Are the Marlins done targeting starting pitching? If not, then who should they get?
There is sentiment within the organization to pursue another starter, but at this point, it would appear to be a low-cost, low-risk reclamation option. Unless the price came down on someone like Jason Hammel, then it appears Miami is targeting starters who offer depth. From what I've heard, the team doesn't appear to be high on Doug Fister.
Hammel, much like Fister, is not overpowering. The right-hander, of course, was highly successful with the Cubs in 2016, going 15-10 with a 3.83 ERA. The downside would be he's 34, and he is more of a finesse option. He relies heavily on his slider, and being right-handed and not a hard thrower may be a reason the Marlins are passing.
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Lefty Jonathon Niese and right-hander Dillon Gee are still out there, and there could be some interest. I wouldn't be surprised if the asking price for some of these free agents drops in January, and the Marlins sign another starter with big league experience.
You mentioned Mike Napoli as a potential platoon with Justin Bour. Who else might be an option to fill that role? Brian Anderson?
Napoli is from Broward County, and he would be a nice right-handed-hitting first-base counterpart to left-handed-hitting Bour. But I don't sense the Marlins are that interested in Napoli.
You raise an interesting point on Brian Anderson, ranked by MLBPipeline.com as Miami's No. 4 prospect. Anderson is a third baseman, and he was a standout in the Arizona Fall League. Anderson raised his stock to the point the Marlins consider him the third baseman of the future. Martín Prado is signed for three years, and Anderson could be ready to take over when Prado's deal is ending. There is no reason he couldn't see time at first base in Spring Training.
But foremost, I feel the organization doesn't want to tamper with Anderson's development. He should get some valuable experience being in big league camp for Spring Training. I wouldn't expect him to play first at this point. But if he continues to improve at the plate, he could accelerate his timeline to the big leagues. If playing first base can get him there more quickly, it could be an option.
Which player looks the most likely to be the right-handed first baseman off the bench? Chris Johnson, Jeff Francoeur, Xavier Scruggs? Why not Nick Hundley?
At this point, it doesn't appear any of the three you mentioned will be with the Marlins in 2017. Francouer, a career corner outfielder, has expressed interest in playing first base. It appears he is more of a fallback plan. Johnson could be a non-roster invitee, and Scruggs would likely be in the same situation.
Hundley, a catcher, has not played first base in a big league game. His bat would be nice coming off the bench, but with A.J. Ellis as the backup catcher and Tomás Telis waiting in the wings, I just don't see a fit with Hundley.
Have you heard Trevor Plouffe mentioned as an option for the Marlins at all?
I have not heard him mentioned, because the focus until this point has mostly been on pitching. When we get closer to Spring Training, you'll start to see more attention on right-handed bat candidates. Plouffe is a good name, because he has played some first base in the big leagues. With the Twins last year, he played 13 games (113 innings) at first. He's mostly played third base, where he could be a candidate to give Prado a breather. Versatility plays in the National League. And even if Plouffe isn't a standout at first base, in the late innings, the Marlins could use Miguel Rojas as a defensive replacement at first.
Working in Miami's favor is the free-agent market has a number of quality bench candidates. I like your suggestion.
It's no secret that the farm system is weak. But is there anyone we should keep our eyes on to make a splash or make a big step forward?
The names I've raised most often are right-hander Luis Castillo, lefty Dillon Peters and reliever Drew Steckenrider. All three could see big league time by midseason.
Here are two more names that could provide a more immediate impact: Austin Brice and Jake Esch. The two right-handers pitched in the big leagues down the stretch. According to MLBPipeline.com, Brice is Miami's No. 9 prospect and Esch ranks 10th.
Brice, a starter much of his Minor League career, has switched to the bullpen, where he is a candidate to pitch multiple innings. At this point, there hasn't been any decision to again give Brice a chance to start. The Marlins have added veteran bullpen depth, meaning Brice likely will open at Triple-A New Orleans. But he has options and could be called up early in the season. Esch, who has started, could open the season in Triple-A New Orleans' rotation. But the team is considering using the right-hander out of the 'pen as well.