The terms of Kim Ng’s contract with the Marlins weren’t made public when she was hired as general manager in November 2020, but Barry Jackson, Jordan McPherson, and Craig Mish of the Miami Herald report that Ng’s deal is up at the conclusion of the 2023 campaign. There hasn’t been any public word about extension talks, though that seems to be by design, as Marlins owner Bruce Sherman prefers for the focus to be on the club’s playoff chase.
Sherman did give the GM a vote of confidence, stating that “Kim and the baseball operations team have worked diligently throughout the year to identify players that can help us succeed. Through continuous investments by our ownership group, our club has been able to make key additions to this promising roster that is now competing for the playoffs. The additions of Josh Bell and Jake Burger at the deadline have been a great spark to our lineup as well as great individuals in the clubhouse.”
Over the previous 19 seasons, the Marlins have reached the playoffs only once (in the shortened 2020 season) and have posted only five winning records. With that downbeat recent history in mind, it counts as a notable achievement that the 2023 squad has a 78-72 record and is challenging for a wild card position. There have been plenty of ups and downs in the Marlins’ season, yet at the very least, South Beach fans can look forward to two more weeks of pennant-race baseball and potentially some postseason action.
In general, it is a little unusual to see top executives go into a true lame-duck year, as the Marlins apparently don’t have even a club option over Ng’s services for 2024. Given how Miami was 137-188 in Ng’s first two seasons, it makes sense that Sherman might have wanted a full year to see if Ng could turn things around, plus in a sense 2023 is Ng’s first true season in charge of baseball operations.
Ng was initially hired when Derek Jeter was calling the shots as the Marlins’ CEO, plus VP of scouting/player development Gary Denbo (a longtime Jeter confidant) had an outsized influence within the front office, and manager Don Mattingly was continuing in the dugout as a holdover from the Jeffrey Loria era. However, Jeter shockingly parted ways with the Marlins in February 2022, Denbo was fired a few months later, and Mattingly wasn’t retained as skipper last fall.
Ng hired Skip Schumaker as Miami’s new manager, then embarked on her first relatively normal offseason as GM, free of front office tumult, the pandemic’s disruptive elements, or MLB labor disruptions. The focus was on upgrading the offense, and while the Fish still aren’t a big-hitting group, the acquisition of Luis Arraez was a clear win, and (as Sherman observed) Bell and Burger have both hit well since coming to Miami in deadline deals. As well, Jorge Soler bounced back from his very disappointing debut season in 2022 to post quality numbers this season.
Given the Marlins’ success this year under Ng, the Herald writers unsurprisingly note that “it would be surprising if she’s not invited back” on a new contract. As we saw with James Click and the Astros last year, no amount of on-field success can guarantee employment for a general manager if the owner isn’t entirely satisfied with how things are going, and it is possible Sherman might want to install an executive free of any past association with Jeter. That said, the Marlins have such a checkered history of ownership and front office upheaval that Sherman might not want to add to that history by changing GMs in the wake of what is shaping up as a successful turn-around.
Waiting to negotiate with Ng creates some risk for the Marlins since another team could conceivably emerge to offer her another front office position, though it is perhaps instructive to remember that Ng was an assistant GM under Brian Cashman with the Yankees in 1998-01. Through Cashman’s long stint in New York, he has routinely fully completed his employment contracts before signing new deals, even waiting until weeks or months into the offseason before officially putting pen to paper on his own contract since there always an understanding that he would be returning. If such an understanding similarly exists between Ng and Sherman, an announcement of a new contract for the GM might just be a matter of time.