The offseason trade to the Miami Marlins was a surprise for Martin Prado, but one he believes is pleasant.
Speaking publicly for the first time since being dealt from the Yankees in December, Prado said Saturday he “couldn’t be happier when I found out I was going to play with [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Jose] Fernandez and the young kids coming up. Couldn’t be more excited. They have a good mix of young guys and veteran guys. I hope we can build a team around [Stanton] and take some pressure [off] him.”
The Marlins believe they upgraded at third by replacing Casey McGehee (a career .264 hitter) with Prado (a career .291 hitter).
“He’s a consummate professional, gives us professional at-bats, above-average defender and we have him for two years,” Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said.
Prado, 31, who said he’s fine after an offseason appendectomy, hit .282 with 12 homers and 58 RBI between the Diamondbacks and Yankees last season. The Yankees are paying $3 million of his $11 million salary in 2015.
▪ If the Marlins again keep 12 pitchers, that would leave room for five backup position players. Ichiro Suzuki, Jeff Baker and backup catcher Jeff Mathis figure to be three of them, with Donovan Solano, Derek Dietrich, Miguel Rojas, Justin Bour and a bunch of non-roster invitees (including Reed Johnson, Jordany Valdespin and Don Kelly, among others) competing for two others.
Nearly all can play multiple positions – which the Marlins say they value — except Bour, who said Saturday that “first base is where I belong.” That could hurt Bour’s chances even though he impressed late last season, hitting .284 in 74 at-bats.
▪ General manager Dan Jennings said the front office has had internal discussions about free agent right-hander Francisco Rodriguez, who had 44 saves for Milwaukee last season. He reportedly wants a two-year, $10 million deal, and the Marlins aren’t inclined to approach those numbers.
If the Marlins make another bullpen move, the preference would be to add a left-hander. They remain interested in former Tigers lefty Phil Coke, but only if he’s willing to be a non-roster invitee to camp.
▪ Left-hander Brad Hand is out of minor league options and likely would be claimed by another team if the Marlins try to send him to the minors. Hand, who is 5-18 with a 4.42 ERA in four years for the Marlins (including 31 starts), likely would compete with David Phelps for a rotation spot only if one of the Marlins’ five projected starting pitchers is injured.
“We’re going to prepare Hand to start,” Hill said. “Hopefully we’ll have some tough decisions to make.” Hand said he would “much rather start” than pitch out of the bullpen but is willing to do either.
▪ On the first day individual game tickets were made available at the box office, lines were longer than the previous two Winter Warm-Up events. The biggest sellers: the April 6 opener against Atlanta and games against the Red Sox and Yankees.
The Marlins already have surpassed last year’s season-ticket sales count of 5000.
Samson said he believes the Marlins will become “an internationally celebrated team” because of their popularity in Latin America and the addition of Japanese star Ichiro, which will result in at least 90 Marlins games airing on Japanese television, compared with one or two in past years.