Lots of scrambling for jobs at Marlins spring training
MIAMI (AP) — A group of Miami Marlins fans angered by new CEO Derek Jeter’s offseason salary dump wants to protest by not attending games.
Wait. Hasn’t South Florida been boycotting the Marlins for years?
A franchise notorious for poor attendance and losing records might achieve new lows in both categories this year under Jeter. He gutted the lineup by trading four starters, including major league home run champion Giancarlo Stanton, antagonizing an already small fan base.
The result will likely be another long season, but spring training should actually be interesting as manager Don Mattingly sorts out the numerous prospects acquired for Stanton, stolen base champ Dee Gordon, All-Star left fielder Marcell Ozuna and center fielder Christian Yelich.
Some things to know as the Marlins report to spring training in Jupiter, Florida:
Payroll paring was the primary motive for the trades, and the only established player the Marlins obtained was infielder Starlin Castro in the Stanton deal with the New York Yankees. Miami dealt away three outfielders who combined for 114 home runs, 316 runs and 337 RBIs last year.
But as Jeter has frequently noted, the Marlins failed to win with that trio as the core of their lineup. Stanton hit 267 home runs in eight years with the Marlins and never played on a winning team.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
There are plenty, thanks to trades restocking a farm system that ranked among baseball’s worst. Lewis Brinson, who had been the Milwaukee Brewers’ top prospect, was acquired in the Yelich deal and will be given a chance to win a starting outfield job.
“I plan to show in the spring I’m ready to take over that spot and contribute to the team right away,” he said.
The Marlins anticipate Brinson, 23, will be better prepared than last year, when he batted .106 in 47 games for the Brewers.
Also expected to get long looks in spring training will be outfielder Magneuris Sierra, first baseman Garrett Cooper and right-handers Sandy Alcantara and Jorge Guzman, all newly acquired prospects who could make the opening day roster.
First baseman Justin Bour will anchor the lineup after hitting .289 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs last year despite missing one-third of the season because of injury.
Right-hander Jose Urena was the Marlins’ most pleasant surprise in 2017, going 14-7 for a team that finished 77-85. Urena had an ERA of 3.82, while right-hander Dan Straily was also solid at 10-9 with a 4.26 ERA.
There are question marks even at positions with established starters. Catcher J.T. Realmuto hit .278 with 17 homers last year, but has requested a trade because of the team’s bleak short-term outlook, and might be dealt at any time.
Castro’s stay could be brief because he’s also trade bait. He hit .300 with 16 homers for the Yankees last year.
The pitching outlook is especially grim, with three starting jobs and most of the bullpen positions wide open. That’s after Miami had an ERA of 4.82 last year, fifth-worst in the majors.
While a triple-digit loss total seems unavoidable, the scramble for jobs should be entertaining. Jeter’s long-term plan will work only if enough of the newly acquired prospects succeed, and spring training will be a chance for them to show the Marlins their stuff.
“I’m looking forward to watching us play,” president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “There are a lot of reasons for our fans to be excited when you think about the existing pieces still on our roster and the young players we’ve been able to add to the mix. There’s athleticism, there’s speed, there are power arms. I’m excited to see guys report to Jupiter, and see them get ready for the season.”
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