Peter Bendix has a plan for the Miami Marlins

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First pitch of the Miami Marlins‘ opening game in Oakland last Friday arrived just as they were finalizing their trade of Luis Arráez, creating an awkward scene: Arráez, in full uniform, standing in the dugout among current teammates primed to become former ones, clearly unsure what to do with himself.

It was the third day of May. Major League Baseball’s season was barely five weeks old. A trade of any kind — let alone a deal involving the reigning National League batting champion — is exceedingly rare in those circumstances. And yet there was Arráez, on live television, suddenly the face of what looked like the start of another teardown.

During Peter Bendix’s first six months as the Marlins’ president of baseball operations, he mostly stood pat during the offseason, watched as Miami lost 24 of its first 33 games, then traded its most beloved player for a package of four San Diego Padres prospects, a series of events that has drawn the ire of a beleaguered market. All of it, Bendix stressed, aligns with his aspirations of building a consistent winner to break the rebuild cycle that has defined the Marlins’ three-decade existence. But it could take time. Lots of it.

He’s asking for patience from a thinning fan base that has seemingly run out of it.

“I understand what fans are hoping for,” Bendix said this week. “We’re hoping for the same things. And I understand that there is frustration and disappointment. We’re feeling those things, too. We all really want to win. We all really want to win as soon as we can. And we want to win in a sustainable way.”

When asked to illustrate his plan for doing so, he paused for nine seconds.

“The plan,” Bendix finally said, “is to be as disciplined as we can with our decision-making and to …”

He paused again.

“Yeah, it really comes down to being disciplined and having great people in all aspects of our organization so that we have the best information, the best coaches, the best development, the best scouts, all those different things.”

Bendix is careful with his words these days, not because he lacks clarity in his vision but because the tension between him and Marlins fans seems so high. Bendix’s hiring — in early November, after a 15-year run with a Tampa Bay Rays franchise that has become the model for winning on a tight budget — came three weeks after the trailblazing Kim Ng stepped down over what qualified as a demotion after she helped engineer a surprising wild-card berth in 2023.

Rather than capitalize on the momentum of that playoff team, Bendix settled on a conservative offseason in which he declined to bring back Jorge Soler, signed just one major league free agent — veteran shortstop Tim Anderson for $5 million — and dropped payroll even further.

Three weeks into the regular season, USA Today reported that Skip Schumaker, the reigning NL Manager of the Year, had asked the Marlins to decline their option in his contract for 2025, a clear sign he wants no part of a rebuild. Then came the Arráez trade. One of Bendix’s comments in the wake of that deal, in which he acknowledged the Marlins were “unlikely to make the playoffs this year,” only triggered more animus.

“I understand it,” Bendix said. “It’s because people really want a consistently contending team.”

There is a clear logic to what Bendix is attempting to do, even if the fan base might disagree with it. The 2023 Marlins made the playoffs despite being outscored by 57 runs, a potential sign of trouble. Rather than clog a tight payroll to prop up a team that seemed ripe for regression, Bendix kept the group together in hopes that full seasons of Jake Burger and Josh Bell — both acquired last August — would make up for any lost production and keep the Marlins on the fringes of contention.

Instead, Bell, Burger and Anderson got off to slow starts. Eury Perez tore his ulnar collateral ligament, joining Sandy Alcántara among those undergoing Tommy John surgery. And three of the Marlins’ other promising young starters — Jesús Luzardo, Trevor Rogers and Edward Cabrera — finished April with a combined 5.33 ERA. The Marlins nosedived within the NL East, their FanGraphs playoff odds dropping below 1% by the start of May.

Arráez, controllable through 2025, wanted to stay, according to people with knowledge of the situation. But the Marlins were clearly wary of paying a player with defensive limitations and average power, regardless of how elite a hitter and beloved a teammate. Instead, they dealt him sooner than anyone could have imagined

Alcantara, who signed a five-year, $56 million extension in 2021 and won a Cy Young Award the year after, is still trying to make sense of it all.

“Everything was good last year, we made it to the playoffs, we won a lot of games, but I don’t know what happened,” Alcantara said. “We started making changes, we started trading people. But I don’t want to say too much because they make the decisions and I’m just here to play baseball.”

Alcantara, the Marlins’ longest-tenured player, represents a noticeable trend throughout the roster: Even he wasn’t homegrown. Only about a quarter of the current Marlins were originally drafted or signed by the organization, and only one — Nick Fortes, a catcher taken in the fourth round six years ago — is an everyday player.

The Marlins began the year with the second-worst farm system in the industry, according to ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel, a precarious position for a team that consistently ranks near the bottom in payroll and attendance and thus operates with a very small margin for error. Their infrastructure demanded an overhaul.

Bendix was brought in primarily to address that — to implement the draft-and-develop system that has made the cash-strapped Rays successful in a division with the big-spending New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. It’s a model that requires heavy financial investments in analytics and other development tools but is founded on the type of synergy and culture that takes years to build. That pursuit, critics of Bendix’s approach believe, doesn’t have to come at the expense of competing at the major league level.

“I think it’s possible to do both,” Bendix said when presented with that scenario. “It’s very difficult, but we have a lot of talent still on our major league team.”

The industry perception is that the Marlins will continue to subtract before the July 30 trade deadline, with Luzardo and Jazz Chisholm Jr. popular picks to depart. But Bendix argued that the Arráez trade — for reliever Woo-Suk Go, minor league first baseman Nathan Martorella and outfield prospects Dillon Head and Jakob Marsee — doesn’t preclude the Marlins from trying to win as soon as 2025 when, ideally, Alcantara and Perez are healthy enough to join Luzardo, Cabrera, Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers in the rotation.

The likelihood, though, is that this will be another long process — that at least one of those aforementioned pitchers won’t be there next year. And though Bendix hails from the front office that set a blueprint for a team like the Marlins, their fans’ cynicism is understandable. In his own way, Bendix understands where they’re coming from.

Twenty-seven years ago, Bendix was a 12-year-old diehard fan of a Cleveland team that lost the 1997 World Series to the Marlins on an extra-inning walk-off single in Game 7. The Marlins sold off their best players immediately thereafter and lost 108 games the following year, a turn of events Bendix remembers vividly. More teardowns followed.

The Marlins once again faded after winning their second championship in 2003, missing the playoffs in 16 consecutive seasons at least in part because they didn’t retain the two breakout stars from that World Series — Miguel Cabrera and Josh Beckett. They added big names in Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell to outfit a new, taxpayer-funded ballpark in 2012, then traded all three of them — plus Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson — by year’s end. A half-decade later, they gave up on an exciting young core headlined by J.T. Realmuto, Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, triggering the rebuild that sprouted the current crop — which might soon dissolve, too.

This could be rebuild No. 5 under owner No. 4 and GM No. 6, all in 31 years. Bendix is aspiring to build a sustained winner in a market that has seen promising clubs broken apart time and time again — something none of the others could do before him. He has refused, in prior interviews and in his recent conversation with ESPN, to put a timetable on when the Marlins might contend again.

His message to fans who have run out of patience?

“That we’re working extremely hard, every single day, to make that happen as quickly as possible.”

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