Miami Marlins president of baseball operations uttered the phrase multiple times Thursday — a phrase that has been said over and over throughout the course of the first two years of the franchise’s latest rebuild.
“We need to get better,” Hill said.
The Marlins are coming off a 57-105 season — their 10th consecutive losing year and third 100-loss season in franchise history. Their offense was one of worst — if not the worst — in baseball depending on the metric.
The pitching staff’s consistency faded away as the year progressed.
And while there has been progress with revamping the minor-league system — a needed endeavor that came at the expense of the big-league club — progress at the MLB level is paramount going into Year 3 of the Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter ownership group’s regime.
“Ownership has made it clear that we need to get better,” Hill said ahead of MLB’s General Managers Meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I think what we’ve done organizationally is tremendous, and [there are] a lot of reasons for optimism. But we know that until we’re doing it at the highest level, we haven’t reached our goal.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done.”
They need a hitter or two with power potential to solidify the middle of a lineup that finished last in the league in home runs (146) and slugging percentage (.375).
They need to improve their bullpen that finished 26th in ERA (4.97) and converted just 55.1 percent of its save opportunities.
And a back end starter to produce early in the season until a couple top prospects are ready to make their debut shouldn’t be ruled out, either.
Hill said all options are on the table this offseason to do just that.
So free agents with qualifying offers —Jose Abreu and Marcell Ozuna, for example — could still be considered. Teams that sign players who decline a qualifying offer, set this year at $17.8 million, will forefeit a top draft pick.
Heading into the offseason, the Marlins only have about $45 million committed to their payroll. They spent $74 million last year. Hill was non-committal on how much the club is willing to spend on the roster.
“I think we have to be open to everything that makes us better, as a team and as an organization,” Hill said. “I don’t think we’re ruling out anything as we embark on our non-playing season.
But even with the need to improve now, the Marlins are also taking their long-term vision into consideration. Miami has a group of top prospects — namely outfielders Monte Harrison and Jesus Sanchez; pitchers Nick Neidert, Sixto Sanchez and Edward Cabrera; shortstop Jazz Chisholm; and first baseman Lewin Diaz — who all project to be ready for their MLB debuts over the next two seasons.
Hill said they still plan to “fundamentally build through scouting and development,” meaning any major signings would likely be to shorter term deals.
“It’s a delicate balance,” Hill said. “We have to be very systemic with our approach in improving our club.”
An extra body
Starting in 2020, MLB rosters will expand from 25 players to 26 for the entirety of the season, which will give the Marlins more flexibility when creating their team.
Miami will have five bench players this year after rolling with a four-player bench and eight relievers the past few years.
But don’t expect a pure hitter for hitting’s sake.
Hill said the Marlins still need their bench players to have value on defense, considering the National League doesn’t have a designated hitter.
“I think as a National League club, we’re always going to look for versatile players who stretch our roster as best we can with player’s ability to move in and out and play multiple positions,” Hill said “Now you get a full bench. If there’s not one player who can answer a position, then there might be a platoon situation and you might have the ability to do that seamlessly now.”