Kim Ng Deserved More From the Marlins

Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Ng broke ground as both the majors’ first female general manager, and its first of East Asian descent, the culmination of a three-decade rise through the front offices of the White Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, and Major League Baseball. But after a three-season run during which she guided the Marlins to just their fourth postseason appearance ever, not to mention their first full-season finish above .500 since 2009, she and the team have parted ways. Reportedly, while the Marlins exercised their end of a mutual option for 2024, she declined her end, believing she had earned a stronger commitment from ownership.

After a decade and a half of interviews that put her on the cusp of history, Ng became the first female GM of a men’s team in any major league North American professional sport when the Marlins hired her in November 2020. She took over on the heels of the pandemic-shortened season, during which the Marlins went 31-29 and made the expanded playoffs, their first postseason appearance of any kind since 2003. The Marlins backslid to 67-95 in 2021 and 69-93 last year amid considerable organizational upheaval, but this year’s team broke through, winning 84 games (albeit with a -57 run differential) and drawing 1.16 million fans, the NL’s lowest total but the team’s highest since 2017, when it was still under the ownership of Jeffrey Loria. The Marlins finished third in the NL East, and through a tiebreaker claimed the fifth playoff seed. They dropped two games to the Phillies and were eliminated on October 4.

Generally such breakthroughs elicit extension offers that provide security instead of placing executives in lame-duck positions. Ng did receive an offer, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, but it came with a catch. Owner Bruce Sherman is seeking to bring in a president of baseball operations, a senior executive to whom Ng would have reported. Understandably, moving down the pecking order wasn’t what Ng had in mind, as she had hopes of expanding and reshaping the front office under her own vision, cutting ties with holdovers in the scouting and player development department “with whom she did not reach a good working relationship,” according to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman.

Via The Athletic’s Tyler Kepner, Ng issued a statement:

“Last week, Bruce (Sherman) and I discussed his plan to reshape the Baseball Operations department. In our discussions, it became apparent that we were not completely aligned on what that should look like and I felt it best to step away.

“I wish to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Marlins family and its fans for my time in South Florida. This year was a great step forward for the organization, and I will miss working with Skip [manager Skip Schumaker] and his coaches as well as all of the dedicated staff in baseball operations and throughout the front office. They are a very talented group and I wish them great success in the future.”

All of this feels very par for the course for the Marlins, who haven’t exactly cultivated a winning tradition because, you know, those things cost money. Since Sherman purchased the Marlins from Loria for $1.2 billion in October 2017, the team’s payroll has consistently ranked among the majors’ bottom 10, and often among the bottom five, just as it generally was with Loria:

Miami Marlins Recent History
Year 40-Man Payroll Rk Top exec W-L Win%
2018 $90.5M 27 Michael Hill, POBO 63-98 .391
2019 $75.7M 29 Michael Hill, POBO 57-105 .352
2020 $74.7M* 21 Michael Hill, POBO 31-29 .517
2021 $60.9M 27 Kim Ng, GM 67-95 .414
2022 $83.6M 26 Kim Ng, GM 69-93 .426
2023 $110.2M* 22* Kim Ng, GM 84-78 .519
SOURCE: Cot’s Contracts
* = via RosterResource. 2020 payroll is before prorating. Yellow = made playoffs.

When Sherman purchased the team, he brought Derek Jeter on board as CEO with a $5 million salary and a 4% ownership interest. With Hill serving as president of baseball operations under Jeter, the Marlins nearly halved their payroll from 2017 to ’21 by trading away the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Dee Strange-Gordon, and J.T. Realmuto, bringing in prospects such as Sandy Alcantara and Zac Gallen, Lewis Brinson, Sixto Sánchez, and more (spoiler alert: they didn’t all pan out). When Jeter found Sherman unwilling to increase spending significantly so as to woo free agents, he stepped down and divested his ownership share in February 2022, saying, “[T]he vision for the future of the franchise is different than the one I signed up to lead.” His departure was the bellwether of further change. In June 2022, vice president of player development Gary Denbo, a Jeter hire who alienated numerous staffers, was fired. In September, manager Don Mattingly, who had piloted the team since 2016, resigned.

Ng had ties to Mattingly from her time as assistant GM with the Dodgers from 2002–11, and to Jeter and Denbo from her time as assistant GM with the Yankees from 1998–2001. All of them predated her arrival in Miami. The hiring of Schumaker provided her with an opportunity to put a fresh stamp on the organization, and to bring in somebody from outside her sphere. The early returns on Schumaker have been positive, and both he and Ng have been credited with changing the culture, bringing a new attitude and credibility to a franchise desperately in need both.

