Some considered the Miami Marlins sleeper contenders heading into 2015, but a 3-11 start set the tone for a season that resulted in manager Mike Redmond getting fired, 91 losses and a sixth consecutive losing season. Giancarlo Stanton's injury didn't help, and Marcell Ozuna inexplicably ended up back in Triple-A. Now, Don Mattingly is on board to try and make sense of the never-ending disorder.
What do they need: Starting pitching. Bullpen help. Depth. Better health. A new owner.
To be fair, the Marlins had some bad luck in 2015. Jarred Cosart and Henderson Alvarez combined for just 16 starts. Jose Fernandez returned from his Tommy John surgery but then missed a month with a right biceps strain. Stanton went down on June 26, interrupting what looked like a 50-homer season. Ozuna went from a 4.5-WAR player to 0.4. The Marlins ended up giving 439 plate appearances to a 41-year-old outfielder who hit .229 with one home run (Ichiro Suzuki). They have to get some position-player depth if they want to be serious or semi-serious playoff contenders.
Guy on the rise: The Marlins acquired Dee Gordon from the Dodgers, and all he did was lead the NL with a .333 average, lead the majors with 58 steals, make the All-Star team and win a Gold Glove Award. The Gold Glove might have been the biggest surprise, considering the Dodgers traded him in part because they wanted to improve their defense. But Gordon worked with infield instructor Perry Hill, and Gordon's 13 defensive runs saved suggest the Gold Glove was deserved. There's still room for improvement: He was caught stealing 20 times and drew just 25 walks, but a repeat of 2015 would be just fine.
Prospect to anticipate: The Marlins have one of the least inspiring farm systems in the minors, with no impact prospects in the upper minors. Dominican RHP Kendry Flores, acquired from the Giants for Casey McGehee, had a 2.29 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A, and made it up for 12 innings with the Marlins. He could compete for a rotation slot, relying on his 90-92 mph sinker as opposed to big velocity.
Winter action plan: It's the Marlins. Every move they make is tied into spending as little as possible. Don't be surprised if they look to trade Martin Prado, whom they owe $8 million in the final year of his contract, and play Derek Dietrich at third base, once again at the expense of team depth. Depending on the health of Cosart and Alvarez, they'll have plenty of arms to chose from behind Fernandez, but only rookie Adam Conley had an ERA better than the league average. The most interesting move may be one they've already made: Hiring pitching guru Jim Benedict away from the Pirates to become the team's vice president of pitching.
There are rumors that they could trade Ozuna, but that would open up a gaping hole in the outfield that they would have to fill with a cut-rate veteran free agent like ... oh, I don't know, Will Venable? Nori Aoki? Somebody like that.
Of course, they could do this: Trade Fernandez.
Hey, it's the Marlins. It could happen.