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New-look Marlins must answer questions in '18

Pitching, power among issues up for discussion in Miami
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- A five-time World Series champion with the Yankees, Derek Jeter knows something about being part of a winning culture. Now the chief executive officer of the Marlins, "The Captain" is committed to putting a solid foundation in place for a brighter future in Miami.

Riding a string of eight consecutive losing seasons, Jeter has already made sweeping changes to the roster and front office. Some of the changes included parting with the reigning National League MVP Award winner, Giancarlo Stanton, and other popular core players.

MIAMI -- A five-time World Series champion with the Yankees, Derek Jeter knows something about being part of a winning culture. Now the chief executive officer of the Marlins, "The Captain" is committed to putting a solid foundation in place for a brighter future in Miami.

Riding a string of eight consecutive losing seasons, Jeter has already made sweeping changes to the roster and front office. Some of the changes included parting with the reigning National League MVP Award winner, Giancarlo Stanton, and other popular core players.

The tough decisions were necessary, Jeter contends, because the organization lacks depth, and the objective is to build from the ground up.

Video: Marlins eying veteran starter, outfielder

"The fan base has been through quite a bit," Jeter said during the Winter Meetings. "We haven't been winning. So, if you haven't been winning, then it's time to make a change. In order to make a change, there's going to have to be some moves. There may be some unpopular decisions at times."

As the calendar turns to 2018, the Marlins embark on a new era -- with many new faces.

"Every decision that we make as an organization is to try to put us in a better position," Jeter said. "We're trying to fix something that is broken. The fans want a team that's going to win."

Moving forward, MLB.com addresses five pressing questions confronting the Marlins in the new year.

1. Will there be more wheeling and dealing?
Already one of the most active teams in the Hot Stove season, the Marlins made three major trades in a span of a week in December. Dee Gordon was dealt to the Mariners, Stanton went to the Yankees and Marcell Ozuna landed with the Cardinals. Those trades netted 10 players including Starlin Castro, projected to play second base, and hard-throwers Sandy Alcantara and Jorge Guzman, now ranked as the Marlins' first and second prospects by MLBPipeline.com.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Castro leaps to make a smooth grab on liner

Since late June, the Marlins have made seven trades that brought in 20 players. Are more big deals on the horizon? Center fielder Christian Yelich, signed for five more years, may not be comfortable being part of the building process. President of baseball operations Michael Hill said he plans on talking with Yelich.

The Marlins have a number of players other clubs covet -- such as right-hander Dan Straily and Castro.

Video: MIA@PHI: Straily K's 10 over six strong innings

2. Pitching, Pitching, Pitching
It's no secret why the organization is moving in another direction. The pitching didn't hold up, and Miami's 4.82 team ERA ranked 26th in the Majors.

Straily and Jose Urena were the most reliable starters in 2017. Straily went 10-9 with a 4.26 ERA, leading the club with 181 2/3 innings. Urena topped the team in wins, posting a 14-7 mark with a 3.82 ERA in 169 2/3 innings. A big question will be if left-hander Adam Conley, who struggled and spent time at Triple-A, will bounce back to his '16 form. Conley had a 6.14 ERA in 102 2/3 innings in '17. It was a different story in '16, when he was 8-6 with a 3.85 ERA.

Video: MIA@NYM: Conley tosses seven terrific innings

3. Dealing with a power outage?
Subtracting Stanton and Ozuna removes a combined 96 home runs from the lineup. As a team, the Marlins had 193 home runs, 17th most in the Majors. Stanton belted a MLB-most 59 home runs and Ozuna chipped in with 37. Justin Bour had 25 homers and Yelich added 18, and those are the most of the returning players.

The Marlins can't replace Stanton and Ozuna's production with a couple of players, but they do need to round out the outfield. If Yelich is dealt, that would be another major piece of the lineup that will need to be addressed.

Video: Must C Combo: Yelich hits and robs a home run

4. Is Alcantara an ace in waiting?
The headliner of the Ozuna trade is Alcantara, the right-hander with the 100-mph fastball. The 22-year-old has top-of-the-rotation potential, and Miami envisions a possible future ace.

Will he be ready to step in, or need more development? Alcantara made eight relief appearances for the Cardinals in '17, and there is some question if he has the three-pitch mix to be an elite starter.

Video: Michael Hill discusses trading for Sandy Alcantara

The Marlins are hoping he does. The fastball is certainly there, as his average fastball velocity was 98.51 mph, according to Statcast™. In limited big league innings, batters hit .167 off his four-seam fastball and .333 against his slider.

5. Closer by committee?
A number of candidates will get an opportunity to close, but the Marlins no longer have a proven closer. Brad Ziegler, who has 95 career saves, collected 10 in the second half after AJ Ramos was traded to the Mets. But Ziegler, 38, is a candidate to be dealt, and he is more of a ground-ball specialist.

Ideally, Miami would like to have a reliable power arm, and Drew Steckenrider may grow into the position. The 26-year-old had one save in '17, and his fastball average is 95.33 mph. Steckenrider struck out 54 while walking 18 in 34 2/3 innings.

Video: MIA@COL: Steckenrider strikes out the side in the 8th

Kyle Barraclough, though, may get the first look at closing based on experience. But the 27-year-old struggled with command, and had a WHIP of 1.38. Barraclough struck out 76 and walked 38 in 66 innings.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

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