Ng inherited a team well-stocked with young pitching; in 2020, 53 of its 60 starts were taken by pitchers in their age-25 seasons or younger, with two of those pitchers (Sánchez and Trevor Rogers) among the four Marlins who appeared on our 2021 Top 100 Prospects list, along with shortstop Jazz Chisholm Jr. (acquired from the Diamondbacks in a 2019 deadline trade for Gallen) and outfielder JJ Bleday, the fourth pick of the 2019 draft. Though the names have changed as pitchers have developed and/or gotten injured, Ng has maintained that enviable stockpile. Two-thirds of the team’s starts this year went to pitchers in their age-25 seasons and younger, including 20-year-old phenom Eury Pérez, a 2019 international signee who placed third in this year’s Top 100. Alcantara, the reigning NL Cy Young winner, accounted for more than half the remaining starts, and even as he regressed in his age-27 season before missing the final month and needing Tommy John surgery, the unit thrived, finishing in the majors’ top 10 in ERA, FIP, and WAR. Even amid their 90-plus losses, the rotation ranked among the majors’ top 12 in all three categories in 2022, with the first two in the top half (and 17th by WAR) in ’21.

(For as much of a bummer as it is to lose Alcantara for next season, Ng did sign him to a five-year, $56 million extension in November 2021. After rehabbing he’ll have at least two more seasons under team control, three if the Marlins exercise his $21 million option for 2027.)

That largely-inherited core has helped to compensate for the team’s limited free agent spending. Of the nine players Ng signed to major league contracts, only four were for multiple seasons. Only three had total values of more than $8.5 million, and the returns on those (Avisaíl García at four years, $53 million, Jorge Soler at three years, $40 million, and Jean Segura at two years, $17 million) haven’t been great, with both García and Segura below replacement level. Soler did hit 36 homers this season, and Ng flipped Segura at the deadline (along with infielder Kahlil Watson, a 45-FV prospect in High-A) to Cleveland for Josh Bell, who had been sub-replacement level in the first year of his two-year, $33 million deal. The Guardians instantly released Segura, eating his remaining salary, while Bell perked up to produce a 119 wRC+ with 0.7 WAR post-trade, aiding the Marlins’ playoff push.

Indeed, Ng’s more notable transactions have involved trades, of which the best thus far has been the July 28, 2021 deal that sent pending free agent Starling Marte to Oakland for Jesús Luzardo, who’s developed into a very good starter and is under club control through 2026. Her most well-known deal is probably the January one that paid quick dividends for both sides, as she sent Pablo López and two teenage prospects to the Twins for Luis Arraez, who flirted with .400 in the first half and won the NL batting title; meanwhile, López helped the Twins win the AL Central and break their 18-game postseason losing streak. Besides Bell, her other key deadline trade this year netted third baseman Jake Burger from the White Sox for 45-FV lefty pitching prospect Jake Eder. Burger hit for a 131 wRC+ and produced 1.1 WAR down the stretch; he’s under club control through 2028.

Not to be overlooked is Ng’s trade for reliever Tanner Scott via a five-player deal with the Orioles in April 2022. In his 10th professional season, the 29-year-old lefty broke out to lead the majors in WAR (2.8) and WPA (4.90) this year thanks to improved control and weaker contact. Ng also acquired reliever A.J. Puk from the A’s for the disappointing Bleday this past February; he and Scott combined for 27 of the team’s 43 saves.

Not all of Ng’s deals have panned out, less due to traded youngsters blossoming into stars à la Gallen (a Hill trade) than to meager performances by the players acquired. The 2021 deadline flip of pending free agent reliever Yimi García to Houston brought outfielder Bryan De La Cruz, who after a promising late-’21 stint has netted just 0.6 WAR in two seasons of regular play. The November 2021 trade of three players for the Pirates’ Gold Glove-winning catcher Jacob Stallings has yielded back-to-back sub-replacement level campaigns. This year’s late-July acquisition of David Robertson from the Mets in exchange for two teenage position players — an unexpected opening salvo regarding both teams’ deadline intentions — brought in a once-elite reliever, though Robertson posted a 5.06 ERA and was supplanted by Scott as closer.

