After watching the Wild Card and Divisional Series rounds of the 2022 MLB postseason, you start to recognize the major differences between those successful teams and the Miami Marlins. Beyond simply “getting hot at the right time,” contenders have a different way of doing things when it comes to constructing their rosters and developing their players.
What are the key takeaways that the Marlins can apply to get themselves into the postseason conversation in the future? (Some of these takeaways are shared by multiple playoff teams).
Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets: Don’t fear free agency
At no point in recent years have the Philadelphia Phillies or New York Mets had strong farm systems, yet they both just finished their best seasons in a long time with high hopes for 2023 as well. Many of their key players—Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, Bryce Harper, Zack Wheeler, Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha, etc.—have something in common: they signed multi-year free agent contracts. In New York’s case, that approach will give them a chance to keep Jacob deGrom, Edwin Díaz and Brandon Nimmo when they hit the open market.
Of course, Miami won’t be able to lean on free agency as heavily as clubs willing to spend a quarter-billion dollars a year. But it’s easier for the Marlins to address weaknesses if their payroll increases from its current $80 million range. Disappointing starts to the Avisaíl García and Jorge Soler contracts are not excuses to stop trying.
St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Guardians: Development from the farm is key
When you look at the talent of the St. Louis Cardinals and the reason that they have consistent success, it is due to their effectiveness at developing players from the second they are drafted until they make it to the majors.
When you look deeper, the Cardinals currently have 20 homegrown players on their 40-man roster. Half of their team was fully built from within! There is more to come with the talents of Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn, Tink Hence, and many others producing in the minors.
The Guardians have 26 homegrown players on their roster, including José Ramírez, Oscar González, Shane Bieber, and Triston McKenzie. That’s why they can make it as far as they did with only two free agents.
The Marlins are in a good place with homegrown pitching. However, they realized this year that their current development process for hitters wasn’t working after seeing former high draft picks like JJ Bleday and Peyton Burdick struggle. They fired Geoff DeGroot (director of player development). Maybe some new faces in the front office will turn things around.
San Diego Padres: Swing the right trades
When you think of AJ Preller, you think of one of the most aggressive GMs in all of baseball in terms of making trades. Every year but especially over the last three, Preller has swung trades left and right to upgrade the Padres. At this season’s trade deadline, Preller made the biggest deal of them all: acquiring one of the best players in baseball, Juan Soto.
Preller's mentality has sent the Padres to the NLCS with a solid chance of winning the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
Miami has been on the other end of spectrum, barely making any acquisitions since 2022 Opening Day, even when it was clear their pieces did not fit together. Being a lot more aggressive in the trading department should start with negotiations to land a proven bat like Bryan Reynolds.
Tampa Bay Rays: Invest behind the scenes
The Marlins for years have tried to imitate the Rays, who win with a low payroll thanks to good development of players, trading veterans at the peak of their value before they become too expensive, and doing the whole process again. Miami has not succeeded at it...yet.
This is an important offseason for Kim Ng to set up the Marlins organization to use data as efficiently as the Rays do. Put a system in place that better prepares young players to make the transition to the majors and fill the shoes of outgoing vets.
Pablo López is an obvious trade candidate, while players who are a year away from free agency like Garrett Cooper and Brian Anderson will probably draw interest. If the Marlins are going to say goodbye to popular figures, they need to be capable of replacing them on the cheap like Tampa Bay always seems to do.
New York Yankees: Change your identity
The Yankees got off to a historic start in 2022 in large part due to offseason moves that prioritized defense (re-signing Anthony Rizzo and getting Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and José Trevino). That has also been valuable for them during the playoffs after losing a lot of power-pitching relievers to injuries and needing to handle more balls in play.
This relates to a Marlins team that, according to the Miami Herald, is targeting contact hitters with good speed this winter after getting bad results from big sluggers.
Toronto Blue Jays: Be on the same page
The Blue Jays played out this season the smart way, making trades that filled in the needs that they had and assembling a group with the right players and chemistry. That allowed them to become a rare team capable of overcoming a midseason managerial change to still reach the playoffs.
The Marlins hope a new manager of their own and a more balanced lineup to work with can unify them.
Los Angeles Dodgers: You need a good offense
When you think of the Dodgers, the first name that comes to mind is Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts. Although the Dodgers pitching staff includes one of the Cy Young candidates in Julio Urias and an early candidate in Tony Gonsolin. Although the pitching is one of the better ones, it’s all about the offense for the Dodgers. Having a lineup that you know will hit at a consistent rate from hitters 1-9.
When you think of a lineup that can hit at a consistent rate with hitters 1-9, you need to first start off with where is the best spot that you can place each hitter knowing that they will produce and keep the offense rolling. As mentioned with the Blue Jays, balance in the lineup is what Miami needs. That includes sticking to philosophy and finding the right players that fit the philosophy.
Houston Astros: Continuity through the years
It’s hard to remember a time when the Astros were not the team to beat in the American League, but many of their players do. Of course José Altuve has been there throughout the rebuild. Homegrown players like Lance McCullers Jr., Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker were drafted before Houston had won anything. Yordan Álvarez arrived in an under-the-radar trade in 2016.
The Marlins should see this as evidence that even players associated with their early-rebuild teams can be part of the long-term solution.
Atlanta Braves: Lock up the right set of players
This takeaway couldn’t have been much easier to pick. The Braves in the past year have locked up Matt Olson, Austin Riley, Spencer Strider, and Michael Harris II, to name some examples. Similar to Houston, the Braves have identified their main core and appreciate the certainty of having them under contract.
Miami has already locked up Sandy Alcantara to a long-term extension, so it may be Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s turn next, or one of the pitchers in the rotation like Pablo López or Jesús Luzardo, if you want to think outside the box. Marketing the team to fans and other players is easier if they know who is already in the plans moving forward.
Seattle Mariners: It takes a bit of everything
When you think of the Seattle Mariners, you think of the immense amount of trades that GM Jerry Dipoto has made since arriving to Seattle. This included the trades to acquire Ty France, Jarred Kelenic, and many many more players who you can say are big contributors to the Seattle squad that made it to the ALDS against a really good Houston Astros team.
Seattle’s forte has been trading—they currently have 23 players on their 40-man roster that came from a trade. That doesn’t mean acquiring the biggest names out there, but acquiring the right ones. That should be Miami’s goal this offseason.
Ultimately, homegrown superstar Julio Rodríguez is in the middle of everything that the Mariners are trying to accomplish, yet another reminder that development matters, too.