Marlins' big offensive move involves fences

Club hopes renovation at Marlins Park will benefit lineup

January 26th, 2016

MIAMI -- With all their core position players in place, the Marlins spent a bulk of the offseason targeting pitching. They ended up filling their most pressing need, a top-of-the-rotation starter, by signing free-agent left-hander Wei-Yin Chen earlier this month.

As for making an attention-grabbing roster move to boost an offense that ranked second to last in the National League in runs scored (613) and home runs (120) during the 2015 season, the club has remained relatively quiet. Still, an executive decision promises to increase productivity for Miami this season: Moving in and lowering the fences at Marlins Park should benefit the lineup.

Marlins Park fence renovation underway

"I think it makes a difference, especially for our players who play 81 games [at Marlins Park]," said Marlins executive vice president of operations and events Claude Delorme. "When they see the extent of the changes -- and you'll see it more in center field -- the combination of lowering the fences and bringing the fences in, I think it will be a positive change, definitely for the players."

The major change in terms of distance is in center field, which will move in from 418 feet to 407. In left and right field, the fences will be lowered from 11 1/2 feet to 7 feet.

Some of the changes may appear subtle, but the impact likely will be reflected in the statistics. The cost of the renovations is roughly $500,000, or slightly below the MLB minimum salary. If the players' home and road splits somewhat even out, the stadium modifications will be a bargain.

In 2015, only five Marlins reached double digits in homers. Of the group, only one (J.T. Realmuto) hit more blasts at home than on the road. Giancarlo Stanton paced the team with 27 home runs, and he hit 14 of them away. Justin Bour followed with 23 (13 away). Realmuto, Marcell Ozuna and Derek Dietrich each had 10. Realmuto connected on six homers at home, with one being an inside-the-park drive. Ozuna went deep eight times away, and Dietrich hit seven of his homers on the road. Christian Yelich had just one of his seven homers at Marlins Park.

Even though the Marlins weren't a prolific scoring club last year, the front office liked the core eight players enough to retain them all. The team did explore trading Ozuna for a front-line starting pitcher, but once Chen signed, Ozuna came off the market. Had Ozuna been dealt, Miami was prepared to move Yelich to center field and go with a platoon in left field of Dietrich and a right-handed option.

The Marlins never seriously considered signing free agent Yoenis Cespedes, who opted to return to the Mets. The most significant position-player addition was Chris Johnson, a right-handed-hitting alternative to Bour at first base. Johnson will also back up Martin Prado at third.

Even with the modifications, Marlins Park is likely to remain a pitcher-friendly stadium. But the changes should help the mentality of the hitters, who will likely feel more confident.