Don’t look for the Marlins to make any major splashes this winter by either signing a big-ticket free agent or landing a high-salaried player in a trade.
With a projected payroll of about $60million, they are more likely to buttress their existing roster with more affordable pieces that can help out at the plate and on the mound.
“There’s some [payroll] room to add some reasonable pieces,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said Monday on the first day of the general manager meetings. “But it’s not [Max] Scherzer or [Jon] Lester.”
Scherzer and Lester are two of the biggest names among free agent starting pitchers, and they’re too pricey for the Marlins. The same with James Shields.
Likewise, the Marlins aren’t likely to get involved in trade talks for Jeremy Hellickson, whom the Tampa Bay Rays are reportedly shopping.
“If we trade for starting pitching, it’ll sort of be what we did at the [July trade deadline], getting that Jarred Cosart ilk,” Hill said of the hurler the Marlins obtained in a deal with the Astros.
Cosart is two years away from salary arbitration.
The team’s strategy will be no different with position players.
While the Marlins are looking for upgrades at first base and second base, they don’t intend to empty their wallets on top-dollar options. Thus, Howie Kendrick, who is reportedly being shopped by the Angels, won’t be pursued by Miami.
Instead, the Marlins intend to focus much of their attention this winter on trying to sign Giancarlo Stanton — and perhaps several of the slugger’s teammates — to long-term contracts.
Hill downplayed a Foxsports.com report on Monday that indicated the Marlins had already opened long-term talks with Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich and Adeiny Hechavarria.
“This is still conceptual,” Hill said. “It’s exploration at this point. As we continue to put together our long-term plan, it’s something we’ll explore. We want to have sustained winning. When you have talented young players, it’s definitely something you explore, because you want to keep that collection of talent together as long as you can.”
Signing Fernandez to a long-term deal would be a long shot at best. Fernandez is represented by agent Scott Boras, who prefers his clients test the free agent market once they become eligible. Locking up Yelich and Hechavarria long term are more likely possibilities.
But Hill acknowledged that working out an extension with Stanton, who has two more seasons remaining before free agency, is “priority one.”
“We’ve been out front that we wanted to sign him, and we’re realistically trying to do that,” Hill said, shooting down some doubters who feel the talks are nothing more than a publicity ploy to help the Marlins save face if Stanton rejects their offer.
“You don’t approach business from that P.R. perspective,” Hill continued. “We want to win, he helps us win, and he’s a big part of what we’re trying to build going forward. There’s no antics here.”
Even though closer Steve Cishek and left-handed reliever Mike Dunn are in line for significant raises through salary arbitration, with Cishek standing to get as much as $7million in 2015, Hill said the team’s preference is to hang on to both.
“We really don’t want to weaken an area of strength,” Hill said of the bullpen. “If we had a lockdown guy we feel could step in, then you might think about reallocating those dollars.”