As another disappointing Marlins season ends, five questions heading into the offseason

David Santiago/dsantiago@miamiherald.com

There are a lot of “what ifs” that could define the Miami Marlins’ disappointing 2022 season.

What if star second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. never suffered a season-ending back injury at the end of June?

What if outfielders Avisail Garcia and Jorge Soler actually played close to their potential instead of underperforming essentially all year (Garcia) or being hurt for more than half the season (Soler)?

What if they did better than 24-40 in their franchise-record-tying 64 one-run games?

But that’s all moot at this point.

At the end of the day, the Marlins went 69-93 on the season and finished fourth in the National League East after entering spring training optimistic they could at the very least contend for one of the National League’s three wild card spots.

“I’m not sure we were a 100-win club,” outgoing manager Don Mattingly said this week, “but I do think we would have been in a better spot to be fighting down this last week with Milwaukee, with Philly, San Diego — in that same type of realm of being at least in the mix.”

So now it’s back to the drawing board again, and general manager Kim Ng has a lot to deal with this offseason. Here are five questions the Marlins have to answer — some of which are eerily similar to the ones they dealt with last offseason.

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Who will be the next manager?

The Marlins and Mattingly on Sept. 25 mutually agreed that 2022 would be Mattingly’s seventh and final season as Miami’s manager. His contract has expired and neither side decided to seek an extension.

Ng said the Marlins will “need to explore many different types of profiles” when identifying their next manager and said there are “a lot of good baseball people out there” on teams who are doing “interesting and innovative things.” She has also noted that big-league managing experience is “important, but I wouldn’t say that’s a prerequisite, either.”

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What other baseball operations shakeups will happen?

The Marlins have already moved on from director of player development Geoff DeGroot, professional scouting director Hadi Raad and five other members of their pro scouting department. This comes after former vice president of player development and scouting Gary Denbo departed the organization in June.

Ng said last week the changes likely aren’t going to stop there.

“We have more changes that we’ve talked about,” Ng said. “This is going to be an ongoing process, just to make sure that we get everybody going in the right direction.”

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What will be done to improve the offense?

The Marlins finished the season 28th in runs scored (586), 27th in OPS (.657) and 24th in home runs (144).

Chisholm, who led the team in home runs (14), RBI (45) and runs scored (39) at the time of his injury while also having a .860 OPS, staying healthy is a first step.

But Miami will likely need to find at least one or two impact bats this offseason from outside the organization, whether that is through free agency or trade. Unless the Marlins make a commitment for a significant increase in payroll, the latter seems like the most likely route, with the Marlins having controllable starting pitching to offer teams.

Who will be their center fielder?

Center field was a position the Marlins hoped to address last offseason but didn’t. Instead, they used six players at the spot this season. Jesus Sanchez got the most starts with 74, followed by JJ Bleday (37), Bryan De La Cruz (34), Peyton Burdick (13), Billy Hamilton (three) and Jon Berti (one).

Bleday and De La Cruz would be the internal candidates for the spot.

The top free agent center fielders this offseason will be Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Kiermaier (if the Rays don’t pick up a $13 million club option).

How will they handle the impending roster crunch?

The Marlins have eight players on 60-day injured list who will need to be added back to the 40-man roster shortly after the playoffs end, meaning eight roster moves (either designating for assignment the injured players or fringe players currently on on the 40-man roster or trading 40-man players away for prospects who do not yet need to be on the 40-man roster) will need to be made before the Marlins even adding from outside the organization.

Five of those players — pitchers Max Meyer, Anthony Bender, Paul Campbell, Sean Guenther and Cody Poteet — underwent Tommy John surgery, with Meyer, Bender and Poteet all not expected to pitch in 2023. A sixth pitcher in Jordan Holloway also underwent season-ending surgery and his status is to-be-determined. Chisolm and Soler are the other two.

Players can not be put back on the 60-day injured list, which frees up a 40-man spot, until after spring training starts, so Miami will not be able to use any of these roster spots held by pitchers who will be unavailable next season until mid-February.