  • Free Agent Signings: Jon Berti (minors), Bryan Holaday (minors), Cameron Maybin, Mesa brothers (int’l amateurs), Harold Ramirez (minors)
  • Trade Additions: Sandy Alcantara, Bryson Brigman, Lewis Brinson, Daniel Castano, Starlin Castro, Garrett Cooper, José Devers, Isan Díaz, Robert Dugger, Tommy Eveld, Zac Gallen, Jorge Guzman, Monte Harrison, McKenzie Mills, Nick Neidert, Peter O’Brien, Magneuris Sierra, Caleb Smith, Chris Torres, Jordan Yamamoto
  • Trade Subtractions: Kyle Barraclough, Justin Bour, Michael King, Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Strange-Gordon, Christian Yelich, Brad Ziegler
  • Amateur draft: Connor Scott, Osiris Johnson, Will Banfield, Nick Fortes, Alex Vesia and more
  • Rule 5 draft: Elieser Hernandez
Chicago Cubs v Miami Marlins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Overall the 2018 season was not good when it comes to the record that we saw (63-98). That wasn’t the main objective anyway—they were focused on getting a fresh start from the ground up and getting rid of as many Loria era players that they could. Their moves were a huge boost for the minor league system, from being one of the worst to a middle-tier system.

2019

The 2019 season record-wise was even worse than 2018 (57-105), but there were more positive developments, especially during the second half of the season. Once again the Marlins made key trades and acquired more minor league talent as well as a former top prospect in Jorge Alfaro who they thought could be their long-term catcher. Sandy Alcantara established himself as a lock in the starting rotation and other young pitchers showed promise. Even more so than Brinson, Sixto Sánchez looked like a potential franchise-altering prospect that made J.T. Realmuto’s departure easier to accept.

Notable Transactions

  • Free Agent Signings: Nick Anderson, Curtis Granderson (minors), Eury Pérez (int’l amateur), Sergio Romo, Neil Walker
  • Trade Additions: Jorge Alfaro, Eddy Alvarez, Jazz Chisholm Jr., Lewin Díaz, Jesús Sánchez, Sixto Sánchez, Ryne Stanek, Will Stewart
  • Trade Subtractions: Anderson, Zac Gallen, Trevor Richards, Romo, Chris Vallimont, Nick Wittgren
  • Amaetur draft: JJ Bleday, Kameron Misner, Nasim Nuñez, Peyton Burdick, Evan Fitterer, Troy Johnston and more
  • Released: Dan Straily

Brian Anderson proved to be the best player on the Marlins that season and Martín Prado played the final season of his career. At times, Alfaro impressed us immensely and gave us hope that he could come close to filling Realmuto’s shoes if he added more consistency and plate discipline. The Marlins’ trades and draft picks led to further farm system improvement—by the middle of 2019, most experts ranked it among the top 10 in MLB.

2020

The 2020 season was condensed to 60 games. The pandemic paused minor league development, but the Marlins had high hopes at the major league level after making some real upgrades over the winter.

Notable Transactions

  • Free Agent Signings: Brad Boxberger (minors), Francisco Cervelli, Corey Dickerson, Yimi García, Matt Joyce, Brandon Kintzler, Nick Vincent (minors)
  • Trade Additions: Jesús Aguilar (waiver claim), Richard Bleier, Diowill Burgos, Griffin Conine, James Hoyt, Starling Marte, Angeudis Santos, Stephen Tarpley, Jonathan Villar
  • Trade Subtractions: Austin Brice, Austin Dean, Julio Frias, Kyle Keller, Easton Lucas, Humberto Mejía, Caleb Smith, Villar
  • Amaetur draft: Max Meyer, Dax Fulton, Kyle Nicolas, Zach McCambley, Jake Eder and Kyle Hurt
  • Released: Wei-Yin Chen
Wild Card Round - Miami Marlins v Chicago Cubs - Game Two Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This was the first season of the Marlins turning the corner from rebuilding to competing. They made the playoffs for the first time since 2003, finished with a winning record (31-29) and even advanced to the NLDS. It took aggressive moves, beginning the opening week of the season when the Marlins lost most of their roster (18 players/coaches) due to positive COVID cases. Trading for guys like Richard Bleier and James Hoyt stabilized the bullpen. Miami continued acquiring talent in the middle of the season, with Starling Marte as the biggest splash.

