‘We Can Compete:' Marlins, Without Jeter, Open Spring Camp

After making the expanded playoffs in 2020 with a 31-29 record, Miami took a big step back in 2021

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The Miami Marlins have money. All that remains unknown is how and when they’ll be choosing to spend.

And neither of those answers may come anytime soon.

The Marlins opened camp — their first in five years without Derek Jeter as part of the team’s leadership group — on Monday with some traditional signs of spring-training optimism. There was a team meeting with plenty of applause when it was over, followed by club officials talking about the levels of hope they have for the months ahead.

“We can compete,” Marlins principal owner Bruce Sherman said. “We’re a successful, wealthy ownership group. We have to see the production on the field and we will add the appropriate pieces at the appropriate time to win continually and consistently.”

Sherman didn’t offer much on the Fed. 28 departure of Jeter, nor did Kim Ng, the general manager hired by a Hall of Famer who spent two decades starring at shortstop for the New York Yankees. Both said questions about why Jeter and the club had a difference in vision for the future should be directed to Jeter.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly, a former teammate of Jeter's, said he was “shocked like everybody else."

“I purposely really didn't want to ask questions," Mattingly said. “It's above my head. I've always considered it above my head. ... I left it simple, thanking Derek for believing in me."

Ng acknowledged that she was “very saddened” when she heard that Jeter was leaving the organization.

“Derek gave me my opportunity here,” Ng said. “And we’ve known each other for a long time. I was very surprised. But in terms of me doing my job, it’s going to be business as usual.”

Ng’s approach may not change.

The Marlins’ approach, it seems, will.

“You know, I love spring training,” Ng said. “Hope, optimism, new beginnings. ... I think everybody’s on the same footing in spring training. So, I love this time of year.”

After making the expanded playoffs in 2020 with a 31-29 record — the Marlins beat the Chicago Cubs 2-0 in the wild-card series that season, then got swept 3-0 in the division series by the Atlanta Braves — Miami took a big step back in 2021. The Marlins had the sixth-worst record in baseball and fourth-worst in the NL at 67-95, with the fourth-lowest payroll at $61 million.

“We have room in our budget,” Sherman said. “This is not about an absolute number. This is about success on the field. And last year was not fun. We want to be successful on the field. If that requires getting a piece here or there, outfielder, reliever, etc., we will do so.”

It’s impossible to say with certainty what this season’s payroll will be for the Marlins since they still need to do some shopping. The priorities right now include more bats and a center fielder, but this much seems certain: Miami won’t be spending anywhere near as much as its NL East counterparts.

Some deals got done before the 99-day lockout began, with the Marlins signing right-hander Sandy Alcantara — the staff ace and probable opening day starter — to a $56 million, five-year contract and adding free agent outfielder Avisail Garcia to a $53 million, four-year deal.

“I would be very surprised that we’re not active between now and opening day,” Sherman said. “And I know discussions have taken the place, continue to take place, in a multitude of areas. You all understand where you need to fill in and we will attempt to do that.”

Notes: Mattingly wouldn't reveal his opening day starter, though anyone other than Alcantara would be a shock. ... RHP Sixto Sánchez, who had shoulder surgery in July, recently reported some discomfort and has had his throwing program halted although an MRI to check his progress came back clean. “Everything from the surgery is intact,” Ng said. ... Ng said she thought “the time was right” for the NL to add the designated hitter. The Marlins struggled offensively, so another bat in the lineup every day figures to help, and the plan is to use the spot to give some position players days off from the field on occasion.


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