ATLANTA -- A month remains in the regular season, and the Marlins find themselves in a position very few outside of the organization thought would be possible.
Four weeks to the finish, and the Marlins are in the National League Wild Card mix. Granted, they're a long shot, but the fact they're even in the playoff conversation shows the tremendous strides the club has taken since dropping 100 games in 2013.
This time last year, there were so many unanswered questions -- especially around an offense that ranked last in the Majors in runs scored. Where would the production come from? And could the young pitching, the bright spot in an otherwise dim year, continue to progress?
The proof is in the standings. As startling as it may sound, Miami will be playing meaningful games in September.
"That was the goal," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "We've said from Day 1, we were looking to improve our offense. We always felt like we would be strong with our pitching. If you pitch well and get timely hitting, you've got a chance to win."
Time is running out, but the Marlins (65-67) are clinging to a playoff chance. They start a three-game set at Atlanta on Friday after going 2-4 at the Rockies and Angels.
What's next? Hill assesses the state of the team heading into the final month. Here's a checklist of five things the front office is weighing.
Is a last-minute trade possible?
It's doubtful. The waiver Trade Deadline is Sunday night, and Monday is the first day that rosters can be expanded.
The team is monitoring the market, but any additional help will likely come from within.
"If there was an area that we felt like we could add, we'd look into it," Hill said. "Obviously, we're always looking for ways to improve our roster. But I would say, what you see is what you get, and hopefully we can get some guys healthy."
Relief help on the way?
The bullpen took a hit when it was revealed on Tuesday that Bryan Morris returned to Miami to get his right hip examined.
The prognosis is encouraging. Morris has a groin strain, and he shouldn't miss extended time.
Relievers Dan Jennings (concussion) and Carter Capps (right elbow) are expected to return early next month.
"We hope they will be nice adds for a September run," Hill said.
Winning now vs. evaluating?
With each game being crucial to the standings, the Marlins' emphasis is on results over giving playing time to either prospects or young players.
"The whole year is part of that evaluation process," Hill said. "For us, I think it's a little bit different in that we're trying to win up here. We might not to be so inclined to go young or give innings or at-bats to a young guy, because we're competing for a playoff spot. From that standpoint, [September] changes a little bit, because we are trying to be one of 10."
Andrew Heaney an option?
If a starting pitcher is needed, lefty Andrew Heaney could be an option. But he doesn't sound like a priority. The Marlins' top prospect did get a taste of the big leagues, and the 23-year-old struggled in four starts before he was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in July.
Unless Heaney has a clear role and could help Miami reach its postseason goal, it is doubtful he will get the September call.
"It's going to depend on what we think his usage is going to be," Hill said. "If we don't see an opportunity for him to pitch and get what he needs to help his continued development, then it might be a case where we just start him on his offseason program and get him bigger and stronger and have him ready for go for Spring Training."
How many callups to expect when rosters expand?
Just because rosters are eligible to expand on Monday doesn't mean Miami will bring up an excessive amount of players.
Foremost, the team is looking at players who can help it win now. So expect roughly three or four early callups. Typically, an extra catcher is included. So backstop J.T. Realmuto is a likely to join a few relievers.
"It will be nice to have some extra bodies here," Hill said.