A Season Ahead of Expectations
What a season it was for the Miami Marlins in 2020. Although it didn’t end in a World Series title, the 2020 campaign marked a definitive step up from what has been a sub-par past decade. The finish arguably marked the Marlins ahead of schedule from where many thought they may be. There was plenty thrown at them in a shortened 60-game season, with COVID-19 concerns and playing in a tough NL East field. Regardless of that, the Marlins finished with a regular-season record of 30-28. It marked just the seventh time in franchise history that the team finished .500 or better following the regular season. Regardless of their postseason run, it was quite an impressive turnaround for Miami. That’s given the fact that the franchise combined for 203 losses across the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Historical Postseason Run
Call it what you will, but the fact that Miami made a postseason run is a big deal. In fact, the Marlins are the only team in MLB history to punch a postseason berth following a 100-plus loss campaign the very next season. It marked their first postseason appearance in 17 years and capped off their first .500 or better season since 2009. The Marlins were at the same table as the Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners, and Baltimore Orioles with the longest World Series-winning odds (+30,000). They even broke MLB’s second-longest playoff drought.
The historical postseason push was even more impressive after they became the first team since the 2004 New York Yankees to enter the postseason after giving up more than 20 runs in a single game. Miami also lost by at least 15 runs in a pair of games, which made them the first playoff team to do so since the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers.
A Rag-Tag Roster
The roster for Miami was a topic of conversation since the beginning of Spring Training. They entered the season with a roster in the bottom third of the league in offensive WAR. At multiple points throughout the season, it was a wonder how the Marlins captured victory at all. Following their very first series of the season, the Marlins were stranded in Philadelphia for over a week with COVID-19 concerns. In fact, 18 players were impacted and the first week of the season saw at least one new face per game. The pieced-together Marlins ultimately granted 18 different players their MLB debuts across the season. That ranked the most among any team in the league.
Across a roster full of journeymen and young talent, the Marlins used over 61 players in 2020. That included 25 position players and 37 pitchers. Once the season finally came to a close, the Marlins had just five players who started and concluded the year on the starting roster. To many, it was a roster that shouldn’t have made a postseason push, but they not only made it, they bested the Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card series.
Valued Offseason Moves and Home Talent
Overall, the Marlins didn’t make a plethora of offseason moves, but most of what they did panned out. Even though Jonathan Villar didn’t work out, the additions of veterans like Corey Dickerson, Matt Joyce, and Jesus Aguilar turned out to be quite productive for the Marlins. Those three alone accounted for 28 percent of Miami’s home run total and hit total. They also accounted for two of the four postseason home runs
On the pitching side of things, the Marlins made impactful moves. Among relievers such as Richard Bleier, James Hoyt, and Nick Vincent, who have done well, closer Brandon Kintzler had a solid 2020 campaign. Of his 14 save opportunities throughout the regular season, the 35-year-old captures 12 saves.
Of course, the talent not acquired via trade or elsewhere also gave the Marlins a boost. Highlighting that included cornerstones in Miguel Rojas and Brian Anderson. The two, in particular, combined for 44 extra-base-hits and 58 RBI. Rojas had a much improved season offensively with an OPS+ of 141, which tied for 25th in the league, besting out players such as Charlie Blackmon, Cody Bellinger, and Christian Yelich. As for Anderson, the 27-year-old was a big cornerstone for the team. Anderson led the Marlins in many categories, including hits (51), home runs (11), RBI (38), and total bases (93).
Trades Coming to Fruition
The last decade for the Marlins has been stained by a lack of success despite a litany of talent. What was considered the beginning of the teams’ rebuild began with a team-gutting series of trades. These trades involved Giancarlo Stanton, Yelich, J.T. Realmuto, and Marcell Ozuna among others. The deciding factor of winning or losing those trades are still up in the air for Miami. One thing is for certain, and that is for Miami to avoid another rebuilding phase, these trades need to start coming to fruition.
Following the 2020 campaign, several trades have produced the most impact, highlighted by the haul Miami received from the Ozuna trade. Miami took in Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, Daniel Castano, and Zac Gallen, who was then traded for Jazz Chisolm. All of those (including Chisolm) have seen major league playing time since their arrival. Chisolm, Sierra, Castano, and Alcantara all appeared in at least one postseason contest in 2020. Alcantara had a career-best 3.00 ERA (best among Miami starters), 39 strikeouts, and an ERA+ of 149, leading all Marlins starters. While not all have produced as much as Alcantara, there is a lot of potential from the group that all ranked as top-15 prospects at one point.
Perhaps the most flashy trade included sending Realmuto to Philadelphia. In return, the Marlins picked up the top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez and catcher Jorge Alfaro. As it stands post-2020, the Marlins seem to have an advantage in the trade. Realmuto is unlikely to sign back with Philadelphia after the team failed to make a postseason run during his brief tenure. Meanwhile, Sanchez wowed the league with his triple-digit heat. He became just the second pitcher to top 100 mph in the seventh inning or later in a single game.
A Bright Future Ahead
The Marlins are at a critical juncture in their rebuild. The fruits of their trade labors are finally experiencing the MLB ranks. Miami is turning the corner from a rebuilding team dependent on cheaper veteran leadership to a team similar to the 2003 title run. The ultimate success or failure of the team now and in the future depends on the young stars like Trevor Rogers and Sanchez, and even veteran stars like Anderson and Starling Marte. It’s a crucial time for the Marlins, and despite a shortened campaign, 2020 was just what the doctor ordered for Miami. Now there’s a successful base for the Marlins to spring off of in future seasons.
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