Barry Jackson

Marlins plot strategy for acquiring pitching

Miami Marlins second baseman Derek Dietrich (32) runs off the field as the Miami Marlins host the Cincinnati Reds at Marlins Park on Saturday, July 9, 2016.
Miami Marlins second baseman Derek Dietrich (32) runs off the field as the Miami Marlins host the Cincinnati Reds at Marlins Park on Saturday, July 9, 2016. adiaz@miamiherald.com

The Marlins know they will need to get creative to acquire two starting pitchers to join Adam Conley, Wei-Yin Chen and Tom Koehler in their rotation. But unless management has a drastic change of heart, the Marlins are disinclined to trade outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who has had injury setbacks and carries an enormous contract.

Also, we’re told the Marlins do not want to trade outfielder Christian Yelich or catcher J.T. Realmuto. It would take a flabbergasting return, something the Marlins do not realistically envision, to consider trading Stanton, Yelich or Realmuto.

The Marlins ideally would prefer not to trade second baseman Dee Gordon or outfielder Marcell Ozuna but would at least listen on offers for both. Ozuna has greater value than his expected salary, so it would take high-end pitching for Miami to part with him.

And with Gordon having had an 80-game PED suspension in 2016 and beginning a five-year, $50 million extension, the Marlins know his trade value is likely less than his overall value.

The Marlins are expected to consider trade offers for shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and jack-of-all trades Derek Dietrich in an attempt to acquire pitching. They value Dietrich and believe he’s starter-caliber, so Miami would want quality in return.

Marlins officials will meet this coming week to formulate strategy. But unless there’s a change of heart, they’re not expected to have a big enough budget to afford one of the most expensive free agent pitchers such as Jeremy Hellickson or Rich Hill, though they like Hellickson. They will need to find a cheaper option from a weak free agent class.

As for Stanton, his contract jumps from $9 million to $14.5 million next season, then between $25 million and $32 million for the following 11 seasons, with an opt-out after 2020. Stanton has a no-trade clause and would need to approve any deal.

Two veteran scouts for other teams said in the wake of Jose Fernandez’s death, they would consider trading Stanton if they were the Marlins.

The problem, as one of the scouts said, is “you would eliminate all but about five teams because of the salary. You can look at the Angels and they are pondering the same thing with Mike Trout. With that price tag, it’s hard to give up a lot in return. I would trade Stanton because I’m not a big fan of those kind of contracts. Where do the Marlins get pitching now? Even if you get the best guy out there, you’re not even with where you were before this tragedy.”

The Marlins are disinclined to trade Stanton because they believe his bat is sorely needed on a team that finished 27th in runs and struggled offensively in many of the 42 games they played without him this past season.

• So what could the Marlins get back for Hechavarria or Dietrich?

Dietrich “brings back maybe [a pitcher] who could be a starter, but not someone with premium stuff,” one of the scouts said. “Maybe Hechavarria gets you a No. 4 starter. Ozuna gets you something pretty good if you want to part ways.”

• The Marlins believe they have at least three eventual big-league mid-rotation starters in their system, Luis Castillo and Dillon Peters, plus first-round pick Braxton Garrett, who could be a top-of-the-rotation option eventually.

“With Castillo, it's an easy upper 90s [fastball] - kind of freakish when you think about the power to the stuff,” Hill said. “With Peters, a little bit different pitcher -- mid 90s fastball, three-pitch mix as well.”

Marlins executive Michael Hill said the Marlins regard Conley as a “top of the rotation talent” and believe Chen will rebound. Whether David Phelps starts or relieves depends on how the offseason plays out, Hill said.

The Marlins still want to develop -- but do not want to have to count on --- Jose Urena, Justin Nicolino or Jacob Esch for rotation spots.

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