NEW YORK -- Even though the Marlins have sputtered toward the finish line before the All-Star Break and sit a season-worst five games under .500, president of baseball Operations Mike Hill said Sunday he hasn't lost faith in his clubhouse making a run at a playoff spot this season.
And if the Marlins can find the right trade partner, Hill said he plans on making a move to bring in a starting pitcher as soon possible. As it stood Sunday, the Marlins only had four starters in the rotation -- Henderson Alvarez, Tom Koehler, Nathan Eovaldi and Brad Hand -- and hadn't decided who the fifth starter will be coming out of the break.
What the Marlins are looking for in a trade isn't a veteran or rental. With a roster full of players they'll control for the next few years, Hill said the Marlins are looking at sustained winning and not only the present. So they would prefer a pitcher that has controllable years left in the big leagues.
"It's something we've been looking for since Jose [Fernandez] went down," Hill said. "A rental really doesn't help. It may help you somewhat in the short term, but assuming it cost you your inventory we want something we can move forward with. That's something that will definitely influence which way we go."
Although the Marlins have given prospects Andrew Heaney and Anthony DeSclafani opportunities to start in the big leagues this year and could eventually call on the them again, Hill said the organization would prefer to give both pitchers "more seasoning" in the minors should they need it.
Back in May, the Marlins signed veteran left-hander Randy Wolf as soon after Fernandez was lost for the season. But he only made four starts (1-3, 5.26) before being released a month later.
If the Marlins can't find a trade partner, Hill said right-hander Jacob Turner is an option the club can turn to for starts. Veteran Brad Penny, signed to a minor league deal last month, could be another.
Turner lost his spot in the rotation last month after going 2-4 with a 6.38 in nine starts and sputtered as a reliever (0-2, 5.60 ERA in seven appearances).
Penny, 36, went 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA in two starts for Single A Jupiter and was recently elevated to Triple A New Orleans. Hill said Sunday Penny is getting stronger and if the Marlins feel like he can help him they'll give him a shot.
Of course a lot of what the Marlins do in terms of making a trade could depend on how long they stay in the race. But right now Hill very much believes the Marlins are still players for the post-season.
"Hopefully we start playing better, we start winning games and we put ourselves back in this race," he said. "I don't think we're out of it by any stretch of the imagination. I think you've seen clubs that look down get hot and thrust themselves right back into this thing. We still have a number of games against the clubs we're chasing in Atlanta and Washington and we still believe in that clubhouse. We just need to play better, execute better and in the end win more games."
> If starting pitching is at the top of Hill's wish list, finding a second baseman with speed who can hit at the top of the lineup isn't far behind. The Marlins signed veteran Rafael Furcal with that intention, but injuries have sidelined him all season.
"That's still a part of our team we feel is missing and we feel we would like to have," Hill said. "So whatever form or shape that comes in that's still something we would like to have on this team."
There are rumblings former Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla could be designated for assignment or traded soon from Atlanta. But he doesn't seem to fit the description of what the Marlins are searching for.
> Last year the Marlins went into the All-Star Break with a 35-58 record. How does Hill feel about this team?
"I don't think I'd ever say discouraged because you can rewind a year and that was discouraging," Hill said. "So many good things have gone on this first half of this season -- the stories you point to. You look at our first half, you look at [Henderson] Alvarez. You look at a healthy Stanton. You look at the development of young prospects in Yelich and Ozuna and what they're doing. The growth of [Hechavarria] at shortstop. Casey McGehee. There's so many positive things going on.
"It's unfortunate we haven't been able to ride that all the way into the break. We've had some struggles here as we have finished the first half and let some leads get away, haven't taken care of the ball as well as we can take care of the ball. Those are just some things I think the break will hopefully allow us to take a step back, take a breather for a couple days, refocus and get back after it the way we did in April and May."
> Hill said he's been encouraged by the progress 2013 first round pick Colin Moran has been making in the minors and a promotion to Double A Jacksonville appears to be around the corner.
Moran hit .337 with three homers and 10 RBI in 25 games for Single A Jupiter in June and has continued a torrid pace in July (.333, 5 RBI in 10 games).
"Moran has been great," Hill said. "Consistent quality at-bats. Defense from Day 1 at that level he took what he learned from Bone and really took it into his game. He's an above average defender at third base. Offensively had some adjustments early and is really locked in of late. He's hitting .300, driving the ball, doing everything we can ask."
> Hill said he expects the Marlins to sign the last of the two remaining unsigned top 10 draft picks before the July 18 deadline.
"Our seventh rounder [shortstop Anfernee] Seymour is Bahamanian. He needed a work visa. That's the only thing delaying his signing," Hill said. "The 10th rounder [left-handed pitcher Dillon] Peters out of the University of Texas is a surgery player. So we're just trying to get all that logistic stuff wrapped up. But he should be agreed. That will be our Top 10 done. That was our goal."