Marlins see build-from-within model as blueprint
Jennings stresses drafting and development heading into first year as GM
MIAMI -- The model teams are playing in October.
The postseason has given us the heavy-spending, star-filled Dodgers, Red Sox, Tigers and Cardinals, and it has given us the scrappy, spend-wisely Pirates, A's, Rays and Indians.
The model the Marlins are identifying most closely with is that of the grinders.
"When I see Pittsburgh, when I see Oakland, when I see Tampa Bay, when I see Cleveland, those clubs are kind of the blue-collar teams who have to go out and create their own mindset," Miami's new general manager Dan Jennings said. "They almost have a chip on their shoulders with the way they play."
The grinders may not match their payrolls dollar-for-dollar with teams like the Dodgers, but they certainly can go toe-to-toe with the big-market powerhouses.
"These teams have one or two All-Star-caliber players, but for the most part, they are the blue-collar guys," Jennings said. "With the right people, the manager, the staff, and the right mindset of the players, good things occur. It's great to watch those guys."
With more limited financial resources, the Marlins have plenty of catching up to do this offseason. For the most part, the nucleus of the 62-100 squad represents the foundation to building a better future.
In 2013, Miami encountered more than its share of heartaches. Still, the squad banded together around first-year manager Mike Redmond.
Jose Fernandez, a frontrunner to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award, emerged as the ace and one of the finest starters in the game. Giancarlo Stanton was an All-Star in 2012, and the soon-to-be 24-year-old is a force in the middle of the batting order.
The young rotation features Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez (no-hitter in the season finale) and Nathan Eovaldi. Rookie left fielder Christian Yelich has the makings of being a perennial .300-caliber hitter, and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria is a Gold Glove-caliber defender.
Closer Steve Cishek established a franchise record with 29 consecutive converted saves.
"You need difference-makers if you are going to win championships," Jennings said. "There is a process to doing that."
Drafting and developing are crucial. They Marlins are also looking into the international market more than ever before. They made a strong push for Cuban slugger Jose Abreu, who wound up with the White Sox.
The Marlins are not expected to make a major splash on the domestic free-agent front, so they may be looking at trading some of their young pitching to upgrade a stagnant offense.
Jennings says the Marlins are not planning on spending like the big-market clubs. Miami isn't alone in that thinking. The A's and Rays aren't big spenders either, and they compete.
The same philosophy held true in 2003.
With a modest payroll of $54 million, the Marlins upset the storied Yankees and their $164 million roster to win their second World Series.
"We didn't have [a big payroll] in '03 when we won," Jennings said. "But what we did have was a pipeline of players. You have to grow your own if you're going to be successful. That's the bottom line. We have a lot of those pieces currently in place."
In an age of advanced statistical analysis, Jennings is an old-school scout who is open to new ideas.
"My background has been in scouting," Jennings said. "I certainly believe in it, and probably lean that way. But I like to use the analogy, at a young age you learn to look both ways before you cross the street.
"I think in baseball, you have to have that same mindset of actually looking both ways. You have to look at the actual scouting, as well as using statistical analysis. We certainly have capable people here in our baseball operations staff. Through that, we can arrive at the right decisions. That's what is important. Not making a decision, but making the right decision. We'll utilize our people to do that."
After finishing last in the Majors in runs scored, batting average and home runs, the Marlins clearly must upgrade offensively. They feel a number of players already in the lineup will step up with more experience.
"We have so many pieces, controllable and young, at the Major Leagues," Jennings said. "Losing 100 games is not acceptable. We're not that bad. Where are we? We're somewhere better than that. These kids, they will transition to who they truly are with another year under their belt."