If it’s broke, don’t fix it.
That isn’t some new maxim for the Marlins. But the front office is planning no changes to a lineup that was one of the worst in the majors at scoring runs last season.
The reason: team officials are convinced their hitters are better than that.
“We think there’s obviously some areas to improve offensively,” acknowledged Mike Hill, president of baseball operations. “But the raw talent is definitely there.”
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The Marlins ranked 27th of 30 teams in runs scored in 2016 and has scored the fewest runs in the majors since 2012, the same year they moved into their new ballpark.
But Hill and others in the organization are convinced that injuries and poor game preparation were the culprits, not individual ability.
The lack of preparation is one of the reasons the Marlins parted company with hitting coach Barry Bonds after just one season and replaced him with Mike Pagliarulo.
“Without throwing stones at the past, we made a change,” Hill said of Bonds. “What we were doing wasn’t what we wanted moving forward. So there was an area to improve there, and we felt we did that with bringing Pagliarulo in.”
Hill said management believes Pagliarulo will devote more time than did Bonds to pre-game preparation through the use of video and scouting reports.
He said Pagliarulo is noted for his “game planning and video and approach and some things we may not have done as well as we possibly could have in 2016. It’s a priority with a young position player group that they continue to get that information and get those things to help them make better adjustments.”
While the Marlins had the fourth-highest team batting average in the majors, it didn’t translate to runs, where the Marlins out-scored only three other teams — Oakland, Philadelphia and Atlanta.
But the Marlins were also missing first baseman Justin Bour for a good chunk of the second half, and lost Giancarlo Stanton to a groin injury in the final weeks. They were also without reigning batting and stolen base champion Dee Gordon for 80 games when he was hit with a drug suspension.
“In spite of that, we were still nine games over (.500) and in the playoff [picture] at the end of July,” Hill said. “There’s belief in the players, and there’s belief in this manager and coaching staff that this group has dealt with its fair share of adversity and is in position to be successful.”
As a result, the Marlins are reluctant to trade any of their starting position players in order to acquire pitching, an area of deficiency. Teams have contacted the Marlins about trading outfielder Christian Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto, in particular. But they are refusing to part with either.
“I’ve used the adage that batting average is talent, scoring runs is approach,” Hill said. “And that’s sort of the sense that we’re following. We have a tremendously talented group. When we’re clicking, it’s on display. But for us to be a playoff team, we need to be more consistent, and that’s where the preparation and game-planning come into play. And that’s where you win more games.
“This is our group, and we’ve stayed with them.”
Competition for Free Agents
The Marlins continued to concentrate their efforts on landing a back-end reliever on day two of the Winter Meetings, with elite closers Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman remaining at the top of their wish list.
But the Marlins are in competition with a handful of big-spenders, such as the Yankees, Dodgers and Cubs, and winning the bidding war may be difficult.
On Monday, Mark Melancon signed a four-year, $62 million deal with the San Francisco Giants, making it the richest contract ever awarded to a reliever. Jansen and Chapman will come at an even higher price.