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As the Marlins sell off, who — and what — could be next?


Jazz Chisholm Jr. considers Luis Arez one of the greatest people he has ever met. The two became close friends after Ariz was traded from Minnesota to Miami before the start of last season, hanging out not only on the team plane and bus, but also off the field, going out to eat and often spending holidays together.

So, it should come as no surprise that May 3 was particularly painful for the Marlins center fielder.

In the days following the trade that sent Arez from the sinking Marlins cross-country to the Padres — a move that signaled the possibility of another rebuild in Miami — it still hadn't fully sunk in for Chisholm that his friend was gone, mostly because they hadn't stopped communicating.

“We still talk every day,” Chisholm told Fox Sports last week, three days after the move that brought reliever Woo-Suk Go and three prospects to Miami. “We're just talking every day, like, we can't believe this happened. But now it's happening.”

Chisholm credits the players and staff around him in Miami for keeping spirits up in the locker room, but the positivity hasn't stopped the seemingly never-ending snorts or speculation about who might move on from the Marlins team that was his first. Complete postseason appearances in 20 years, led by National League Manager of the Year.

The early October euphoria lasted for several weeks.

Twelve days after being swept by the Phillies in the wild-card round, the man who orchestrated Miami's elusive postseason berth made a shocking exit. Reports surfaced that Kim Ng, the first woman to serve as Major League Baseball's general manager, declined her mutual option to stay with the team after the Marlins planned to hire her as president of baseball operations.

A few weeks later, the Marlins tabbed their new head of baseball operations in Peter Bendix, a longtime executive with a Rays franchise renowned for a strong player development factory. Tampa Bay's ability to churn out consistently winning teams on a low payroll caught Miami's attention — and hinted at a possible overhaul after the Bendix poaching.

The Marlins did virtually nothing to bolster their roster this past offseason, signing just one free agent to a major-league contract (for one year and $5 million). The receiver, Tim Anderson, entered this week with the fourth-worst OPS in the majors among players with at least 100 plate appearances. Lack of spending, mediocrity for a Marlins group that won 84 games last year despite a minus-57 run differential and injuries throughout the rotation — the area of ​​the team that provided the most reason for optimism — combined for disaster.

The spiral begins immediately. The Marlins didn't secure their first win until their 10th game of the year. By then, playing without injured starting pitchers Sandy Alcantara, Braxton Garrett and Edward Cabrera, the team announced that last year's breakout rookie Yuri Perez would require Tommy John surgery.

“The losers will say, 'Here we go again,'” Skip Schumacher told Fox Sports. “I don't want a culture of complaining. That's not who we are. Injuries happen.”

Highlights of Phillies vs Marlins walk-off win

Highlights of Phillies vs Marlins walk-off win

In his short time in Miami, the second-year manager has worked diligently to create a culture built on positivity and growth. He earned respect both in the clubhouse and around the league as he turned the Marlins' fortunes around last year with a 15-win year-over-year improvement.

This year, however, the results did not improve from the initial slide. At 9-24, in what is widely considered one of the sport's weakest farm systems — one that consistently failed to develop offensive talent — Bendix effectively threw in the towel this season, dealing his best hitter.

“It was the kind of deal that we were worried wouldn't be there if we waited,” Bendix told reporters after Ariz's 2024 salary sent him to the Padres and secured a minor-league package headlined by Dillon Head. A 19-year-old outfielder selected in the first round last season. “We're actually unlikely to make the playoffs this year, and trading for future value seems like the right thing for this organization right now.”

None of the players the Marlins acquired are considered top-100 talents, but MLB Pipeline already ranks the three prospects who parted ways with the Padres — outfielders Head and Jacob Marcy and infielder Nathan Martorella — among the top 11 prospects in Miami's system. It was an understandable move. Of course, that doesn't ease the sting for Marlins fans hoping to build on last year's success or for Miami players who grew up around Araz, a back-to-back batting champ who was universally admired in the clubhouse.

Schumacher understood the initial conundrum that gripped the clubhouse. One Marlins player described it as losing a brother. After Arez's sudden departure, the skipper tried to further instill his message to Marlins players through conversations both individually and in small groups about being professional and maintaining focus.

“The game doesn't stop for anybody,” Schumacher said.

It's a line multiple players echoed on Fox Sports when asked about Arráez moving on from the shock.

“The goal of a coach or manager is to give them confidence and get them into the game, this is the jungle you're going to play in, isn't it?” Schumacher told Fox Sports. “It's a high-pressure situation. How do you build on that every day? When you're kicking your butt at the beginning of the season, that's the real challenge for a coach, because it's easy to get in when you're 20-8 when you're 8-20. I think if you see a player sweating, they won't see me sweating.

