Come the July 31 trading deadline, the Marlins might be more inclined to make a deal to upgrade their roster if the team is in the division race as opposed to simply being in the larger wild-card fray.
And the division title might be the Marlins’ best hope at the moment.
“Just looking right now, I would tell you the best shot may be the division,” Marlins general manager Dan Jennings said. “Usually in years past, there’s always somebody in this division that’s put their foot on the accelerator and you go, ‘We have to focus on the wild card.’ ”
But the wild card isn’t what it once was when the Marlins won their two World Series titles as the lone wild card. Now there are two-wild card teams that meet in a one-game, win-or-go-home matchup.
As a result, teams might be more reluctant to go all-in on a major deal just to enhance their chances of grabbing a wild-card spot, as the Marlins did in 2003 when they traded Adrian Gonzalez for a half-season of Ugueth Urbina.
Because the Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants have built comfortable early leads in their respective divisions, Jennings said the two also-rans — the Cardinals and Dodgers — have already gained a strong upper hand in wild-card positioning.
The N.L. East, though, remains muddled.
The five teams began the day Monday separated by only five games, and the Marlins were as close to first place as they were to last — 2 1/2 games both ways.
If the Marlins make any kind of move, it would most likely be to acquire starting pitching.
“Our starting pitching needs to step up a notch,” Jennings said.
Jennings said that while the Marlins “love” rookie starters Anthony Heaney and Andrew DeSclafani, “the jury is still out” on the two youngsters.
“I mean, we love ’em as prospects,” Jennings said. “How are they going to be as big-league producers? Time will tell. So that would be, potentially, where you would have to look.”
But Jennings added that “it’s way too early to panic” despite what was a “discouraging” homestand in which the Marlins won a total of only three games against three, sub.-500 teams.
Rafael Furcal has a Grade III hamstring strain in which part of the tissue has separated from the bone near the knee.
As a result, the Marlins aren’t expecting Furcal to return from the disabled list anytime soon.• Christian Yelich (back) was to begin a rehab assignment Monday with Single A Jupiter. Manager Mike Redmond said Yelich would play two games with Jupiter, two with Triple A New Orleans, and rejoin the Marlins on Sunday.
Once Yelich returns, Redmond said he would return to the leadoff spot.• Adeiny Hechavarria (sore right elbow) wasn’t in the starting lineup for a third consecutive game Monday, but said he expected to play Tuesday.
COMING UP• Tuesday : Marlins LHP Heaney (0-1, 1.50 ERA) at Philadelphia Phillies RHP David Buchanan (3-3, 4.95), 7:05 p.m., Citizens Bank Park.
• Wednesday : Marlins RHP Henderson Alvarez (4-3, 2.39) at Phillies RHP A.J. Burnett (5-6, 3.89), 7:05 p.m., Citizens Bank Park.