MIAMI -- Before heading to Scottsdale, Ariz., for the General Managers Meetings, which begin Monday, Marlins officials spent a few days last week meeting internally to review their offseason strategies.
Along with identifying potential trade and free-agent targets, a new topic on the table commanded some time and discussion -- how to fill the extra spot being added to the roster.
A notable change for all clubs in 2020 is the rosters are expanding to 26, with a maximum of 13 being reserved for pitchers.
“It’s something that we talked about a lot in the meetings that we just concluded,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “You look at how our roster has been constructed over the last probably four years, we’ve carried 13 pitchers. You look across the game, most clubs have carried 13 pitchers, and it’s created a short bench.”
Now, manager Don Mattingly will have an extra position player at his disposal.
For most of his first four seasons in Miami, Mattingly preferred an extra reliever. But a shorter bench increased the importance of having players who could move around the diamond defensively, perhaps at the expense of an offensive presence.
There are many ways the Marlins may go about filling that fifth bench spot. One could be carrying a third catcher, or at least a player who could catch and play another position, like first base.
Hill added that the organization prefers versatility, and they likely will go with players who provide defensive flexibility.
“I think, as a National League club, we’re always going to look to add versatility and have versatile players to stretch our roster as best we can,” Hill said. “With players to be able to move in and out and play multiple positions.”
On the surface, this appears to rule out Miami targeting free agents who profile mostly as designated hitters.
“There’s still no DH in this league,” Hill said. “Our guys still have to be able to play defense. From Donnie’s standpoint, he still has to have the flexibility to move pieces around. I think that’s where it will impact us the most, it will give him more options and hopefully more pieces he can deploy to help us win games.”
It doesn’t necessarily mean the Marlins would shy away from a free-agent slugger like Nicholas Castellanos, a corner outfielder who doesn’t grade out well defensively.
Miami is believed to be interested in Castellanos, a South Florida native, who is a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat. He came up with the Tigers at third base, but he is more likely to be a corner outfielder, if he signs with the Marlins.
In fact, having a fifth player off the bench gives the club flexibility to add a power threat like Castellanos, while having the depth to replace him defensively in the late innings.
“You get a full bench now, and you can look at ways if there’s not one player that can answer a position, then there might be a platoon situation, and you have the ability to do that seamlessly now,” Hill said.