In a young team, Schumacher has some veterans to help deliver a similar message. On the hitting side, Josh Bell has stepped up as a stable voice. On his first day with the team last year, at a meeting of deadline acquisition hitters, he talked about what he thought the Marlins' identity should be. Bell, who has played for four different teams in the last two years, is now in a contract year.

The biggest leader on the pitching side is under contract through at least 2026, but he won't be taking the mound for a while. Still, as Alcantara recovers from Tommy John surgery, he remains present. The 2022 NL Cy Young Award winner was in Oakland and Los Angeles on the Marlins' recent road trip and plans to continue traveling with the team throughout the year.

He was primarily a mentor for Perez, the 21-year-old Dominican sensation who is now out for the year, but Miami still values ​​Alcantara's leadership, and the seven-year vet wants to answer questions from other young pitchers. Also, being on the road allowed him to rehab with major-league coaches instead of retreating to Jupiter, Florida. Eight months after his procedure, Alcantara is now throwing up to 90 feet. He has not ruled out a return before the end of the season.

Last year, after throwing his final pitch on Sept. 3, he held off surgery until after the season so he could be with the club in October. He celebrated the team's success and attended both postseason games in Philadelphia, as frustrating and difficult as it was not to contribute.

“I'm the guy who always likes to compete,” Alcantara told Fox Sports. “When that happened to me, it broke my heart, because I know myself. I know what I can do out there.”

Like others, Alcantara, who is under contract for at least the next three years, has tried to stay positive through the team's rapid decline and the potential fire-sale ahead. He knows there are elements beyond his control.

“I think I'm a strong man,” he said. Being the only player that's been here since 2018, more patience, because I can't decide to tell them we need to sign Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge. We're here to play baseball. ”

Alcantara represents one of the few positives to come out of the Marlins' recent rebuilding efforts. From 2017 to 2019, they traded All-Stars Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and JT Realmuto. The deal for Ozuna was the only one to pay long-term value, bringing in Alcantara and Jake Gallen, who were then dealt for Chisholm, who could soon be part of the next transaction. Chisholm has tried to avoid the rumors by not logging into Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) and TikTok.

“I don't want to think about it,” Chisholm said. “I want to be here and play ball with my boys.”

It is easiest for him.

Chisholm, who is in control of the team until 2026, said he is rarely on his phone in the first place.

“The hard part is right now I just want to get on my phone and talk to Lewis,” Chisholm said last week. “So, it's hard not to see a message from my mom or my sister saying, 'Hey, you do business here? I saw that you're going to do business, or you did business at this place.' I thought, 'I'm still sitting here.'

At this point, Chisholm says he hasn't heard anything of substance. Despite the team's woeful struggles, he maintains his joy in the ballpark. Through 43 games last year, the Marlins won 22. They had half that through 43 games this year.

“The team record is what it is now,” Bendix said.

For that reason, there is reason to believe that the wheeling and dealing has just begun. Despite the Marlins' 12-32 record, they have several intriguing young starters on the mound who could dramatically impact opposing teams at or before the deadline.

Jesus Luzardo, a 26-year-old left-hander who struck out 208 batters last year, is now back from the injured list. Like Chisholm, his final year of arbitration isn't until 2026, which could yield a significant return. The 26-year-old starters Garrett and Cabrera are also back from injury and will remain under team control until 2028.

Then there's closer Tanner Scott, one of the few members of the Marlins roster in a contract year. The 29-year-old lefty, who led all NL relievers in strikeouts last year, also has done his best not to think too far ahead or let the rumors affect his mindset. It helps that Scott welcomed his son to the family last September, when the Marlins were making their late playoff push. It's easy to put baseball on the back burner when he's with his kids.

“When I go home, I don't think about it,” Scott said. “I talked to my family and that's about it. I don't really think about anything baseball related. I meet the next day and go from there.”

All the Marlins players can do now is try to right the ship amid the uncertainty ahead. Even Schumacher's days in Miami may be numbered. USA TODAY reported last month that the NL Manager of the Year had let the Marlins opt out of the club's postseason option on his contract, potentially setting the scene for his exit this offseason. It seemed clear after last year's victory that he had a different vision for Miami's future.

The game isn't stopping for now though.

“We have a job,” Schumacher said. “Let's try to figure this thing out.”

Rowan Kavner is an MLB writer for Fox Sports. He previously covered the LA Dodgers, LA Clippers and Dallas Cowboys. An LSU grad, Rowan was born in California, raised in Texas, then returned to the West Coast in 2014. Follow him on Twitter @Rowan Kavner.

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