The Marlins reportedly are in agreement with manager Don Mattingly on a two-year contract extension with an additional option. Daniel Álvarez-Montes of El Extrabase was the first to break news of the deal, and sources such as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman and the Miami Herald’s Jordan McPherson and Barry Jackson confirmed the reports on Thursday night:
Sources: The #Marlins and Don Mattingly agree to a contract extension. Official announcement coming tomorrow.— Daniel Álvarez-Montes (@DanielAlvarezEE) September 20, 2019
Don Mattingly is bring extended by Marlins for 2 years plus an option. @DanielAlvarezEE 1st to mention extension.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) September 20, 2019
Mattingly’s contract was set to expire at the end of this season, and there was a rather widespread belief that he would not be brought back for a multitude of reasons: The team has performed terribly for the last two seasons, Mattingly was hired by the previous ownership, and he’s been making a rather hefty salary (estimated to be somewhere between $2.5 to $3 million) for a manager of a rebuilding, low-budget team. However, there has been talk about CEO Derek Jeter having a soft spot for Mattingly because he grew up rooting for him as a member of the Yankees and eventually ended up being his teammate in New York. While that’d seem to be an irresponsible reason to keep a manager around from a business perspective, it’d be interesting to know if it actually did play into Jeter’s decision at all.
Just in terms of his performance, it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise that Mattingly would be extended a longer leash — after all, he’s had to deal with an ownership change and a subsequent gutting of the roster over his four seasons in Miami. The Marlins were competitive under Mattingly’s watch in 2016 and ‘17, finishing in third place with a 79-82 record in ‘16, then going 77-85 and finishing in second the year after. José Fernández’s tragic death in September 2016 was a massive blow to the organization in and of itself, but ownership and the front office decided to respond to that loss — and deal with a lack of cash in the process — not by trying to fill the void, but by stripping the team bare and starting from the ground up. Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, J.T. Realmuto, and Dee Gordon, among numerous other bit contributors, were dealt over a year-and-a-half stretch with the organization receiving little in return — the most productive major-leaguer Miami got in any of those deals, starter Zac Gallen, has already been flipped for prospect Jazz Chisholm, though it’s worth noting that starter Sandy Alcantara is tied for the major-league lead in shutouts with two despite a pedestrian 4.00 ERA this season.
But with the Marlins organization having an ugly reputation for constantly tearing things up and starting over again for no reason in particular, it just felt like a typical Marlins move for them to fire the manager and start fresh again. After all, Miami had nine different managers (and that doesn’t include two separate Jack McKeon stints) in the 16 seasons that Jeffrey Loria owned the club. While Mattingly certainly shouldn’t be devoid of criticism — he’s only won one playoff series in nine seasons as a manager, he’s nearly 100 games under .500 over four seasons in Miami, and his in-game decision making has certainly been questionable more than a few times — he hasn’t shown himself to be an aggressively bad manager either, and with the Marlins not being close to competing right now, it seems to make sense for them to have a stable voice leading their young players. With as much turnover as they underwent during the Loria years — and for that matter, during the Jeter-and-friends years, at least from a player perspective — it’s refreshing to see them actually have some stability for once. For the sake of a fan base that hasn’t experienced playoff baseball since the Marlins won the World Series 16 years ago, hopefully they’ll be rewarded for this decision and Mattingly will be the manager who finally leads them back to contention.