Winter Meetings bring chance to snag starter
Marlins plan on being patient, but big signing or trade is possible
MIAMI -- When the Winter Meetings begin on Monday in Nashville, Tenn., the Marlins certainly will be attentive to what is available on the market. The burning question is whether Miami will be active in its quest for a starting pitcher.
If something makes sense, the Marlins will listen. They're just being hesitant to strike, because they learned a hard lesson last winter when several high-profile moves didn't pan out.
The expectation is the newly restructured front office will be creative and figure out a way to bring in at least one starter. Whether something is finalized in Nashville or afterward remains to be seen.
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees on Monday at 11 a.m. ET and the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 10 a.m. ET.
Here are a few of the club's needs heading into the Winter Meetings:
Starting pitching: In assessing its offseason needs, the number "13" kept jumping out at the front office. The fact 13 different starters were used in 2015 magnified the importance of solidifying the rotation. Miami is in the market for one or maybe two starters who can approach 200 innings.
Bullpen: The makings of a strong bullpen are already in place. If there is a future closer candidate out there who is obtainable, the Marlins may strike a deal. There is a need for relief depth, especially if the search for a starter falls short.
First base: Justin Bour showed promise and provided a left-handed power bat. The search is now on for a right-handed-hitting complement, or at least someone who can be a late-inning defensive replacement.
• Marcell Ozuna is the name gaining the most attention, and for good reason. The outfielder is not eligible for arbitration until 2017 and free agency in '20. The Marlins are open to moving him -- not for a low-ball offer -- for a starter or high-end reliever.
• Third baseman/outfielder Derek Dietrich should attract attention because he is a left-handed hitter with power. The question remains his defense. Dietrich has upside but not a true position.
• Marlins ace Jose Fernandez is not likely to be traded. But the fact it is doubtful he will sign an extension with Miami any time soon creates speculation that he could be available in a major multiplayer trade. If the Marlins are looking to refurbish their system, Fernandez would bring back a haul. But moving him would signal another redirect and more rebuilding, something the organization is aiming to avoid.
In the latest MLBPipeline.com rankings, right-hander Tyler Kolek, the second overall Draft pick in 2014, is Miami's top prospect. Ranked second is lefty Jarlin Garcia, who pitched in the 2015 Futures Game, and third is first baseman Josh Naylor, the team's first-round pick this year. In the Top 20, right-hander Kendry Flores (No. 4), catcher Tomas Telis (No. 8) and reliever Brian Ellington (No. 18) have MLB experience.
Garcia, right-hander Nick Wittgren (No. 11), infielder J.T. Riddle (No. 13) and right-hander Jeff Brigham (No. 21) are getting close to being big league-ready.
Rule 5 Draft
Non-tendering right-handers Henderson Alvarez and Aaron Crow on Wednesday reduced the 40-man roster to 37, meaning Miami is in position to participate in the Rule 5 Draft. Last year, reliever Andrew McKirahan was selected from the Cubs' system, and the lefty nearly made the Opening Day roster. Instead, he was a late cut and hooked on with Atlanta. The Marlins have traditionally been active in the Rule 5 Draft, and that may happen again.
Big contracts they may unload
The Marlins have payroll flexibility, and no real contract drags. Third baseman Martin Prado, however, is in the final year of his contract. He is making $11 million, with the Yankees picking up $3 million. If he is not signed to an extension by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the veteran could be a trade candidate if Miami is out of contention.
Operating with a modest payroll of about $80 million, the Marlins are taking a wait-and-see approach before committing additional dollars. The club wants to be in position to take on salary during the season, if necessary, to add players before the non-waiver Trade Deadline in July.