As for the Marlins’ drafts, the jury is still out, as none of the players chosen on Ng’s watch have reached the majors. She dealt Watson, the team’s 2021 first-rounder, after his stock had fallen due to an on-field incident with an umpire. Of the Marlins’ other first-round picks over the past three years, 2021 pick Joe Mack grades out as a 40+ FV prospect, as does 2022 pick Jacob Berry, a third baseman (the only college player of this group). This year’s first rounders, righty Noble Meyer (45+ FV) and lefty Thomas White (45 FV) are the team’s third- and fourth-ranked prospects on The Board behind second baseman Yiddi Cappe and righty Max Meyer, their only two prospects among the Top 100. Meyer, the third pick of the 2020 draft, is recovering from August 2022 Tommy John surgery but could join the rotation at some point next year.

If Ng’s track record in handling the Marlins’ roster is hardly flawless, what head of baseball operations’ record is? The point stands that she built a playoff team despite limited resources, which at the very least puts her ahead of the nine teams around the league that didn’t crack the postseason at all from 2021-23, some while spending much more money. The Marlins are trending in the right direction and will bear Ng’s fingerprints for years. She deserved the security and authority to continue building.

As to where the Marlins go from here, assistant GMs Brian Chattin, Dan Greenlee, and Oz Ocampo are said to be candidates for the GM spot. No names have surfaced yet for the president of baseball operations position, but whoever pursues the job will surely note that both Ng and Hill departed immediately after producing playoff teams — suggesting, perhaps, that escape from the Marlins is the real reward.

As for Ng, she began her career with the White Sox in 1991, rising from an intern to assistant director of baseball operations before leaving in ’96. Those ties could make her an appealing candidate to become the team’s president of baseball operations above Chris Getz, who was promoted from assistant GM to GM after senior VP Ken Williams and GM Rick Hahn were fired in August. The Red Sox also have an opening after firing Chaim Bloom; reportedly, potential candidates such as Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes, Phillies GM Sam Fuld, Twins POBO Derek Falvey, and former Rangers POBO Jon Daniels have all declined to interview given the organization’s recent instability. Maybe Ng will see things differently.

The other high-profile executive opening is the Mets’ GM job after Billy Eppler’s surprising resignation. Owner Steve Cohen recently hired David Stearns as the team’s POBO, so being second in command might hold less appeal for Ng, but on the other hand, she’d join a franchise flush with resources, and her knowledge of the NL East would make her a particularly valuable addition.

To these eyes, the return to New York that would make more sense would be via the Yankees, with Cashman assuming the POBO job. Initial reports that Hal Steinbrenner would bring in outside consultants to perform an audit proved inaccurate, but amid the team’s internal navel-gazing after missing the playoffs, they ought to realize the need for new perspectives in the room. Ng’s quite familiar with Cashman and the pressures of the Bronx, and could bring back what she’s learned in nearly two decades since leaving the team.

Ng began interviewing for GM jobs in 2005, when she did so with the Dodgers, and she interviewed with at least four other teams over the next decade and a half before landing the Marlins’ job. She’s demonstrated her acumen as a front office leader, and deserved a longer run in Miami. But while we can lament the likelihood that the executive pool will become less diverse in her absence, the reality is that this is the Marlins’ loss more than it is hers. Whether or not she lands her next executive job this year, she’ll move on to bigger and better things soon enough.





Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky @jayjaffe.bsky.social.

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jwa05001
7 months ago

i don’t get it. Her time with the Marlins was largely par for the course. No huge wins, no big losses roster or farm system wise.

they offered a par for the course, originally agreed upon option for 2024. Didn’t extend her or fire her.

so why did she deserve better?

Richiemember
7 months ago
Reply to  jwa05001

Simple answer: she didn’t.

‘Diversity’ is the only, and quite non-baseball, answer as to why this article exists. As Jay’s cited facts quite fairly make clear (kudos there), Ng did, aah, OK, or shot ‘par for the course’ as you state.

From my own research, 3 years is a bit short for a GM to be jettisoned for ‘aah’ results. But only a bit. (‘5 years’ is what I came up with for an overall tenure average, and that included guys who voluntarily moved on) Now a position being created above you that wasn’t there in the first place does connote a demotion, so I understand Ng moving on.

But she’s in no way a GM martyr. If you postulate a ‘1’ GM-expectations level, Ng was held to a 1.1 level. Maybe 1.2, tops.

