NEW YORK -- Even though the Marlins sputtered toward the finish line before the All-Star break and sit a season-worst six games under .500 after Sunday’s 9-1 loss to the Mets, president of baseball operations Mike Hill said 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 as possible.
As it stood Sunday, the Marlins only had four starters in their rotation — Henderson Alvarez, Tom Koehler, Nathan Eovaldi and Brad Hand — and hadn’t decided who their fifth starter will be coming out of the break.
What the Marlins are looking for in a trade isn’t a 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 who 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 costs 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.
In May, the Marlins signed veteran left-hander Randy Wolf as soon as Fernandez was lost for the season. But Wolf made only four starts (1-3, 5.26 ERA) 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. 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 before he tossed five shutout innings for Triple A New Orleans on Sunday. Hill said Penny is getting stronger and if the Marlins believe he can help, 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 contenders for the postseason.
“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.”
• 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.
• Monday through Thursday: All-Star break.
• Friday: Marlins TBA vs. San Francisco Giants TBA, 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.