Individual seasons that stood out included Pablo López (6-4, 3.61 ERA, 57.1 IP, 59 SO, 3.09 FIP) and Garrett Cooper (.283 BA, .353 OBP, .500 SLG, .853 OPS). We also saw the exciting debuts of Sixto Sánchez and Jazz Chisholm Jr.

However, almost everyone knew that this ballclub would not have made the playoffs in a full 162-game season. There was a lot of work still to be done.

2021

Expectations were high entering the 2021 season with a roster that had a lot of familiar faces from 2020. The Miami Marlins brought in the first-ever women GM in Kim Ng who had ties to previous World Series-winning teams.

Notable Transactions

  • Free Agent Signings: Anthony Bass, Anthony Bender (minors), Yiddi Cappe (int’l amateur), Ross Detwiler, Adam Duvall, Sandy León (minors), Steven Okert (minors), Zach Thompson (minors)
  • Trade Additions: Adam Cimber, Bryan De La Cruz, Dylan Floro, Alex Jackson, Jesús Luzardo, Andrew McInvale, Joe Panik, Federico Polanco, Zach Pop
  • Trade Subtractions: Cimber, Corey Dickerson, Duvall, James Hoyt, Kyle Hurt, Starling Marte, Alex Vesia, Jordan Yamamoto
  • Amaetur draft: Kahlil Watson, Joe Mack and more
  • Rule 5 draft: Paul Campbell

The Marlins did not deliver on the hype, posting a 67-95 record. The roster was poorly managed throughout the season, and as some of their trades show, there came a point when they shifted the focus toward the future instead of trying to win as much as possible. The emergences of Trevor Rogers, Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Jesús Sánchez were bright spots. Bryan De La Cruz and Anthony Bender came out of nowhere to surprise us. On the other hand, Anthony Bass and other relievers choked away too many close games. The continued struggles of Jorge Alfaro, Isan Díaz and Magneuris Sierra made it clear they couldn’t be trusted moving forward.

2022

The current Marlins offseason has been successful so far as they said goodbye to the likes of Alfaro, Sierra and Lewis Brinson and extended high-impact players in Sandy Alcantara (5 years, $56M) and Miguel Rojas (2 years, $10M). The Marlins have also improved via trade by acquiring super-utility man Joey Wendle and Gold Glove-winning catcher Jacob Stallings. To offset the losses of Starling Marte and Adam Duvall, Miami signed outfielder Avisail Garcia to a 4-year, $53M contract.

Working with the community

Being the owner of an MLB team is not only about wins and losses but accepting feedback from the community and serving them off the field. After the 2018 season, the Marlins rebranded, adopting a color scheme that they believed was more authentically Miami. Ballpark promotions under new ownership make a better effort to celebrate the diversity of the fanbase.

With COVID resulting in job losses and food insecurity, the Marlins have done a great job providing for those in need through their foundation.

2021 summary from the Miami Marlins Foundation Marlins Communications

For much of the team’s history, the Marlins have failed to bring fans to the stands. That trend still applies—they ranked dead last in MLB attendance during the 2018, 2019 and 2021 seasons (there was no attendance permitted for any team in 2020). Craig Mish gave a suggestion on Fish Stripes Live to allow kids under 12 years old to enter the ballpark for free.


Rebuild Grade: B+

The grade of B+ makes a lot of sense to me when considering the resurgence of the minor league system, the generous work in the community, and the on-field success in 2020 that brought the team back to the playoffs. The foundation is set for them to win more consistently in 2022 and beyond.

Now, there is pressure on the Marlins to take advantage of their opportunity. Fans won’t be coming back to the stands until they see proof of a contender at the major league level.

Jeter and Sherman shouldn’t be celebrating yet, but from late 2017 to early 2022, they have done an incredible job and are on the right path.