Marlins may test the water in free-agent market

November 7th, 2019

MIAMI -- All options are on the table when it comes to the Marlins exploring ways to make major strides in 2020.

That means Miami is open to signing free agents, including those who have already been tagged with a qualifying offer, as well as entertaining trade options.

“We want to get better,” president of baseball operations Michael Hill said on Thursday. “I think that’s the bottom line, and ownership has given that message. We know there are going to be opportunities for us to explore and find ways to get better, via multiple avenues. I think that’s what we’re going to begin with when we get to Arizona on Monday.”

The fact that the Marlins are not ruling out free agents who were already extended a qualifying offer is a major development, because it leads to the possibility of signing free agents such as Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna or White Sox first baseman José Abreu. To acquire either would come with Miami parting with a high compensation Draft pick, which would not be the No. 3 overall pick in 2020.

Both Ozuna and Abreu still could accept their $17.8 million qualifying offer and stay with their respective club.

“I think we have to be open to everything that makes us better, as a team, and as an organization,” Hill said. “I don’t think we’re ruling out anything as we embark on our non-playing season.”

In preparation for the General Managers Meetings, which begin on Monday in Scottsdale, Ariz., Marlins management engaged in internal meetings this week at Marlins Park.

New bench coach James Rowson, who was formally introduced to the media on Thursday morning at Marlins Park, was in attendance at those meetings. An announcement on the rest of manager Don Mattingly's staff is expected next week.

Rowson was the Twins' hitting coach in 2019. As part of his duties in Miami, he will also have input in the hitting plans at both the big league and Minor League levels, though the lone title in his job description is “bench coach.”

“He’s had tremendous success, and he has a history as a hitting coach, but he’s going to be Donnie’s right-hand [man] as our bench coach, with an offensive background,” Hill said. “But our Major League hitting coaches will still oversee our hitting program.”

Minnesota, a franchise building around young talent, set an MLB single-season record in 2019 with 307 home runs. Miami, meanwhile, ranked last in the Majors in homers with 146.

“I look at the club here and I see a very similar situation, to where you have some players who have some Major League experience, and some guys who are getting some Major League experience,” Rowson said. “Now we’re just trying to put everything together and allow everybody to be part of something moving forward.”

Entering the third year of their building process, the Marlins will put an emphasis on improving the big league roster. They finished 57-105 in 2019, and ownership has stressed the importance of seeing better big league results.

A major focus in the first two years of the plan has been building from the Minor Leagues up. In that time, Miami's farm system went from being ranked at or near the bottom to a top-five system.

Four affiliates reached the playoffs in 2019, and the GCL Marlins won the championship of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

“We need to get better,” Hill said. “Our ownership has made it clear that we need to get better. I think what we’ve done organizationally is tremendous, and [there are] a lot of reasons for optimism. But we know that until we’re doing it at the highest level, we haven’t reached our goal.”