Inbox: How are OF, bullpen shaping up?

Beat reporter Christina De Nicola answers questions from fans

January 28th, 2021

The Hot Stove season has picked up, and so have the questions concerning Miami's outfield and bullpen. Without further ado, let's jump right into the latest Marlins Inbox.

Does the Marlins' seemingly persistent interest in adding outfielders indicate they are losing faith in one or more prospects? It seems to go against the "don't block the prospects" message when you have a Monte Harrison, JJ Bleday and others at or through the big league door.
-- @trowl520 via Twitter

Here's my thinking: Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte can become free agents after the 2021 season, which means there could be two to three openings in the outfield when next offseason arrives. It's unlikely the Marlins would turn to an all-prospects/inexperienced outfield for Year 5 -- a pivotal juncture, in my opinion -- of the build. Take a look at what the Blue Jays and Padres have done since their front offices deemed the teams “ready to win”: they complemented young homegrown talent with veteran additions via free agency or trade.

It doesn't hurt to inquire about players with proven track records. The names that have circulated the rumor mill so far this offseason present different cases. Since Anthony Santander (free agent in 2025) and Andrew Benintendi (FA in '23) would provide multiple years of team control, prospects would need to be part of the package. Signing free agents Adam Duvall, Yasiel Puig and Eddie Rosario, on the other hand, would require the Marlins outbidding other clubs and/or being a better fit. Santander (switch-hitter), Benintendi and Rosario also would provide a lefty bat in a right-handed-heavy lineup.

This ties into the question I was previously asked concerning the starting job in right field. In 2020, the Marlins posted an MLB-low .534 OPS at the position. A source told last Friday that multiple discussions are ongoing for a bat. Based on the lack of productivity in right, as well as the names mentioned in rumors, it's easy to assume that's where the club could upgrade.

Internal options include several tiers. You've got the players with MLB experience (Lewis Brinson, Magneuris Sierra and Harold Ramirez), followed by the top prospects who debuted in 2020 (Monte Harrison and Jesús Sánchez) and the prospects inching closer (Jerar Encarnación, JJ Bleday and Griffin Conine -- the final two are not on the 40-man roster). Then you have to take into account whether the universal designated hitter will take place in 2021. If not, could Garrett Cooper move to right field and Jesús Aguilar stay at first base in order to keep both of their bats in the lineup?

Anthony Bass or Yimi García for closer?
-- @jcarosemena1 via Twitter

With Bass in the fold, he'll join García, southpaw Richard Bleier and fellow offseason acquisitions Ross Detwiler and Adam Cimber as late-inning options. Bass has more career saves (15) than the rest combined (eight), so he would appear to be the front-runner. In 2020, the right-hander recorded seven saves (team high) and four holds for the Blue Jays.

A source told the Marlins are "not quite done" with the relief corps. There are still experienced relievers on the free-agent market; it's just a matter of how much the organization is willing to spend. Brad Hand, one of the top arms, signed a one-year deal worth $10.5 million with the Nationals. Available names with varying price tags include Alex Colomé, Jake McGee, Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria, former Marlins closer Brandon Kintzler, Tyler Clippard, Jeremy Jeffress, Cam Bedrosian and more.

Here's where I make a shameless plug for the Miami Marlins Radio Network's Hot Stove Show I co-hosted with Kyle Sielaff earlier this week. During the episode, we discussed how the bullpen has been constructed and what is still to come. With a 5.50 ERA in 2020, the Marlins acknowledged it was an area of focus that needed more than one addition. The acquisitions thus far haven't been splashy -- rather reliable strike-throwing veterans. Ideally, with an emphasis on strong starting pitching, Marlins relievers would need to record the final nine or fewer outs to secure a win.

Don't be surprised if the Marlins execute a closer-by-committee strategy should they not reel in a big name. It doesn't hurt to have multiple guys to turn to in a save situation. In December, Marlins manager Don Mattingly implied as much. He also delivered a vote of confidence in García, whom he has known since their time with the Dodgers.

"The bullpen -- I think as far as the closer situation -- I think we put the best collection of arms we can put together [that] gives us the best chance to get outs," Mattingly said. "You always love to have a guy back there that you know is the guy, but really in today's game, you want flexibility out there. Sometimes you say your best matchup is in the eighth and be willing to do that, maybe in the seventh. You'd like to be flexible in that way. I look at it like we're going to try and put our best collection of arms together, and then go from there."