Richiemember
7 months ago
Reply to  Richie

Oh, and from an Organizational Management perspective, “I want to fire a whole lot of people-I mean, ‘replace’ coughcough them with MY! people” is grounds for my making authority-level changes such that “no, you cannot fire all these people whom I don’t think deserve termination”.

Cool Lester Smoothmember
7 months ago
Reply to  Richie

My brother in Christ…what about Sherman’s tenure could possibly earn him the benefit of the doubt, haha?

Was it the CEO quitting, then publicly stating that Sherman had lied to him about his willingness to spend?

Was it firing the pitching specialist who has run their player development over the last 4 years, because he didn’t get on with his cronies?

Or is it this latest, clearly calculated, decision to snub the first GM to take the Marlins to a proper playoffs in 20 years?

Richiemember
7 months ago

?? I’m puzzled as to what you think this has to do with OKing the firing of people whom you think have done alright by the organization?

(OK I’m not puzzled; every down-voting reader here knows it has nothing to do with it)

Cool Lester Smoothmember
7 months ago
Reply to  Richie

Lol.

diminishedsixthsense
7 months ago
Reply to  Richie

lmao are you okay man?

Ukranian to Vietnamese to French is back
7 months ago
Reply to  Richie

A single imperative: we.

“Diversity” – this is a unique and not at all baseball view of the question of why this article exists. Although they all rightfully testify that he proclaimed Jeia (glory there), Ng did, aah, well, or shot “off course”, as you claim.

According to my own researches, 3 hours is a bit short for the fact that GM was thrown out for “ah” results. Call dad. (“5 Rokyv” is something that was invented during the hardened middle term of being in positions, and it included guys who voluntarily moved away) Now there is a position over it, but there was no mistake, it means that they were appointed to positions, so I understand , so Ng ruhaetsa gave.

However, she is a martyr of GM. If you postulate the level of expectations of GM “1”, at Ng kept at the level of 1.1. 1. and 2. may melt.

offthewall
7 months ago

This blowhard is back to mock anyone who dares have a POV outside the alt-left Fangraphs-approved POV.

cowdisciplemember
7 months ago
Reply to  jwa05001

It isn’t “par for the course” if they hire someone new to be your boss.

montrealmember
7 months ago
Reply to  cowdisciple

Yup It seems they wanted her gone so they demoted her, hoping she would quit. In my book that is dishonest. Stand up and fire her if that is what you really wanted. Do it the honest way. Don’t try to put it on her for walking away.

cowdisciplemember
7 months ago
Reply to  montreal

This is kind of how the Astros fired Click, too.

Manco
7 months ago
Reply to  montreal

Avoiding media attention is probably why they did it this way. It’s a lot better publicity to part mutually than firing the first female GM. Dishonest? Maybe, but they were still willing to keep paying her; they just wanted someone else to have the final say on her work. In the end, she got the memo, and I’m willing to bet she finds a new, probably better job, assuming she doesn’t have any particular fault during her time in Miami.

cowdisciplemember
7 months ago
Reply to  Manco

I guess. I’m not sure how much this signifies they were really willing to keep paying her – it’s a lot like the Astros offering Correa 6/160m (to move off SS for an unnamed starter not yet on the team).

Without commenting on Ng’s abilities as a GM, I think we can all agree they’d be better off with a new ownership group and Ng than with the current schmucks and a new GM.

Manco
7 months ago
Reply to  cowdisciple

They offered a contract. Whether in good faith or bad, if she accepted, regardless, they would be making good on those terms.

As for ownership, sure. High unlikely. I think a fresh slate is best for both parties. But even a new owner wouldn’t hire Ng. Kinda hard to sell a new owner on her track record after spending billions.

gettwobrute79member
7 months ago
Reply to  jwa05001

Considering that under NG, Miami made the playoffs in a full season for the first time in 20 years, that is the opposite of “par for the course.” It’s also not standard operating practice to have a GM enter the final year in a lame-duck position, as Jay illustrates. What was in the “offer” wasn’t really an offer at all.

Your post managed to use par for the course incorrectly on one hand and disingenuously on the other. A rare feat!

jwa05001
7 months ago
Reply to  gettwobrute79

they were 20 games over .500 in 1 run games and had a negative run differential. they got lucky

thornt25
7 months ago
Reply to  jwa05001

Looking at the run differential, the contributions from pre-arb players, and the minor league system doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the 2024 and 2025 Marlins. MLB teams can break out unexpectedly, though.

gettwobrute79member
7 months ago
Reply to  jwa05001

You can argue about process, her moves, the state of the farm systems. But ultimately, what happens on the field is really what matters most. And, lucky or not, her team made the playoffs. They don’t have to give that appearance back because they were lucky through the season.

