Inbox: Mattingly, FA targets, prospects, more

November 23rd, 2020

With a void in the front office filled following the hiring of Kim Ng, the Marlins can move forward during Hot Stove season. Below, beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers fans' questions in the latest Inbox.

How long does Don Mattingly have left on his current contract? Is an extension in the works?
-- @andyacr

Recently named the National League Manager of the Year Award winner by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), Mattingly is under contract through the 2021 season. As part of his deal, there is a mutual option for ’22. Mattingly signed his extension in September '19. With so much uncertainty regarding revenue streams in '21, there isn’t much urgency to work on another extension at this point. Mattingly and chief executive officer Derek Jeter have a very solid relationship, so I don’t see any issues regarding Mattingly’s long-term future with the organization. Mattingly turns 60 on April 20, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Is a realistic possibility for the Marlins?
-- @real_fish_fan

All catching options could be realistic for the Marlins. The Rays declined Zunino’s $4.5 million club option in October. Zunino is a solid defensive catcher, who grades well in framing metrics, and has the reputation of handling a pitching staff. That’s clearly a priority for the Marlins. He also has World Series experience, as he was a contributor for the Rays in the postseason.

Offensively, Zunino has had his issues -- he’s a career .200 hitter with a .270 on-base percentage. I won’t put too much weight in his stats for 28 regular-season games in 2020, when he slashed .147/.238/.360. With the Mariners from '17-18, he did combine for 45 home runs, so he has power potential. I wouldn’t say Zunino is Miami’s highest catching priority, but he would be someone to consider to be in the mix with and .

Would the Marlins maintain pace in a regular 162-game season?
-- @Havana_Casino

Fair question. Even Mattingly has said publicly since the playoffs ended that many will still doubt the Marlins based on a 60-game season schedule. I’ve already seen commentators predicting the Marlins will finish last in the NL East in 2021. Obviously, this year was played with a “survive the day” mindset. Over the course of 162 games, there is a completely different pace. As we saw this year, the Marlins do have depth, especially pitching.

So for me, the direct answer to your question is connected to the strength of the rotation. Miami’s first four starters -- , , and -- stack up pretty nicely with anyone. Then you have lefty , who is in the mix with and . There’s rotation depth.

And when prospects Edward Cabrera and Max Meyer are ready, those are two more front-of-the-rotation-caliber arms. There’s obviously other holes to fill -- namely closer and bullpen -- and at least another impact hitter. But the foundation is in place to contend in a 162-game season.

Biggest need, in your opinion.
-- @OversteerTV

More than one specific position, I’ll break it down into two parts. First, I think they need a closer. did an excellent job filling the role in a shortened 60-game season. But ideally, Kintzler is more of a setup reliever. I’d prefer a closer who strikes out more batters.

Secondly, an impact bat. That could be at second base, outfield or wherever. I’m talking purely the offensive side. My two targets would be to close and . Obviously, both are former Marlins. Now we don’t know if there will be the universal designated hitter in 2021. If there is, Ozuna would be ideal. If not, I’d still live with some subpar defense at a corner spot for a year, because the DH should be a go for good in ’22.

When do you think Edward Cabrera will be up, and what role do you see him having?
-- @grifftheiii

I was hoping to see Cabrera, Miami's No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline, added to the NL Division Series roster, but he wasn’t. The hard-throwing right-hander was on the taxi squad during the playoffs and threw in simulated games during those days. Still, the organization felt he wasn’t ready, and that’s understandable. You have to be careful with a talent like Cabrera. If not for some mild right shoulder discomfort in the summer, he would have joined the Marlins during the season.

As for next year, it boils down to health. The fact he lost an entire Minor League season of games means he will be brought along more slowly. In terms of talent, Cabrera is right up there with the best in the organization. It’s just a matter of him establishing that he’s not only healthy, but also sharp with his pitches, and built up to log a high volume of innings.