Miami Marlins

After whiffing at Winter Meetings, Marlins hope to find ‘bargains’ before spring training

From left, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill, new manager Don Marttingly, and team president David Samson.
From left, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill, new manager Don Marttingly, and team president David Samson. hgabino@elnuevoherald.com

The Marlins came up empty in Nashville.

One year after making a major splash at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, the Marlins failed to make a significant roster move this time around.

The Marlins hoped to bolster their pitching staff with the addition of a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.

But the payroll-challenged Marlins were stymied by the exorbitant cost of pitching, via either trade or the free agent market, and were left holding the same deck of pitchers they started with.

As a result, it could be January — when some teams and players start to get desperate as spring training approaches — before the market has cooled to the point the Marlins become engaged.

“January’s where the bargains are,” said Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations. “Historically, that’s where guys who maybe held out and were looking for more than what their end of the market would bear, realize that maybe they need to sign and get somewhere.”

In other words, the Marlins have been reduced to bargain shoppers in a market so white hot that even average-to-below-average starters such as Mike Pelfrey (two years, $16 million) to J.A. Happ (three years, $36 million) are driving up the cost of pitching.

“There are still many days before we report to Jupiter [spring training], and still a number of free agent players on the market,” Hill said.

About the only thing the Marlins succeeded in doing at the Winter Meetings was fuel the rumor mill with constant rumblings of a Jose Fernandez trade. Although it generated plenty of discussion, it didn’t result in a deal for the pitching ace.

“We obviously expected Jose to be a big topic at the meetings, and he was,” Hill said.

The Marlins couldn’t find another team to bite on their sky-high demands in any trade return for Fernandez.

“It was a long four days,” Hill said. “But the offseason is far from over for us. I think we still are in pursuit of opportunities to upgrade our pitching, and we’ll continue to build on some of the things that started here.”

TWO PROSPECTS ADDED

Despite owning the seventh overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft, the Marlins passed on their turn. But they grabbed two players in the Triple A phase of the draft — right-handed pitcher Patrick Johnson and catcher Maxx Tissenbaum — to strengthen their minor-league system.

It was in the same minor-league phase the Marlins found Justin Bour a few years ago.

Marlins assistant general manager Brian Chattin said Johnson should start out at either Double A Jacksonville or Triple A Orleans depending on how he looks in spring training. Tissenbaum will most likely begin in Jacksonville.

Johnson went 15-1 in the independent American Association and caught the eyes of Marlins scouts pitching this winter in Venezuela.

“We feel real strong we added a quality depth starter to our organization,” Chattin said. “He’s got multiple pitches, a strike-thrower.”

BAKER LIKES BONDS HIRE

Dusty Baker thinks the Marlins made a good hire in Barry Bonds, their new hitting coach.

“I was hoping he’d go to the American League,” joked Baker, who managed Bonds for 10 seasons in San Francisco and recently took over as manager of the Washington Nationals. “This guy can see things that only a couple of players that I’ve played with have seen — Hank Aaron and Reggie Smith. What’s obvious to them is invisible to others.”

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