10:31AM: In a conference call with Barry Jackson and Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald (Twitter links) and other media members, Jeter said the club had talks with Hill about a new contract but eventually decided to part ways. The club will have a GM/president of baseball operations in place, though Jeter likes his front office’s collaborative way of decision-making. Marlins director of player personnel Dan Greenlee has also been promoted to assistant GM, Jeter said.
9:12AM: The Marlins have moved on from president of baseball operations Michael Hill, the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). The news ends an 18-year run for Hill in Miami’s front office.
The move isn’t a firing, as Hill’s contract with the club (an extension signed under previous owner Jeffrey Loria) was up at the end of the 2020 season. There hadn’t been any word about a new deal for Hill, yet today’s news still counts as a surprise, both because there hadn’t been any indication that Hill wouldn’t be staying on with the club, and because the Marlins are coming off their first playoff appearance since 2003.
Despite this recent success, however, it could be that majority owner Bruce Sherman and CEO Derek Jeter simply wish to cut ties with one of the few remaining faces from the Loria era. The Marlins organization underwent a pretty substantial makeover once Sherman bought the team in 2017, though Hill retained his job and helped oversee the Marlins’ latest roster overhaul.
Hill steadily moved up the chain of command over his long stint in Miami, moving from an assistant general manager to the GM job in 2007, and then the president of baseball operations role in 2013. It is a tenure that is difficult to properly evaluate, given the tumult that Hill often had to navigate amidst Loria’s controversial ownership of the Marlins. As noted by the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson (Twitter links), “Hill never had total authority” to run the front office under either Loria or Sherman. “Loria made all significant personnel decisions in prior regime,” while Hill was the public face of the front office under Jeter but was “part of what was essentially a committee of people who gave input to Jeter on personnel moves.”
One common thread throughout Hill’s time with the Marlins has been the team’s knack for drafting and developing young talent, though time after time, this pipeline was undercut by Loria ordering ill-advised trades and major signings. Compounding the problem was Loria’s tendency to immediately lose faith in his team after failing to experience immediate success, which led to the front office having to then figure out how to cut costs and start over with another rebuild. The fact that the Marlins were able to generate a good core group of young talent multiple times over (both under Loria and under Jeter) is perhaps a hint of what Hill could achieve if he was able to run a more normal front office environment.
Hill is only 49 years old, and given his respected reputation around baseball, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him emerge as a candidate for one of the open GM/president of baseball operations jobs this offseason. The most immediate speculation has focused on the Reds, as president of baseball ops Dick Williams resigned earlier this month and Hill is from Cincinnati. It stands to reason that the Phillies and Angels might also have interest in speaking to Hill about their front office vacancies.
Speaking of the Angels, former Halos GM Billy Eppler could potentially be a candidate to step into Hill’s old role in Miami, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweets, as well as Yankees VP of baseball operations Tim Naehring. Both Eppler and Naehring were in the Yankees organization during Jeter’s time in New York, and Jeter has shown a propensity for hiring people with ties to the Bronx.
It also isn’t necessarily clear whether or not a new Marlins hire would enjoy any more autonomy than Hill did, since Jeter is ultimately making the baseball decisions. A new GM or president of baseball ops might simply be trusted with handling day-to-day duties and being a member of the aforementioned “committee” reporting to Jeter. Joel Sherman of the New York Post notes that Gary Denbo, the Marlins’ director of player development and scouting, is seen around baseball as being Jeter’s top front office advisor, so a new general manager might not even rank second in Miami’s front office pyramid.
Still, there is bound to be plenty of industry interest in being part of a Marlins organization that has signs of turning the corner. After ten losing seasons, the Fish went 31-29 to reach the postseason and then defeated the Cubs in the NL wild card series before being swept by the Braves in the NLDS. This success was in spite of a widespread COVID-19 outbreak within the clubhouse that impacted 18 players and coaches and put the Marlins’ season on hold for over a week.