Are The Marlins Playoff Contenders

Despite Moves, Marlins Still Aren’t Good Enough

The Miami Marlins haven’t made the playoffs since winning the World Series in 2003, unless you count the expanded 2020 postseason. Over the last 20 years, they’ve tried buying wins in free agency, making massive trades and undertaking patient rebuilds — but nothing has worked.

Now, the Marlins at least have a young core that’s bringing hope to South Beach. This offseason, GM Kim Ng made a few win-now moves in hopes of pushing Miami closer to October, but the Marlins still aren’t good enough.

Miami’s Offseason Moves

IN: INF Luis Arraez, SP Johnny Cueto, RP J.T. Chargois, INF Jean Segura
OUT: SP Pablo Lopez, INF Miguel Rojas

Last offseason, the Marlins brought in Avisail Garcia and Jorge Soler in an unsuccessful attempt to add oomph to a stagnant lineup. This year, they’re trying the other direction.

Adding Segura and Arraez to an offensive core that includes Jazz Chisholm, Jon Berti and Garrett Cooper, the Marlins are leaning into the Cleveland Guardians model of high-contact, low-strikeout hitters with some speed. On paper, it makes sense to play small ball (considering homer hitters Garcia and Soler flopped last year) to back up their solid rotation and win close ball games. But in reality...

Why The Marlins Still Aren’t Good Enough

Offense Is Still Miami’s Vice

The Marlins were the third-worst offense in baseball last year, scoring just 3.62 runs per game (over 1.5 fewer than the best). It’s a long-standing issue, as Miami hasn’t ranked better than eighth worst in runs scored since 2017.

Bringing in Luis Arraez from Minnesota, where he was a 30 percent better than average hitter last year, certainly helps the offensive cause. But the Marlins still have run-scoring woes. According to Steamer’s projections, Miami projects to have just four regular players who are better than 10 percent above average (110 wRC+) at the plate, and none better than 20 percent. For context, the Dodgers project to have eight hitters over 110 wRC+ and five over 120.

For the sixth year in a row, the Marlins project to finish in the bottom third in the league in runs scored.

Pitching Can’t Carry Them All The Way

But what the Marlins lack in hitting, they can make up for on the mound, right?

With reigning NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara, a resurgent Jesus Luzardo and upside mid-rotation guys like Cueto and Trevor Rogers, the pitching staff is the strength of this Marlins squad. While the bullpen isn’t elite, relievers like Dylan Floro and Tanner Scott certainly have back-of-pen upside. But most good teams have that kind of top pitching. It’s a prerequisite, not a differentiator.

Despite the flashy names, the Marlins’ overall run prevention projects to be just average, coming in with the 13th-fewest runs against per game. Alcantara can only pitch so many complete-game shutouts, and the mediocre ’pen and lack of rotation depth will hurt Miami this year. Given the lack of hitting, the Marlins probably need to be a top-five pitching staff to really have a playoff shot, and they’re not close to that.

Given the projected runs scored and runs against, the Marlins aren’t expected to even sniff the playoffs and probably won’t even get to .500 — especially considering the strength of their division.

Too Many Teams Between Marlins And October

In a vacuum, the Marlins could be scrappy — a few decent bats and some great starting pitching. But look at the other teams they’re going up against in vying for a playoff spot. They’re far and away behind the top three teams in their division (see NL East odds below) and finished 18 games and five teams back of a wild-card spot last year.

If three teams in their own division are better than the Marlins, Miami would have to be better than every other non-division winner in the NL to make the playoffs. Assuming the Dodgers and Cardinals win their respective divisions again, a solid season from the Padres would lock Miami out of the playoffs. And that’s not even considering other potential contenders.

Of NL teams that finished outside the postseason last year, the Cubs (Dansby Swanson, Cody Bellinger, Trey Mancini, Jameson Taillon) and Diamondbacks (Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Evan Longoria, Gabriel Moreno) probably made more significant improvements than Miami this winter. Despite the additions, Miami is still a ways off from the playoffs.

2023 NL East Odds
New York Mets+125
Atlanta Braves+140
Philadelphia Phillies+300
Miami Marlins+2500
Washington Nationals+10000
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