MIAMI -- Now that the non-tender deadline has passed, the Marlins have more clarity of what the free-agent market looks like for them.
MLB.com addresses these questions in the latest Marlins’ Inbox.
Is Lewin Díaz going to be the Marlins' starting first baseman in 2021?
The Marlins appear to be more about the moment than anticipating the future of even their more touted prospects. Wednesday was a reminder of that as Miami reached agreements on one-year deals with Aguilar ($4.35 million) and Cooper ($1.8 million). Aguilar and Cooper, of course, split time at first base in 2020.
Aguilar and Cooper were two of the Marlins’ more productive performers in the abbreviated 60-game season. So clearly, first base will be one of the most followed positions in Spring Training.
MLB Pipeline ranks Díaz eighth on the Marlins' Top 30 list. The first baseman turned 24 in November, and gained some MLB experience in 2020. Díaz played in 14 games, and he hit .154 in 39 at-bats. The sample size, obviously, is very small, but he now has a taste of what it takes to be in the big leagues. Díaz is a left-handed-hitting power threat. In 2019, he hit 27 home runs in 121 games across three Minor League teams. The projections are for Díaz to be an everyday first baseman. How quickly that happens depends on how much he improves when Spring Training starts. If he does emerge, it could create a trade scenario down the road.
How active do you see the Marlins trading some prospects to bring in a guy or two? Our system is stacked with outfield and pitching.
I don’t see the Marlins being active when it comes to trading prospects. And while you say they are stacked with outfield and pitching prospects, the bottom line is most, if not all, of these players still have to prove themselves over 162 games. For example, as talented as Sixto Sánchez is, the right-hander had his struggles over seven regular-season starts. Sánchez, 22, is the club’s top-rated prospect, and I firmly anticipate him being in the rotation. But he logged 39 innings in the regular season and eight more in the playoffs in 2020.
Sánchez threw 114 innings in the entire Minor League season in 2019. Is he really ready to make 30 big league starts and throw 180-plus innings? That’s why I wouldn’t be too eager to trade pitching prospects. Now, Miami did move three starters with controllable years in the past two years. Zac Gallen was dealt to the D-backs for Jazz Chisholm in 2019. And on Aug. 31, Caleb Smith and Humberto Mejía were traded to the D-backs for Starling Marte. The Marlins should be reluctant to part with their rotation depth. As for the outfield, left fielder Corey Dickerson and center fielder Marte are back. But right field is wide open.
How likely would a Brad Hand reunion be for the Marlins?
To me, Brad Hand would be a top priority. Starting pitching is the strength of the organization. Ideally, you want to back them up with a lock-down closer. Hand, of course, was drafted by the Marlins and broke in with the organization. The left-hander, who is now 30, has since established himself as a reliable closer. With the Indians in 2020, he paced the Majors with 16 saves.
Hand also is expected to draw plenty of interest around the league. The veteran has been linked to the Dodgers as a potential target.
There are so many options for right field. What does it end up looking like?
It looks like there will be plenty of competition in right field. There isn’t a true frontrunner. Matt Joyce is now a free agent. Lewis Brinson shouldn’t be written off, because the Marlins haven’t given up on him. Brinson made strides in 2020, and will get plenty of chances in Spring Training. Monte Harrison and Jesús Sánchez are two other candidates. Even Cooper, who has played right field as well as first base, could be in the mix. JJ Bleday, the club’s No. 2 prospect, also could make things interesting. Bleday may wind up in the big leagues at some point in 2021. It may not be Opening Day, but could definitely happen at some point.
What key pieces do the Marlins need to bring in to replicate what they did in 60 games to 162 games?
I think they need to strengthen the bullpen. Closer Brandon Kintzler and setup right-hander Brad Boxberger are both free agents, and the Marlins will need to find replacements for both. Adam Cimber was acquired this week from the Indians for cash considerations, so he is an option. An impactful, middle-of-the-order threat is a huge need. That player could come from within, be signed or obtained via trade. Players non-tendered on Wednesday could enter the picture. I also think they need some answers at catcher. Jorge Alfaro has entered arbitration, and he was tendered on Wednesday. Alfaro struggled in 2020, but most likely will start off the season as a candidate to play regularly. If he struggles, then the team may explore other options.