With the clock ticking rapidly toward the start of spring training, the Marlins still have some last-minute shopping they'd like to do. In particular, they have their sights set on acquiring a veteran back-end reliever with at least some closer experience. While the Marlins are quite satisfied with Steve Cishek in the closer's role, they would like a just-in-case backup option, and especially one with veteran seasoning.
There are quite a few warm bodies still available on the free agent market matching that description, everyone from Fernando Rodney to former Marlin Kevin Gregg, though Rodney is not on Miami's wish list and out of their price range.
They're looking for the proverbial bargain, and should find one given the large number of free agent relievers still without jobs. A look at the list of available free agent relievers show there to be one former closer (Francisco Rodriguez) with a 60-save season, two others (Joel Hanrahan and Rodney) with 40-save seasons, five with 30-plus save seasons, and another five with 20-plus save seasons, so there's plenty to pick from.
-- The Marlins signed reliever Chaz Roe to a minor-league deal and invitation to spring training. Roe, a former first-round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies, appeared in 21 games last season for Arizona, going 1-0 with a 4.03 ERA. He struck out 24 and walked 13 (three intentional) in 22 1/3 innings. The D-Backs designated the right-hander for assignment last week to clear roster space. Roe refused the outright assignment and became a free agent.
Took a spin up to Jupiter earlier this week and discovered a handful of early-birds working out and getting in shape for spring training. Most were pitchers: Cishek, Jacob Turner, Carter Capps, Arquimedes Caminero, Dan Jennings and Tom Koehler.
The only position player on the major league roster I was able to locate was Ed Lucas, whose prospects of landing a spot on the Opening Day roster appeared to take a direct hit when the Marlins agreed to terms with Jeff Baker on a 2-year deal.
Speaking to Lucas only a couple of hours before the Baker news broke, the baseball late-bloomer (he made his MLB debut with the Marlins last year as a 31-year-old rookie) said he was taking nothing for granted even though it appeared -- at that time -- he had the inside edge on a roster spot.
"I had a chance to change my number, but I kept No. 59," Lucas said. "I don't want to get comfortable at all. Hopefully I've kind of showed them what my skill set is, and that I have the ability to bounce around, and I'm comfortable."
Assuming the Marlins go with 12 pitchers, they'll have five bench spots available. Three of those roster spots are all but guaranteed: Baker, catcher Jeff Mathis and corner infielder/pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs. One will go to an outfielder, more than likely Brian Bogusevic, who the Marlins acquired from the Cubs in the Justin Ruggiano trade. Reed Johnson, who comes to camp on a minor-league deal, could challenge for a job. But Bogusevic is already on the 40-man roster and is out of minor league options, which strengthens his hand.
The fifth and final spot will likely come down to whichever player the Marlins like best as a backup shortstop. Though Lucas has played quite a bit of short in the minors (264 games), it was Donovan Solano's primary minor league position. Being five years younger than Lucas, Solano might also have more upside in the eyes of the Marlins. (One player the Marlins aren't considering for a shortstop role, except in the event of dire emergency, is Rafael Furcal. They have him set to play second, and nowhere else.)
Congratulations to Marlins radio voice Dave Van Horne, who has been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. (Van Horne is already in Cooperstown). Van Horne spent 32 years broadcasting games, both on radio and television, for the Montreal Expos.
Finally, a little video to get the spring baseball juices flowing. That's Jacob Turner closest to the camera, with Carter Capps next to him, building arm strength in Jupiter in advance of the start of spring training: