Inbox: Will Walker signing affect Castro's future?

Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers questions from Marlins fans

February 1st, 2019
Miami Marlins' Starlin Castro hits a two-run single off Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Brandon Finnegan in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, May 6, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)John Minchillo/AP

What is 's future with the Marlins now that has been signed?
-- @Athletics89, via Twitter

Nothing really changes for Castro, at least for the first half of 2019. The four-time All-Star is expected to be the Marlins' everyday second baseman. But Walker is there to fill in if Castro needs a day off. I anticipate Walker will play a lot at first base, as well as getting some time at second base and third when necessary. Walker also can fill in at either outfield corner spot.
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Castro, who is making $11 million this year, is a potential trade candidate around midseason. Because of his salary, he didn't have much trade value this offseason. But if Castro has a good year, closer to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, he could draw trade interest. At that point, more clubs might be willing to acquire Castro, because they then could be on the hook for roughly half his salary, plus a $1 million buyout, if they don't exercise his $16 million club option for 2020.
Walker is making $2 million, and he is a nice pickup because of his versatility.
Will the Marlins sign a veteran free-agent outfielder or stick with in-house options?
-- @EspoBoomin, via Twitter

Once the trade saga is over, I wouldn't be surprised if the Marlins went after a veteran outfielder. To me, it makes sense to explore signing , who would be a nice veteran addition as a corner outfielder. The Rockies reportedly are interested in bringing back Gonzalez.
Miami, obviously, has internal options, such as prospect . But he's likely to open the season at Triple-A New Orleans. For the start of the season, there's definitely question marks in the outfield.
Do you think Harrison and will be called up to the Marlins this year? If so, what month do you think it will happen?
-- @TDup25, via Twitter

I feel both Harrison and Diaz have a legitimate shot to be in the Majors at some point, but it is up to them to determine if they're ready. Harrison made strides with a refined approach in the Arizona Fall League, where he made plenty of consistent hard contact. But he still struck out 215 times at Double-A Jacksonville last year. So if Harrison continues to show improvement, a midseason callup is possible. I would think June or July at the earliest for him. Diaz, who reached Triple-A New Orleans last year, is a left-handed hitter with power potential. He probably joins Harrison at New Orleans to start the season. If Diaz performs, he will be someone to watch for, especially if Castro is traded by July.
Is there a method to the madness of designating for assignment reliever ? He shows lots of promise and is coming off a good year with good peripherals and has four years of control.
-- @Noahdevine, via Twitter

It appears Wittgren got caught up in the numbers, because the Marlins had to create room on their 40-man roster for Walker, who officially signed on Tuesday. You are correct that Wittgren has shown plenty of promise at the big league level. I wouldn't be surprised if a trade is being worked out. Remember, Wittgren had a minor procedure on his right elbow before the 2018 season, and he battled through that. I think Miami has some internal candidates who are getting closer to being big league ready, and Wittgren was the choice to let go.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the direction of Derek Jeter's Marlins. Is this franchise moving in the right direction, or are we simply rebuilding for another dismantling?
-- @dsweeneyjr, via Twitter

When the ownership group, headed by Bruce Sherman and Jeter, purchased the club, it pledged to build an organization from the bottom on up. The front office has been focused primarily on restocking a depleted farm system, which it continues to do, and is making strides in that direction. The Marlins also have spent a lot of resources improving the Minor League facilities, including their academy in the Dominican Republic. Another offseason project includes numerous enhancements to Marlins Park. Much of what they have done this offseason has not been focused on traditional player moves that impact the Major League club.
I anticipate that the Marlins will be more active in free agency for higher-priced players a year from now . It's important to note that the organization has been dealing with revenue issues for a long time. Attendance -- even with , and others -- ranked in the bottom five in the Majors. The current TV contract expires in 2020, but I wouldn't be surprised if a new deal is in place before then. That deal could bump the local TV contract from around $18 million a season to $80 million.
It's all part of a broader plan to strengthen the entire organization, while infusing as much talent as possible to all levels. The whole process requires patience. Even if 2019 is another 95-plus loss season, as long as the Marlins continue to make the right decisions in drafting and player development, fortunes on the field can swing as soon as '20.