ORLANDO Never mind Giancarlo Stanton.
When it comes to hot trading commodities, the Marlins have what other teams desire most: young starting pitching. And odds are the Marlins will deal one or more of their young hurlers in order to acquire a young hitter of equal talent.
“That’s the only scenario that makes sense,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said Wednesday at the general managers meetings. “Our close-to-major-league-ready pitching, our young major-league starting pitching, is attractive. There’s been interest in that, and for good reason.”
Hill said he will leave the meetings “encouraged” that he can get a deal done in the near future.
“When you have starting pitching that you’re willing to part with, you should be able to make some deals,” Hill said. “I don’t think we’ve focused specifically [on one particular trade or player], but there are some situations that you feel encouraged by, and you think that there’s something to be done.”
Jose Fernandez, the newly crowned National League Rookie of the Year, is untouchable. The Marlins have no plans to deal their ace. But everyone else is fair game, some more so than others.
Hill said the preference would be to acquire a hitter with proven major-league experience but also one the team can control contractually for three years or longer before the onset of free agency hits.
Thus, even though they are targeting catchers and third basemen, the Marlins are not as enthralled with Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters or St. Louis third baseman David Freese, both of whom are on track to hit free agency after two more seasons.
As for acquiring minor-league prospects, Hill said: “We want talent, but we’ve done our prospect deals. We’re trying to get better and acquire players that help us now, and in the future.”
If Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna are the Marlins’ Opening Day outfielders, where does that leave Justin Ruggiano, whose 18 home runs last season ranked second on the club?
Ruggiano is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, and there has been speculation the Marlins could non-tender him rather than cough up the $2 million it might take to keep him.
More than likely, with Chris Coghlan and Jake Marisnick looming as potential backup outfielders, the Marlins are floating Ruggiano’s name in trade discussions. Hill hinted at that possibility.
“He definitely has value,” Hill said. “He can play all three outfield positions. We’re not looking to move anyone who we think can help us win ballgames. But, I know we’re going to have to part with some talent to bring talent back.”
Not surprisingly, teams are asking the Marlins about their surplus of pitching. But Hill made it clear the Marlins are going to drive a hard bargain if it’s a pitching-for-hitting trade.
Jon Heyman of CBSsports.com said the Chicago Cubs, with their wealth of hitting prospects, could be a match for the Marlins. Heyman mentioned Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler as possible trade targets for the Marlins.
Bell still costly
Heath Bell continues to haunt the Marlins.
Even though he’s no longer costing them wins on the field, the reliever is impacting them off it. As part of the deal that sent Bell to Arizona, the Marlins will be required to pick up $6 million of his salary next season.
That could make Bell the highest-paid player on the Marlins’ payroll next season depending on what Stanton ends up receiving through salary arbitration.
The good news for the Marlins is that Bell will finally be off the books after 2014.
• Despite reports to the contrary, the Marlins were not close in the bidding for Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, who ended up signing a six-year, $68 million deal with the White Sox.
According to multiple sources, the Marlins made a legitimate initial offer for the Abreu but dropped out of the bidding early.