All 30 teams have been invited to check out Cuban prospects Victor Victor Mesa, his brother Victor Mesa Jr., and pitcher Sandy Gaston at Friday’s showcase in front of scouts.
But the Marlins may have home court advantage in the courtship of the three. The workout is being held at Marlins Park, where one, two, or even all three could end up playing one day.
“We’re the Miami Marlins and our stadium is in Little Havana,” said Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations. “Miami is the Gateway to the Americas, and it just made so much sense to everyone to host this workout.”
Some believe the Marlins to be the favorites to sign the most coveted of the three prospects, 22-year-old outfielder Victor Victor Mesa. He and his 17-year-old brother, outfielder Victor Jr., were recently declared free agents by Major League Baseball.
They can be signed by any team at any time.
And the Marlins have more allotted money to spend on international players than every team except Baltimore.
The emphasis on acquiring top international talent represents a dramatic shift in thinking from previous owner Jeffrey Loria to new owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter.
“In the past, our international budgets really weren’t where we needed to be,” said Hill, who has worked for both owners. “We didn’t maximize that area of talent acquisition. It’s something that, under our new ownership, they understand that international talent -- all talent -- is important when you’re trying to build a championship organization, and we’re going to leave no stone unturned.”
Hill said more is known about Victor Victor than his younger brother.
“He just turned 17,” Hill said of Victor Jr. “I don’t think there’s a lot of information on him. Obviously, we have a lot more information on Victor Victor and Sandy Gaston.”
Other than their efforts to sign All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to a contract extension in the coming months, the Marlins will likely make no bigger splash this winter than they would if they were able to sign Victor Victor Mesa.
This winter certainly won’t be like the last one when the Marlins unloaded half their lineup, including 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton and this year’s likely N.L. MVP, Christian Yelich.
In the process, the Marlins stockpiled their farm system with minor-league prospects as part of their strategy of building a sustainable organization over the long haul.
“We had to make the moves that we made last year,” Hill said. “We had a barren minor league system. With those extremely talented players (Stanton and the others), we only won 77 games. We just didn’t have enough. I think in moving forward we have a foundation now that we can build upon.”
The Marlins played more than 20 rookies last season, and the result was a 63-98 record, worst in the National League.
“I was told a long time ago that the three most important words in baseball are patience, patience, patience,” Hill said. “You can’t snap your fingers and become a champion. You have to build it the right way in order for it to happen, and as much as we chased it (in the past), it just didn’t work.”
-- Hill gave no timetable on when Realmuto would be presented with a contract extension that would keep in Miami beyond 2020, when he first becomes eligible for free agency.
“It’s no secret,” Hill said. “I think J.T. knows how we feel about him. We know we control him for the next two years. At the appropriate time we will get to his representative and see if we can do something longer term than the two years. That time hasn’t happened yet. But it’s something we definitely want to pursue.”
-- Hill said rookie outfielder Magneuris Sierra has started receiving private instruction from former Marlins outfielder Juan Pierre and will likely head to the Dominican Republic to play in the winter league.
But first baseman/outfielder Garrett Cooper, who battled injuries throughout his first season with the Marlins, likely won’t play winter ball as first planned.
“His wrist may not be ready to go in time for winter ball,” Hill said.
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