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The Miami Marlins will regret letting Kim Ng walk

In professional sports, it’s incredibly difficult to find competent, reliable, and talented personnel to run your team. The most effective and successful teams in Major League Baseball have found a way to have the right person at the top making the roster decisions and leading a front-office to success. It’s a difficult job in sports, but any team with a quality GM will be sitting pretty.

So why in the world did the Miami Marlins let Kim Ng walk?

Well, it wasn’t so much letting her walk as it was more driving her away. On Monday morning the baseball world was upheaved with the sudden announcement from the Marlins that Ng had declined her option for the 2024 season and would not be returning as the GM. On X, formerly Twitter, Chairman and Principal Owner Bruce Sherman released the following statement:

Immediately, speculation made the rounds on social media as it typically does, but Tyler Kepner of The Athletic quickly gave some context from Ng herself in a thread on X.

“Last week, Bruce (Sherman) and I discussed his plan to reshape the Baseball Operations department.” she said, “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 (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.”

What exactly was Sherman’s plan to reshape the Baseball Operations department? ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that the Marlins wanted to hire a President of Baseball Operations over Ng, making her second-in-command by putting someone over her. Ng declined a contract extension and chose to become a free agent.

Ng, 54, was hired as the first female GM in MLB, the NFL, NBA, or NHL  in November 2020 and became the highest-ranking woman in a major men’s North American professional sports front office. Over the course of three seasons, she would take a team that finished 67-95 in 2021 to an 84-78 record in 2023 and the first full-season playoff appearance for the Marlins since 2003.

She helped build up a team quickly, despite the tumultuous culture for the Marlins behind the scenes such as the sudden departure of Derek Jeter, through smart signings and trades while fostering and promoting a pitching staff that was among the league’s best. Though she was limited, Ng made the most of her opportunities to fill the front office her way when openings were available and was able to bring in Skip Schumaker as the manager in 2023.

The product she put out on the field is evidence of what she can bring to a club. The acquisition of Luis Arráez was controversial at first, but he changed the offensive landscape of the Marlins organization. The Marlins had one of the lowest strikeout rates in baseball this season (21.3%) and one of the highest contact rates (77.6%). Pablo López ended up having a fantastic year pitching for the Minnesota Twins, but it was a win-win trade for both teams.

Her ability to acquire building blocks and swing big over her three years with the team resulted in the successful trajectory the organization was now on. In 2021, she made two deals at the trade deadline, acquiring left-handed pitcher Jesus Luzardo from the Oakland Athletics for Starling Marte and outfielder Bryan De La Cruz from the Houston Astros for reliever Yimi Garcia. She traded away veterans on expiring contracts for young players with projectable futures.

Prepping for the 2022 season, the Marlins sent outfielder prospect Kameron Misner to the Tampa Bay Rays for infielder Joey Wendle. They also bolstered their catching situation with a strong defensive catcher in Jacob Stallings from the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitcher Zach Thompson and a pair of prospects. Finally, they acquired Tanner Scott who has become one of the top relievers in baseball from the Baltimore Orioles for a pair of lower-tier prospects.

Then in 2023, Ng put together even more pieces for the team. She acquired relievers A.J. Puk, JT Chargois and Matt Barnes along with utility player Xavier Edwards and shortstop prospect Jacob Amaya. She has also explored the free-agent market by bringing in helpful veterans like Jorge Soler along with minor league free-agent signings. When things didn’t work out with some players, see Jean Segura, she traded them away to make room for additional upgrades.

The biggest feather in Ng’s cap from the 2023 season came from her deadline deals to acquire Jake Burger and Josh Bell to bolster the offense as well as David Robertson to help in the bullpen. In 53 games, Burger hit .303/.355/.505 with nine home runs while Bell hit .270/.338/.480 with 11 home runs. Burger is still under team control until 2029 and all he cost was minor league pitcher Jake Eder. Bell on the other hand is under contract through 2024 but has an opt-out this winter but the cost to acquire him wasn’t steep either.

Nearly all the moves that Ng made as the Marlins GM paid off one way or another. “I trust her with every decision she’s made as far as acquiring players,” first-year manager Schumaker told the Miami Herald after the team made the playoffs,  “Her staff has been amazing to help us do this.”

“That’s Mama Kim right there,” Marlins outfielder Jazz Chisholm added, “She’s been doing the right things, making the right moves every year. This year just shows what she can do. I hope she stays with us and hope we get more in the future.”

Unfortunately for Chisholm and the Marlins clubhouse that isn’t the case. Marlins’ upper management has been a mess for years and there is no clear reason why Sherman would want to restrain Ng by putting someone over her in the front office. If they wanted so badly to add a President of Baseball Operations, why not just promote Ng to the role? In three years she has carried the Marlins back into legitimate relevance while not breaking the bank but also not being a cheap penny pusher.

Now, the Marlins have the tough task of figuring out how to pick up where Ng left off, but that is no easy task as one can’t simply replace and replicate what she managed to do. Instead, another team in the league has the chance to benefit from the extraordinary qualifications she possesses by handing her the keys to lead their front office. After a long 30-year journey to achieve her goal, there is no reason for Ng to have someone looking over her shoulder as she goes about business.

When she carries another team to glory, perhaps even a World Series title, the Marlins are going to regret they let her get away.

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