CliffH
7 months ago
Reply to  gettwobrute79

Ok but the team getting lucky doesn’t make her a good GM

Easyenoughmember
7 months ago
Reply to  CliffH

With a bottom third payroll? Yes, it does.

thornt25
7 months ago
Reply to  gettwobrute79

You don’t automatically give a GM an extension just because the team makes the playoffs. If a pitcher is called up in September, gets hit hard, doesn’t strike out many batters, loads the bases every inning, but somehow manages a 2.5 ERA and goes 5-0, you wouldn’t offer him an extension because he has a knack for keeping runs off the board.

sadtrombonemember
7 months ago
Reply to  thornt25

This is a good analogy but there are people who think that “keeping runs off the board” is still the best way to measure it and so it will be lost on them.

Baseball Analyzed
7 months ago
Reply to  gettwobrute79

She drafted badly, signed badly, made the farm worse and quit instead of taking responsibility. Good riddance.

Philip Christymember
7 months ago

What a dumb comment.

Michaelmember
7 months ago
Reply to  Philip Christy

I believe you overrated the comment by calling it just “dumb”.

wokegraphs
7 months ago
Reply to  jwa05001

She didn’t deserve better, of course. Her position player development has been quite bad and a team like the Marlins has to be able to develop hitters. Joe Mack? Jacob Berry? Khalil Watson? There’s not a single drafted and developed hitter on that roster who looks likely to be a meaningful big league contributor. On the other hand, she’s done a great job developing pitchers but less so in trading them for hitters. Sherman wanted someone above her who could improve the development staff. That he wanted her to stay on board seems an acknowledgement for the good pitching roster development. Such is life and I doubt she’s getting defended this way if she was a white man. Such is Fangraphs.

jwa05001
7 months ago
Reply to  wokegraphs

Absolutely not. And those who claim to be the most tolerant, continue to form opinions based strictly on people’s race or gender.

dezremember
7 months ago
Reply to  jwa05001

Awww, you get downvoted because others largely don’t agree with you? How, exactly, are you not being tolerated here?! It’s pretty funny (see: pathetic) to see how a few of you are trying to denigrate another opinion because you claim it’s rooted in race and gender…and no one is making that argument besides you few. You think her baseball record is subpar? Cool. Then why bring up race and gender at all? Seems like it bothers you for no good reason. And yet again, we have numbnuts on a fantasy baseball message board lamenting how they’re oh so brave and unpopular opinions are being unfairly judged by the alt-left. Give me a break. You’re not a victim here. Neither are those who agree with you. But most people here don’t agree and are allowed to express that. Get over yourself, you brave message board warrior.

Willians Astu-stu-studillomember
7 months ago
Reply to  dezre

That’s not the kind of tolerance they were talking about.

thornt25
7 months ago
Reply to  wokegraphs

You don’t understand. She deserved better and was let down by everyone from ownership, her staff, the players, to the fanbase. All of these people need to take accountability for the middling to below average results.

dezremember
7 months ago
Reply to  wokegraphs

Yeah keep building strawman arguments. No one has mentioned her race or gender in defending her, but rather the team’s success and subsequent playoff berth this year. With a tiny payroll. You can express your opinion without making a victim of the “white man,” which only shows your true intent here. Pretty gross, you and others decrying the virtues of inclusivity while no one is making those arguments. We get it. You have a different opinion of her track record in baseball. So why not stick to those specific ideas instead of trying to start a fight along gender and race lines?

wokegraphs
7 months ago
Reply to  dezre

I mentioned all the microaggressions and said Miami should learn and do better! I thought I was on the right side of history here?

It’s the moralizing tone of suggesting “desert” for Ng. Jay wouldn’t have done that for any GM with Ng’s track record of prospect development failure if she wasn’t so intersectional. If Ben Cherington makes the playoffs next year but Nutting hires over him because Davis and Termarr Johnson still aren’t tracking to be meaningful MLB bats, no one will moralize about it, guaranteed.

Last edited 7 months ago by wokegraphs
montrealmember
7 months ago
Reply to  dezre

Well stated dezre

wokegraphs
7 months ago
Reply to  montreal

Well aped, Montreal!

Greg Simonsmember
7 months ago
Reply to  wokegraphs

I’m guessing wokegraphs is a white man.