Architects Michael Hill and Dan Jennings have transformed the Marlins from dreadful to decent. Taking the next step from decent to dynamic will be more difficult within payroll constraints.
With the season ending a week from today, some chatter on looming offseason issues:
### The Marlins have not set a firm payroll, but it will rise from $48 million, and they want to add another quality hitter who’s a run producer. Because the list of free agent second basemen is weak, they will primarily consider corner infielders to fill that need, knowing that arbitration-eligible Casey McGehee – who will be retained – can also play first base.
The Marlins are interested in Giants impending free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval (.284, 16, 69) but it’s too early to tell how high they would be willing to bid. Landing Sandoval assuredly would impress Giancarlo Stanton, who will be offered a long-term contract.
Among first basemen, Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer, San Francisco’s Michael Morse (.280, 16, 61) and Washington’s Adam LaRoche (.257, 24, 86; $15 million team option) are among potential targets. Cuddyer has been limited to 42 games by injury (he’s hitting .327) but hit .330 with 20 homers and 84 RBI in 2013. He and Morse could be within Miami’s price range.
If the Marlins cannot land Sandoval or any of the first basemen they like, they would – as a last resort - consider signing a free-agent left fielder and moving Christian Yelich to first. Delmon Young, hitting .289 for Baltimore, is a reasonably priced option. But they prefer to leave Yelich in left field.
Regardless, there’s a decent chance first baseman Garrett Jones --– due $5 million in 2015 –-- will be traded or moved to the bench. If the Marlins can't find a full-time first baseman, they could find someone to platoon with the left-handed hitting Jones.
### The options at second base aren’t great: Sign a mediocre stopgap from a weak free agent list (Emilio Bonifacio, Mark Ellis, Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts, Rickie Weeks, Nick Punto, Ramon Santiago); trade for one; or have Derek Dietrich (.228, five homers in 49 games), Donovan Solano (.254) and Kike Hernandez compete for the job.
The Marlins are optimistic Dietrich has overcome his defensive problems earlier this season. “It’s an offensive performer we’ll make room for,” Hill said.
Hernandez hit .319 in Double and Triple A in 2014 and .265 in 93 at-bats for Houston and the Marlins. “I played every day for a month in Houston [and hit .284],” he said. “If I did it for a month, why can’t I do it for a year?”
### The offer for Stanton – terms aren’t determined yet --- would buy out the last two years of arbitration and first three or four years of free agency. But the Marlins probably would need to top the six-year, $144 million deal the Angels gave Mike Trout, because that bought out only three free agent years. A six-year Stanton deal would buy out four free agent years.
It’s possible Stanton –-- who could become a free agent in November 2016 --- might delay a decision on a multiyear offer until after 2015, giving him another year to gauge whether Jeffrey Loria is serious about fielding a winner, which is very important to the Marlins slugger. The Marlins want to keep Stanton to start 2015 even if he rejects their offer.
### With Jose Fernandez not expected back until early next summer, the Marlins likely will look for a cheap veteran starter who could fill a spot in the back of the rotation if the team’s top pitching prospects (Andrew Heaney, Anthony DeSclafani and Justin Nicolino) don’t win a job next spring.
Henderson Alvarez, Jarred Cosart and Tom Koehler likely will be the top three starters and the Marlins aren’t ready to give up on Nathan Eovaldi, even though opponents are hitting .315 off his fastball this season and .281 overall.
### Other stuff: The Marlins are leaning toward keeping closer Steve Cishek, who could make $6 million in arbitration… Catcher Jarrod Saltalamaccia (due $7 million and $8 million the next two seasons) was a disappointment but figures to return barring an unexpected trade.
“We expected some adjustments coming over from the American League and dealing with a new staff,” Hill said. “As he gets more comfortable we’ll see his offensive numbers get back to what we felt we could get.” J.T. Realmuto (.299 in Double A) has emerged as a top catching prospect....
The Marlins will consider a multiyear deal with McGehee…. Reed Johnson, Brad Penny, Kevin Gregg and Rafael Furcal will be free agents. There’s a $2.1 million team option on catcher Jeff Mathis.
### A big unknown when Heat camp begins next weekend: whether third-string point guard Shabazz Napier proves worthy of playing time.
The Heat thought Napier took too many forced shots during summer league; he shot 27.5 percent (28 for 102) and 19.6 percent on threes (9 for 46), with 4.2 turnovers per game.
“Most disappointing guy in summer league,” one veteran NBA scout said. “But he’s not as bad as he looked. He has great dribbling skills, can see the floor, tough competitor.” The Heat thought Napier was worrying so much about running the team’s system that it took him out of his game.
Because of Norris Cole's presence, Pat Riley said starting point guard Mario Chalmers will play some backup shooting guard, regardless of whether Napier plays much or not.
### Some Heat fans will wonder why Miami didn’t make an aggressive attempt to sign Andray Blatche or Jordan Crawford, two skilled rotation-caliber players who signed in China over the past two days.
The Heat tossed around the idea of signing both, but there were off-court concerns. With Crawford, the red flag was that he has played for three teams in the past two years, and that teams don’t seem to want to keep him longterm. With Blatche, there are questions about whether he would be a team player and why the Nets had no interest in keeping him despite solid numbers last season.
Maturity matters to this organization, which is one of several reasons why Michael Beasley wasn’t offered a new contract.
### A prominent former UM player asked a lawyer to investigate the chances of that player and several others winning a lawsuit against UM for the damage caused to them during the Nevin Shapiro scandal. But the suit has no merit and likely won’t materialize.
### David Beckham’s group has looked at potential MLS stadium sites just outside downtown Miami, in West Edgewater, Wynwood and between Marlins Park and Miami International Airport, among others. The site closest to Marlins Park and at least one in Doral haven’t been ruled out but are not Beckham’s preference.
Please see the last post for notes, quotes and thoughts from UM’s loss to Nebraska, and a few Dolphins notes heading into the Kansas City game…
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