Ng, Marlins still targeting upgrades at Winter Meetings

December 7th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- The Marlins have been quiet through the first two days of the Winter Meetings, but not for lack of trying.

General manager Kim Ng on Tuesday night confirmed the club targeted free-agent center fielder/first baseman Cody Bellinger (Cubs), first baseman Josh Bell (Guardians) and left-hander Andrew Heaney (Rangers).

"Sometimes you think you're close and you're not," Ng said. "You have no idea what's going on in the other GM suites. Sometimes these things materialize very quickly, and sometimes something happens that makes them react in a way that you didn't necessarily anticipate and they come back and they say, 'OK, we'll do that, too.' But it's just hard to tell. It's really hard to gauge."

With those options off the board, Miami will continue to pursue upgrades to the lineup. There are several things to keep in mind when doing so. When checking on infielders/utility players, for example, the Marlins must remember All-Star Garrett Cooper is the only natural first baseman on the 40-man roster. Or that there still isn't a natural center fielder, though several in-house candidates saw extended action there in 2022.

"I guess what I would say is that we're looking to improve the offense, and that position can be almost anywhere on the field," Ng said. "I think right now the way our team looks, we have ways to pivot, whoever that person is, to pivot them elsewhere or pivot them in areas that maybe they hadn't thought of yet."

That means remaining active in both the free-agent and trade markets. In Ng's assessment, trades are being held up by the free-agent market.

"Nothing imminent," Ng said. "We've had a lot of conversations with clubs talking about trying to move previous discussions along. I think for some of the clubs, in terms of trades, I think the market is starting to flesh itself out. I think there's progress being made. And then free agent wise, I've had discussions as well, but there's nothing imminent."

That could allude to Pirates All-Star outfielder Bryan Reynolds, whom the Marlins expressed interest in last offseason. He recently requested a trade, though Pittsburgh stated the organization isn't looking to deal him. That, of course, could change if the right offer comes along.

When asked whether the Marlins are in on any of the remaining top-tier free agents still available, Ng said they were "exploring all options." Last offseason, the Twins shocked the baseball world by signing shortstop Carlos Correa to a three-year, $105.3 million contract with an opt-out following the 2022 season. He exercised it, once again making him a free agent.

Over the past two days, the 101-win Mets reportedly added American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and the National League pennant-winning Phillies reportedly agreed to terms with shortstop Trea Turner and right-hander Taijuan Walker, while nearing a deal with left-hander Matt Strahm.

Is there a sense of urgency to get something done because of those moves?

"I think you always have to take note of what your division rivals are doing, but I also don't think that you need to be panicked by it," Ng said. "I don't think that serves anyone well. You don't really want to make decisions based on emotion like that."