Barry Jackson

Marlins gamble on lineup; MLB does wrong by Marlins

dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

Marlins chatter, with pitchers and catchers reporting Tuesday:

• The Marlins realistically did all they could to augment their pitching staff with five quality acquisitions (Edinson Volquez, Dan Straily, Brad Ziegler, Junichi Tazawa and Jeff Locke). The question is whether they erred by not adding a single position player to an offense that ranked fourth in average but just 27th in runs.

Four reasons Miami didn’t add a single established bat:

1) They have strong conviction in this lineup and believe when healthy, it’s a playoff-caliber. Remember, Giancarlo Stanton played in 119 games, Justin Bour 90 and Dee Gordon 79.

Adding a bat “was definitely discussed,” Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said. “This organization has supreme confidence in our core position players. You go position by position, and you have talent and players that are championship caliber players. Ultimately, that’s why we chose to focus on our pitching.”

2) They believe new hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo will be a huge upgrade over Barry Bonds. Some members of the coaching staff didn’t believe Bonds worked hard enough and that more video instruction is needed.

Pagliarulo has impressed players by flying to their offseason homes to visit them (such as Christian Yelich in California).

“I thought that was pretty cool that he came and saw me in Washington,” Justin Bour said. “We talked about hitting, routine, approach. Pretty cool.”

On how to explain the team’s high average but low run production, Hill said: “We always felt talent is [batting] average but scoring runs is approach. And that’s why we put a huge focus on doing everything in our power to be as prepared as possible. He’s [Pagliarulo] very thorough. There’s nothing he won’t explore to help a player get better, be it video, be it on the field, whatever it may be. He’s ready and willing to put in the work to help our guys get better.”

3) They’re convinced that Gordon, who was suspended 80 games last season for violating the league’s substance policy, is the player who hit a league-leading .333 in 2015, not the one who hit .268 last year.

“Last year was very difficult on him and everything he went through,” Hill said. “My conversations with him this offseason, he’s in a great place. He worked his tail off this offseason. And he’s ready to have a big year.”

4) Though a bunch of power hitting right-handed hitting first baseman had interest in the Marlins (Mike Napoli, Mark Reynolds, Chris Carter and others), they’re convinced Bour is good enough to play every day.

He has hit .271 with 39 homers and 122 vs. right-handers, just .223 with no homers, 13 RBI and 36 strikeouts in 103 career at bats vs. lefties.

“I don't think it's a thing,” Bour said of facing lefties. “If I'm there in the lineup playing every day, I'm going to get my hits. I believe I’ll be playing every day.”

• The Marlins are leaning toward going with 13 pitchers and just four bench players (very likely Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Dietrich, Miguel Rojas and new backup catcher AJ Ellis).

Chris Johnson and Jeff Francouer weren’t re-signed and the Marlins have interest in them only if there’s an injury.

When Bour needs a day off, the Marlins plan to use catcher JT Realmuto some at first.

“The positives of having that extra bullpen piece outweigh going with a short bench,” Hill said.

• But have they left themselves vulnerable by not adding a veteran bat off the bench?

“That’s something that is a calculated risk on our part,” Hill said. “We’re comfortable with where we sit right now. There are still players out there and that’s not to say we still may not do something before opening day.”

• The 13-man bullpen would consist of AJ Ramos, Ziegler, Tazawa, Kyle Barraclough, David Phelps, likely Dustin McGowan (who’s out of minor-league options) and likely Locke (out of options, presuming he’s not in the rotation).

That leaves one spot for Jose Urena (out of options) and Brian Ellington or lefty Hunter Cervenka or Nick Wittgren (who all have options).

• Though the Marlins won’t discuss it - and some of this was reported by Fox’s esteemed information man Ken Rosenthal - my impression from conversations is MLB didn’t do right by the Marlins with the San Diego trade fiasco last July.

After Colin Rea left his only Marlins start with elbow issues – something the Padres knew about but shamefully didn’t tell the Marlins about - the Marlins wanted to rescind the entire trade, according to someone with direct knowledge.

But MLB didn’t step in and do that and instead told the Marlins to work it out with the Padres, who traded Luis Castillo back to the Marlins for Rea. (Castillo was used this offseason to acquire pitcher Dan Straily from the Reds.)

Had MLB allowed the Marlins to cancel the whole trade, they would have instead kept Carter Capps and Jarred Cosart and traded Josh Naylor for Philadelphia’s Jeremy Hellickson (who went 6-4, 3.46 post All-Star break) instead of trading Naylor and Capps for Andrew Cashner (1-4, 5.98 in 12 Marlins appearances) and Tayron Guerrero.

The Phillies were willing to do that deal. I doubt the Marlins will make another trade with the Padres anytime soon.

Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton and President of Baseball Operations talk about the upcoming season at the pre-spring training media luncheon on Feb. 10, 2017.

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