5 Marlins storylines as Winter Meetings near
MIAMI -- A week before the Winter Meetings get underway in Nashville, Tenn., the Marlins remain relatively quiet on the trade and free-agency fronts. But in the upcoming days and weeks, that is likely to change as the team remains focused on adding starting pitching.
Working within some strict financial restraints, the Marlins are not expected to be big spenders in free agency, or overly active in trades. They are not looking for wholesale changes, but if something makes sense, they will be open-minded.
As the countdown to Nashville begins, here are five storylines to follow:
1. Marcell Ozuna
Shortly before Thanksgiving, news broke that the Mariners had interest in the Marlins' 25-year-old center fielder, but all was quiet over the weekend, and potentially will remain that way. Miami is looking for a front-line starting pitcher, and Seattle's Taijuan Walker is a natural target. But the Mariners reportedly are not comfortable moving the 23-year-old right-hander. The Marlins would likely need to include other players off the active roster to make this deal work. As that possibility simmers, Miami continues to field calls from multiple other teams who also have interest in Ozuna.
2. Jose Fernandez
For weeks there have been rumors that the Marlins are open to trading their 23-year-old ace. The speculation has not gone away, even though numerous sources maintain Fernandez is not going anywhere.
3. Free-agent starting pitchers
Some prominent rotation options are starting to come off the board. Former Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann is heading to the Tigers on a reported five-year deal worth roughly $110 million. Not that the Marlins were pursuing Zimmermann, but his signing gives an indication of what the upper-tier free-agent starters are seeking. A more modest signing took place recently with lefty J.A. Happ, formerly with the Pirates, agreeing to a three-year, $36 million contract with the Blue Jays. The going rate for a mid-range starter now appears to be $13 million per year, a price tag we'll see whether Miami is comfortable paying.
If a power arm or affordable proven veteran is available, the Marlins would like to strengthen the back end of their bullpen. Look for a more aggressive push for relievers if the starting-pitching market dries up.
5. Outfielder options
Should Ozuna be dealt for a starting pitcher, Miami would be in the market for an outfielder. The Marlins aren't expected to spend big on a free agent like Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton, so they'd likely consider trade options.