ORLANDO -- The quest for catching never seems to end for the Marlins.
John Buck wasn’t the answer. So far, Rob Brantly hasn’t been either.
Heck, only once in franchise history have the Marlins had the same everyday catcher for three consecutive years, and that was Charles Johnson in the mid-1990s.
Once again, they’re on the prowl for a catching upgrade. The problem is they are far from the only team with catching needs, making the task a difficult one.
“It’s always a challenging market,” said Michael Hill, the Marlins’ president of baseball operations. “Everyone’s looking for that impact guy. So we’re talking to other clubs. We’re talking to free agents to see if there’s something that might fit.’’
The Marlins thought they solved their problem when they acquired Brantly in their 2012 trade with the Tigers.
But Brantly never got it going at the plate and often seemed lost behind it last season. The Marlins believe he might need more time in the minors.
“He might have to take a step back to regroup,” Hill said.
Jeff Mathis gives the Marlins a veteran presence, and he is praised for his work handling the young pitching staff. But he’s a prototypical backup and doesn’t hit.
The two top free agent catchers on the market, Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, are out of the Marlins’ price range. Even the next tier of free agent catchers might prove too expensive for the Marlins. It was reported Tuesday that Carlos Ruiz received a two-year, $20 million offer from an undisclosed team. A.J. Pierzynski is another available free agent.
The Reds could be a potential trade partner for teams looking for catching help. By recently signing Brayan Pena, Cincinnati could be willing to trade Ryan Hanigan or Devin Mesoraco. The Toronto Blue Jays also might be willing to move J.P. Arencibia.
Even though some in the organization feel Derek Dietrich is better defensively at second base, the Marlins will likely give him a look at third base in spring training given their need at the hot corner. The Marlins received very little power from their corner infielders last season, and Dietrich, who hit nine homers, could help solve that need.
“I know [infield coach Perry Hill] likes him at second base, but we’re going to … see if he can play some third base in spring training,’’ Hill said.
Andrew Heaney, one of the Marlins’ top young prospects, was named the pitcher of the week in the Arizona Fall League after going 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA. The lefty was the Marlins’ first-round draft pick (ninth overall) in 2012 out of Oklahoma State.
In his start on Saturday, Heaney no-hit the opposition for five innings.
Overall, Heaney is 2-0 with a 1.82 ERA in six starts in the Arizona Fall League.
Could Heaney challenge for a rotation spot in spring training?
“You can see by last spring [when rookie Jose Fernandez made the club] that anything’s possible,’’ Hill said.
“But Heaney’s actually pitched in Double A while Jose never got an inning above [Single A] Jupiter. We’ve always had an open mind. We’re going to put together the best pitching staff that we can, and Heaney is a part of it.’’
The Marlins are scheduled to play the New York Yankees in a pair of exhibition games in Panama on March 15-16, according to a source with knowledge of the plan.
The Marlins have not yet released their spring schedule.
A trip to Panama won’t be their first spring excursion outside the United States.
They traveled to Mexico to face the Astros in a pair of spring games in 2004.