With spring training opening later this week, we take a four-part look at the Phillies' National League East rivals, what they did this offseason and where they might be going in 2021.
Part 1: Atlanta Braves
Part 2: New York Mets
Part 3: Washington Nationals
Today: Miami Marlins
Quick look back
The Marlins began the 2020 season with a COVID outbreak and ended it with their first playoff berth since 2004. They faced a daunting run of 28 games over the final 24 days and went 15-13 over that stretch to finish 31-29, three games ahead of the Phillies for second place in the NL East. The Marlins passed the Phillies in the standings by taking five of seven in Miami in mid-September. The Marlins went on to win their wild-card series against the Cubs and were swept in the division series by the Braves.
Despite the playoff exit, the Marlins had an inspiring season in 2020. NL Manager of the Year Don Mattingly used 18 players who’d never appeared in the majors before 2020 and 12 of them were pitchers. The Marlins went 4-0 against Baltimore, 7-3 against the Phillies and 6-4 against Washington for 17 of their 31 wins.
The Marlins attempted to keep Brandon Kintzler, who was second in the NL with 12 saves last year. They offered him a big-league contract worth $2 million, according to reports, but he bet on himself and took a minor-league deal with the Phillies that could ultimately be worth more than $3 million.
Michael Hill, who had served as the club’s general manager and then president of baseball operations, moved on. He interviewed for top positions with the Phillies and Mets before joining Major League Baseball as vice president of on-field ops.
The Marlins made their big addition last summer when they acquired centerfielder Starling Marte in a trade and picked up his contract option this offseason. He’s a strong run producer and defender.
Adam Duvall’s power bat will come in handy. He finished third in the NL with 16 homers last season.
Anthony Bass could end up as the new closer.
And then, of course, there's Kim Ng.
Key offseason move
Ng became the first female general manager in any of the four major sports when she was hired in November. She is highly respected throughout the game and well qualified for the job, having held high-ranking executive positions with MLB, the Yankees and the Dodgers.
Sixto Sanchez was the key piece that the Phillies sent to the Marlins for J.T. Realmuto in February 2019. The power-armed, 22-year-old right-hander showed more than just flashes of brilliance in seven starts last season and has the potential to be a mainstay in the Marlins’ rotation for years to come.
Despite breaking a 16-season playoff drought in 2020, the Marlins remain in a slow build, content to only tweak around the edges of a young roster while the four other teams in the NL East all spent significant free-agent dollars this winter. The Marlins have good arms in Sanchez, Pablo Lopez and Sandy Alcantara atop their rotation and some good bats in Brian Anderson and Miguel Rojas on the left side of the infield, Jesus Aguilar at first base and Marte in center field.
The Marlins might not make it back to the playoffs in 2021, but somehow you just know they’ll give the Phillies fits.