Ng: Marlins have 'ear to the ground' in CF search

March 19th, 2022

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- With three weeks until Opening Day in San Francisco, the Marlins are still pursuing another "bat/center fielder," in the words of general manager Kim Ng, whose phone is up and running at 6 a.m. these days. She and her staff continue to make endless calls trying to address the situation.

But is there a deadline?

"Yesterday," Ng joked during Friday night's 8-3 Grapefruit League-opening win over the Nationals at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. "In a year like this, the situation being what it is, obviously you want to have that person in here as soon as possible. But you can't rush it, you can't force it. I think we have to have a good understanding where the market is and just make sure that we're making good decisions."

This week alone, the Phillies added Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos, who were on the Marlins' radar, and the Braves re-signed Eddie Rosario. Joc Pederson is headed to the Giants. With more names coming off the board, is there a sense of urgency? It's a fine balance for Miami's front office.

"There's a timeline that you would like to meet, but I don't ever want to force it because you might miss out on something if you force something," Ng said. "I've seen plenty of deals get done late in Spring Training. Plenty of deals get done late in the Trade Deadline. It's just something that is fluid, and I can tell you the staff and I have our ear to the ground and a good pulse on what's happening."

The Marlins designated Monte Harrison for assignment earlier on Friday. The team's only natural center fielder on the 40-man roster, that decision leaves the remaining internal roster options as Avisaíl García, Bryan De La Cruz, utility player Jon Berti and Jesús Sánchez, who hasn't appeared in center since 2019 at the Triple-A level. Miami also brought in two natural center fielders -- Roman Quinn, who started in Friday's opener, and Delino DeShields Jr. -- as non-roster invitees.

"Ideally, we want a center fielder who is an offensive threat," Ng said. "That would be our primary objective. If that's not attainable, and you're not going to mortgage the future for one, then I think you have to go to Plan B. And Plan B, there are some good offensive players out there on the market. Like I said the other day when we acquired Avi García, he has played some center field. Bryan De La Cruz has played some center field. We're going to mix and match and look at what our options are."

Plan B would include free agents Michael Conforto and Jorge Soler, both of whom the Marlins have been linked to; only Conforto has center-field experience. The club also has reportedly expressed interest in Pirates All-Star center fielder Bryan Reynolds, but the asking price is high.

As Ng described it, the trade and free-agent markets are "neck and neck," though it depends on the day. The Marlins, who are tied with the Mariners and Pirates with the most Top 100 prospects (with six apiece), have the benefit of enviable assets on the trade front. In acquiring Gold Glove catcher Jacob Stallings and Gold Glove finalist Joey Wendle prior to the lockout, they even avoided giving up players in the upper echelon of the farm system.

"To be able to have that arsenal of prospects is just huge for the organization," Ng said. "It's hard to acquire talent on the free-agent market at times, so trades are obviously another way to do it. We've got young players that other organizations are always looking to acquire since I've been here, so we're just ecstatic."