What to expect from the Miami Marlins with MLB’s Winter Meetings set to begin

Jose A. Iglesias/jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

For the first time in three years, and for the first time for the Miami Marlins under general manager Kim Ng, MLB’s Winter Meetings are back in person. Front office executives, agents, and managers will descend upon San Diego for the four-day event, which runs Sunday through Wednesday, that is generally viewed as the time when offseason moves begin to pick up steam.

It provides the Marlins, who will be under the guidance of first-year manager Skip Schumaker, with an opportunity to address needs after going 69-93 last season and finishing fourth in the National League East.

The in-person event is an opportunity that hasn’t happened since Ng took over as general manager before the 2020 season. The 2020 Winter Meetings took place virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic and did not happen at all in 2021 because of the league’s lockout while a collective bargaining agreement was being negotiated.

So where do things stand with the Marlins? Here’s what you need to know.

What the Marlins have done so far

All of the Marlins’ moves to this point have focused on the periphery of their roster.

They main external additions came when they acquired right-handed reliever JT Chargois and infielder prospect Xavier Edwards from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for pitching prospects Marcus Johnson and Santiago Suarez. Miami also added four relief pitcher prospects to the 40-man roster in Sean Reynolds, Eli Villalobos, George Soriano and Josh Simpson. The team has also signed three players to minor-league deals in shortstop Alex De Goti (a Miami native and Belen Jesuit alum), right-handed pitcher Geoff Hartlieb and right-handed pitcher Dylan Bice (who had previously been in Miami’s system the past two years but became a minor-league free agent this offseason).

With those additions, of course, came subtractions.

Miami non-tendered third baseman/outfielder Brian Anderson, making him a free agent, and designated for assignment five other players: First baseman Lewin Diaz, infielder Jose Devers and pitchers Elieser Hernandez, Jeff Brigham and Nick Neidert.

Hernandez and Brigham were traded to the New York Mets for pitcher prospect Franklin Sanchez and a player to be named later. Devers cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple A Jacksonville. Diaz was claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates and eventually DFA’d again. Neidert became a free agent.

Payroll

The Marlins currently have about $45.4 million in payroll commitments. That only includes the salaries of six players — outfielders Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia, starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara, infielder Miguel Rojas, and relievers Dylan Floro and Richard Bleier.

Miami has eight players whose salaries will be determined through arbitration — infielders Joey Wendle and Jon Berti, starting pitchers Pablo Lopez and Jesus Luzardo, first baseman/designated hitter Garrett Cooper, catcher Jacob Stallings, and relievers Tanner Scott and Chargois. Combined, those eight are projected to make about $26.5 million, bringing the Marlins’ projected payroll to about $72 million before factoring in league-minimum salaries for the rest of the Opening Day roster or any other additions during the offseason.

Areas to address

The simplest answer is to say the Marlins have to improve their offense. That’s a given considering Miami once again was one of the league’s worst — the Marlins ranked 27th in OPS (.657) and 28th in runs scored (586).

The question becomes what positions do they look to in order to address the need for offense. The three main positions, based on the current roster construction, would be center field, first base and third base.

Miami still doesn’t have a true center fielder, with the team using Jesus Sanchez, Bryan De La Cruz and JJ Bleday — all of whom profile more as corner outfielders — to handle center last season. Cooper is the team’s only natural first baseman and has a history with injuries. Wendle right now would be the Marlins’ primary third baseman but having a player to platoon with him would be ideal as well.

The Marlins also entered the offseason looking to upgrade their bullpen. They made one move already by acquiring Chargois and could build from within with some of the prospects added to the 40-man roster to complement high-leverage lefties Scott and Steven Okert, but at least one more high-leverage option would be beneficial.

Key events/dates to know

Sunday: The Hall of Fame Contemporary Era ballot results will be released. Former Marlins manager Don Mattingly is on the ballot, as are Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro and Curt Schilling. Ng is one of the 16 members of the voting committee.

Monday: The All-MLB Team is announced. Marlins ace Alcantara, the unanimous winner for the National League Cy Young Award, should be a lock to be honored.

Tuesday: The inaugural MLB Draft Lottery takes place at 8:30 p.m. Every team that did not make the playoffs has a chance to land one of the top-six picks in the 2023 MLB Draft. The Marlins have a 2.7 percent chance of being awarded the No. 1 overall pick.

Wednesday: The Rule 5 Draft takes place. Players who are not on a team’s 40-man roster and been in professional baseball for at least four years (five if he was 18 years old or younger when he signed his first contract) are eligible to be selected Players selected in the Rule 5 draft must remain on a team’s active roster for the duration of the next season. Teams are paid $100,000 if one of their players is drafted.