MIAMI — After all the deals and departures, Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly says he’s enthused about the upcoming season.
Really, he is.
“You probably think I’m crazy but I’m really excited about what’s going on,” Mattingly said Saturday during the team’s Fan Fest event at Marlins Park. “I can say it — look you right in the camera, look you right in the eye — I can tell you how excited I am to be here, and what we’re doing.”
This will be his third season guiding the club, and he’ll see a radically revamped roster without many stars when spring training begins within a week. Soon after taking over last fall, the new Marlins’ ownership, overseen by majority partner Bruce Sherman and CEO Derek Jeter, traded half the club’s starting lineup in an attempt to dramatically cut payroll and build an organizational foundation.
Gone in exchange for prospects were reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, who hit 59 home runs, and fellow outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich. They combined for a major league-best .913 OPS among outfield trios last season.
Also traded for additional minor leaguers was second baseman Dee Gordon, who hit .308, stole an NL-leading 60 bases in 2017 and won the league batting title in 2015.
There is also the possibility the Marlins are not done dealing and additionally slashing payroll. Catcher J.T. Realmuto and second baseman Starlin Castro, the only acquisition with extended major league experience and who joined Miami in the Stanton deal, reportedly have asked to be traded.
“I know what you guys know, obviously,” Realmuto said Saturday. “For me it is getting ready to start the season, whether it’s in Miami or somewhere else. No matter what happens my job is to play baseball.”
The trades have resulted in widespread displeasure with Marlins fans. But Mattingly backs the new ownership’s approach.
“We knew that we had a good lineup but also knew we were 10 games out of the wild card with those guys,” Mattingly said. “We didn’t match up pitching and offense. There had to be something done. No matter how much offense you have you’re not going to win without pitching.
“I know some of the things have been unpopular. When you look at it, for me, they’re things that had to be done,” he said.
Mattingly said he reached out to the traded players he managed the past two seasons.
“Hopefully, we’ve impacted their careers,” Mattingly said. “As a coach you feel like you’re a teacher and you want to help these guys develop.”
As with every other team entering team approaching spring training, optimism outweighs negative expectations. Mattingly is no different even with projections of his team losing between 90 and 100 games.
“I don’t think about losing, I think about winning,” Mattingly said. “It won’t be any different with our guys. We’re going to prepare to win. We’re going to prepare to win a championship.
“I told my players every year that I’ve managed I’ve never been in a game that I expected to lose. I don’t care if it’s (Clayton) Kershaw against whoever, it doesn’t look good on paper. You go into every game feeling you’re going to win today and expect to win today,” he said.