Michael Hill had just finished informing reporters that “several” teams had expressed interest in trading for Logan Morrison, the Marlins’ first-baseman-in-limbo, when the message alert rang on Dan Jennings’ cellphone.
“That would be several plus one,” said Jennings, the Marlins’ general manager, drawing laughter.
As the Marlins on Tuesday continued fielding calls from teams with an interest in acquiring Morrison, they announced the signing of Garrett Jones, the player who will take his job.
The Marlins signed Jones to a two-year contract that will pay him $7.75 million, all but officially sealing Morrison’s fate. The Orioles, Pirates, Rays and Blue Jays are among the teams reportedly interested in Morrison.
“Our plan is for him to play first base and be our primary first baseman,” Hill, the Marlins’ president of baseball operations, said of Jones.
Jones, 32, became available as a free agent when the Pirates nontendered him last week. Unlike Morrison, who has missed significant time in each of the past two seasons because of knee injuries, Jones has played in no fewer than 144 games in each of the past four seasons with the Pirates.
A .254 career hitter, Jones also possesses some power, averaging 20 homers over the past five seasons.
“That’s what we’re expecting,” Hill said. “You look over his track record, and he’s been a consistent performer — 15 to 27 home runs —consistent production to go along with [Giancarlo Stanton] and now [Jarrod] Saltalamacchia and [Rafael] Furcal.”
Hill is cognizant of Jones’ poor offensive numbers against lefty pitching. Jones has a career .193 average against southpaws (compared with .274 against right-handed pitching). The Pirates would often platoon Jones by using Gaby Sanchez against lefties. But Hill said that, with increased playing time, Jones’ splits might improve.
“We obviously know about his splits,” Hill said, “and I know in a platoon situation, where he didn’t get 500 at-bats, he’s struggled more in being consistent. We’ve seen in those years, he’s been able to put up very good numbers.”
Jones said he can’t wait to play for the Marlins and isn’t afraid of their big ballpark.
“It’s a team that can shock the baseball world this year,” Jones said.
Jones said he saw the handwriting on the wall for him in Pittsburgh when the Pirates acquired Justin Morneau late last season and his playing time quickly diminished.
Jones said he likes the look of the Marlins and what the team has done this offseason to improve, signing Saltalamacchia and Furcal.
“It’s a team that’s developing in front of everyone’s eyes, kind of like it was with Pittsburgh,” he said. “We developed into a winner, and to see the city ignite and erupt, it’s something special to be a part of.”
Hill and the Marlins think Jones can be a major part of the solution to an anemic offense.
“We lost 100 games, had one of the historically awful offenses in the game,” Hill said of the 2013 Marlins. “What we had wasn’t acceptable, and we had to fix it. There is still work to be done.”• Hill and Jennings said not one team has asked either about the availability of Stanton. Apparently, other teams got the message that the Marlins had no intention of trading their slugger when Jennings went on radio and said he would be their Opening Day right fielder.
“That was something we wanted to put out there and let people know we were trying to add, that we’re trying to win games, and we like our good players,” Hill said.