Inbox: Will Marlins extend Mattingly beyond '19?

Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers fans' questions

November 13th, 2018

Do you think the Marlins will have a new coaching staff after the 2019 season when manager Don Mattingly's contract is up?
-- @kevinsantos1212

As you noted, Mattingly's four-year contract expires after next season. But I wouldn't be surprised if he and the Marlins agree on an extension either before the start of Spring Training or before/during the regular season. The Marlins like Mattingly and the calming influence he has on a young roster. I could see the two sides agreeing on a deal, which would create more continuity. So I'm not looking at Mattingly as a lame duck in 2019. I think he will be part of a long-range plan. As for his staff, there is usually some level of turnover after every season.
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What do you think the return for a guy like J.T. Realmuto could be?
-- @tLLoyD199

From the Marlins' standpoint, the asking price is pretty high, meaning a top-prospect caliber talent to headline a package likely of three or four players, depending on the quality of the return. At the recent General Managers Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif., eight to 10 teams expressed some level of interest in Realmuto. Clubs like the Braves, Astros, Dodgers, Nationals, Brewers and more are among the possibilities.

It's important to note that even though Realmuto's agent, Jeff Berry of CAA, has stated publicly that his client is not open to signing an extension, the Marlins still have no urgency to make a trade. There's speculation that the Marlins need to move Realmuto now to maximize his value, rather than risk losing him through free agency after the 2020 season. In theory, that could be the case, but it doesn't mean the return won't be high if a deal is made in July or even next offseason. Also, if clubs now are reluctant to part with their top prospects, then Miami may be better off retaining Realmuto to at least start the season. After all, he's affordable. In his second season of arbitration, MLB Trade Rumors projects Realmuto's salary will jump from $2.9 million to around $6 million.
I have said this from the start, and nothing really has changed: Realmuto's presence on the Marlins for at least the start of 2019 comes down to the offer on the table. If something makes sense, a trade could happen. Otherwise, the Marlins have no rush to do anything.
What is the Marlins' No. 1 priority in the free-agent market?
-- @Svenstipher

President of baseball operations Michael Hill is already on record saying the organization is in the market for more offense. That could come either via trades or free-agent signings. The free agents we're talking about are not the big names out there, such as Miami native Manny Machado. The type of free agents that are potential targets are first basemen like Matt Adams and veteran infielder , who can play all four infield positions. Corner infielders and corner outfielders are free agents who will be explored.
Do you think Dan Straily and will get moved for some prospects to build up more Minor League depth? If Castro is traded, is an option at second base in 2019?
-- @PoldiAnslinger

At the start of the offseason, I felt more strongly that Straily would not be back. But now I'm getting the sense the right-hander indeed may be part of the rotation next season. Straily enters his second season of arbitration, and he's been a steady veteran. What raises a potential red flag is Straily was injured at the start and end of the season. If he's dealt, look for the Marlins to try to add a veteran free-agent starter to help log innings so the organization won't feel tempted to rush prospects.
As for Castro, the veteran second baseman is set to make $11 million in the final year of his contract. Because of his salary, it will make it difficult to find a trade partner this offseason. A more realistic trade scenario for Castro is July.
Diaz is worth paying attention to. The 22-year-old second was part of the deal with the Brewers, and he is ranked by MLB Pipeline as Miami's No. 9 prospect. Diaz opened the season at Double-A Jacksonville before finishing up at Triple-A New Orleans. Diaz probably will start off 2019 again at New Orleans, and he indeed could be ready to reach the big leagues midseason, should Castro be dealt.
Is still the front-runner to be the Marlins' starting first baseman in 2019?
-- @Athletics89

A native of Hialeah, Fla., O'Brien made the most of his September callup. The 28-year-old belted four home runs and drove in 10 runs in 22 games after being promoted in September. Granted, it was a small sample size -- just 66 at-bats -- but the staff was impressed with his approach. On a team that ranked last in the Majors in runs scored and home runs, O'Brien provides power. His average exit velocity, according to Statcast™, was 92.1 mph on all balls put in play. The MLB average is 88.4 mph.
Among internal candidates, O'Brien is the front-runner. But look for Miami to add some competition.