The 2023 Major League Baseball season was memorable for its loose correlation between winning percentage and team payroll. The Miami Marlins made the postseason and the similarly thrifty Arizona Diamondbacks advanced all the way to the World Series, outdoing the star-laden New York Mets, New York Yankees and San Diego Padres. The Baltimore Orioles, who were MLB’s cheapest team outside of the embarrassing Oakland Athletics, led the American League in victories.
That was likely just an outlier, though. Principal owner Bruce Sherman is hopeful that his new president of baseball operations, Peter Bendix, can implement the Tampa Bay Rays’ best practices and perennially defy the odds. Bendix obviously won’t be able to pull that off in a single winter.
If you’re rooting for the Marlins to be a postseason threat again in 2024, you’re rooting for Sherman to spend money. For this franchise in particular, one with several glaring roster holes to address and thin on desirable prospects to use as trade chips, increased spending will be crucial to bringing in high-end talent.
Sherman slashed the Marlins’ payroll early in his ownership tenure, but has gradually upped his investment during the post-COVID years. Where do things currently stand as we enter the meaty portion of the offseason?
Josh Bell ($16.5M), Avisaíl García ($12M), Sandy Alcantara ($9.3M) and Jon Berti ($3.625M) are already on the books. Bell exercised his player option rather than head back into free agency, so that tells you he feels this salary is higher than he would’ve gotten elsewhere. García is coming off consecutive seasons of sub-replacement level production while Alcantara is going to miss the entire 2024 season barring a medical miracle. These are significant obstacles for the Marlins front office to work around, no doubt.
García and Alcantara are the only Marlins players signed beyond 2024.
The Marlins entered the offseason with 13 arbitration-eligible players. Jacob Stallings, Garrett Hampson and Jonathan Davis have since been trimmed from that group.
The 10 remaining arb-eligible players are projected for a combined $33.9M, per MLB Trade Rumors. Those salaries become fully guaranteed once settled, but we will have to wait until later in the offseason to get those specific figures.
Before Bendix officially arrived, the Marlins made the easy call to decline the 2024 club options for Matt Barnes and Johnny Cueto. Their dismissals still came at a cost, though. Barnes received a $2.75M buyout and Cueto got $2.5M. That $5.25M total counts toward Miami’s 2024 spending.
Current 2024 Payroll Projection
The Marlins are facing a bill of approximately $80.575M for the players mentioned above—with Alcantara going on the injured list, that only fills up half (13) of the spots on the Opening Day 26-man active roster. Let’s assume there are no spring training injuries and the other 13 spots are occupied by pre-arb players making an average of $750k each (slightly above the $740k league minimum). That takes this (very conservative) payroll projection to $90.325M.
The Marlins began 2023 at $92.575M, according to Cot’s Contracts, which was MLB’s 23rd-highest payroll. To have comparable success on the field next season, they’ll either need to blow past that mark or get much-improved production from the players on their existing roster.
Photo by Kevin Barral/Fish On First