MIAMI -- The Marlins enter the Hot Stove season with plenty of burning issues. At the top of the list for the new ownership group, headed by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter, is whether to retain the core or look to rebuild.It's not a cut-and-dry decision, because Miami showed it
MIAMI -- The Marlins enter the Hot Stove season with plenty of burning issues. At the top of the list for the new ownership group, headed by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter, is whether to retain the core or look to rebuild.
It's not a cut-and-dry decision, because Miami showed it has an offense that is ready to compete, but there is a shortage of pitching, including at the Minor League levels.
Manager Don Mattingly is returning for his third season. But how much of the roster from a 77-85 club will stay intact? We're about to find out.
Free agents can start talking with other clubs as of 9 a.m. ET on Thursday, but they can't sign elsewhere until Monday at 5 p.m. ET.
Free agents: Outfielder Ichiro Suzuki ($2 million option declined), infielder Mike Aviles, catcher A.J. Ellis, lefty Jeff Locke, righty Dustin McGowan.
Arbitration-eligible players: Left fielder Marcell Ozuna, catcher J.T. Realmuto, righty Dan Straily, first baseman Justin Bour, infielders Derek Dietrich and Miguel Rojas.
With so much uncertainty, MLB.com looks at three pressing issues.
Status of Giancarlo Stanton?
For years, the baseball world wondered what Stanton could do if he stayed healthy for a full season. The answer came in loud and clear. The four-time All-Star became the first Marlins player to lead the Majors in home runs (59) and RBIs (132). Stanton had an MVP-worthy season, but does he fit into the team's future plans? His salary will jump to $25 million next year, and $295 million remains on his record-setting contract. If Miami feels it doesn't have enough players around Stanton to contend, the slugger could be traded.
How much pitching?
Pitching is needed at all levels, which is why the Marlins may break the roster up in hopes of stockpiling enough arms for the future. Miami's team ERA of 4.82 ranked 26th in the Majors, and the 822 runs allowed were the sixth most. Jose Urena (14-7, 3.82 ERA) emerged as the Marlins' top starter, and Straily finished 10-9 with a 4.26 ERA. Dillon Peters showed promise, but he may need more Minor League innings. Edinson Volquez, who started on Opening Day, may miss all of 2018 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, and Wei-Yin Chen may also not be available due to a left elbow injury.
Keep the core or rebuild?
Even if Stanton is traded, it doesn't automatically mean the club will undergo a complete overhaul. By moving the remainder of Stanton's contract, the Marlins would be better positioned to systematically reconstruct their roster. Without Stanton, the club may be able to retain Ozuna, who is eligible for arbitration for two more years. While Realmuto and Christian Yelich could bring in a big return on the trade market, the team may be able to trade other players in hopes of addressing pitching.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.