MIAMI – As the postseason dominated the MLB landscape in October, the Marlins’ front office devoted much of the first month of the offseason tending to internal business.
The focus the past four weeks has been on rounding out manager Don Mattingly’s coaching staff, as well as dealing with roster decisions in preparation for the start of the Hot Stove season.
In October, chief executive officer Derek Jeter, president of baseball operations Michael Hill, vice president of player development and scouting Gary Denbo and Mattingly, along with a team of scouts, traveled to Arizona to take part in staff meetings as well as attend several Arizona Fall League games.
With the trading and free-agent signing period about to begin, MLB.com explores five questions the Marlins face:
1. Where will the club find more run support?
The Marlins scored 615 runs in 2019, the second fewest in the Majors. To that point, upgrading the offense is the organization’s top priority, and first base is a position that will be explored. Free agents like José Abreu and Justin Smoak are potential targets. Internally, seven players were used at first in 2019, with Garrett Cooper (73 games) seeing the most action. Neil Walker and Martín Prado also split time at first. But those two are free agents, and neither may be back. Cooper is the closest to fit the profile, possessing 25- to 30-homer potential. But he’s dealt with his share of injuries and missed the final two weeks with a bruised left knee. The 28-year-old appeared in 107 total games and finished with 15 homers and 50 RBIs. Cooper also saw his share of time in right field.
2. How do the Marlins patch up the ‘pen?
With a wave of high-end starting pitchers getting closer to being big league ready, the Marlins plan to devote plenty of resources to the bullpen. It was a weakness in 2019, as Miami’s relievers had a 4.97 ERA, sixth highest in the Majors. The closer spot is up for grabs. José Ureña was the Marlins’ Opening Day starter the past two seasons, but he finished up ’19 in the bullpen. Is he cut out to close? The jury is still out, mainly because Ureña had never done it before. There’s also a chance the Marlins could explore trading Ureña, who is in his second season of arbitration. Other internal options for the role are Ryne Stanek, Jarlin García and Jeff Brigham. Drew Steckenrider, who missed most of the season with a right elbow injury, is expected to be back and will fit into the late-inning picture.
3. What's to do with Lew?
The centerpiece of the Christian Yelich trade with the Brewers prior to the 2018 season, Lewis Brinson was expected to take a major step forward in becoming the Marlins' center fielder for the foreseeable future. It hasn’t worked out that way.
Instead of establishing himself as a regular, Brinson struggled for a second straight season. Even after being optioned to Triple-A New Orleans for a few months to find his swing, the results didn't carry over when he returned to Miami. Brinson has a Minor League option for 2020, but it’s time for him to start producing to see if he fits into future plans.
4. Third or right for Anderson?
Just having Brian Anderson in the lineup is big boost for the Marlins. The 26-year-old set personal highs for home runs (20) and RBIs (66) before being hit by a pitch that resulted in him missing the final five weeks with a fractured fifth metacarpal in his left hand.
Still, the club has not settled on a primary position for Anderson, who has been regarded as the team's third baseman of the future. He played 67 games at third base and 55 in right field. Anderson had eight defensive runs saved at third and five in right. In the National League, positional flexibility is important, and he has proven he can excel at two spots.
5. How will the rotation round out?
In the first half, starting pitching was the strength of the Marlins, and the biggest reason for optimism in their long-term outlook. But Miami's depth was tested in the second half, especially after Zac Gallen was traded to the D-backs and Trevor Richards was dealt to the Rays. The Marlins ended up using 10 starters, their fewest since going with 10 in 2012. In every season in between, they used either 12 or 13.
Sandy Alcantara and Caleb Smith have emerged as the club's top-of-the-rotation candidates, with Alcantara in line to assume the role of ace. But there are questions surrounding Pablo López, who missed time for the second straight year with a right shoulder strain. Jordan Yamamoto, Elieser Hernandez and Robert Dugger are also right-handers who made big league starts. The organization does not plan on rushing prospects Sixto Sánchez or Edward Cabrera.