Barry Jackson

Marlins poised to go to arbitration with three of best remaining players

The Marlins appear headed to arbitration with three of their best remaining players: first baseman Justin Bour, catcher J.T. Realmuto and pitcher Dan Straily.

Infielders Miguel Rojas and Derek Dietrich were the two among the Marlins’ five arbitration-eligible players who agreed to a contract before Friday’s 1 p.m. deadline for teams and unsigned arbitration-eligible players to exchange salary figures.

The former Marlins regime refused to negotiate contracts after that deadline, and most teams now operate with that approach.

Rojas agreed to a one-year, $1.18 million contract, according to multiple reports.

He told the Miami Herald in November that he very much hopes to be considered for a starting job, and the Marlins might allow him to compete with J.T. Riddle to be the team’s primary shortstop.

Rojas would also be an option at second base if the Marlins deal former Yankees infielder Starlin Castro, who would like to be traded. Rojas hit .290 with one homer and 26 RBI in 90 games.

Terms were not disclosed on a deal for Dietrich, who could end up starting in the outfield after Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna were traded. He hit .249 with 13 homers and 53 RBI in 135 games last season. Baseballtraderumors.com projected that he would have made $3.2 million in arbitration.

Realmuto, who hit. .278 last season with 17 homers and 65 RBI, asked the Marlins for $3.5 million in arbitration, while the team offered $2.9 million, according to a source.

Realmuto is unhappy with the Marlins’ offseason trades and would prefer to play elsewhere, according to numerous reports. A team that has spoken to the Marlins said they are considering offers for Realmuto and outfielder Christian Yelich.

Straily, who went 10-9 with a 4.26 ERA in 33 starts for the Marlins last season, asked the Marlins for $3.55 million in arbitration and the team offered $3.37 million, according to a source.

Bour (.289, 25 homers, 83 RBI in 108 games) asked the Marlins for $3.4 million in arbitration and the Marlins offered $3 million.

Miami Marlins co-owner Derek Jeter speaks to the media after a town hall meeting at Marlins Park on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017.

STARTING PITCHING BATTLE

The top pitchers acquired in the Dee Gordon, Stanton and Ozuna trades — Nick Neidert, Jorge Guzman and Sandy Alcantara — might need more seasoning in the minors this season.

And that leaves the Marlins with at least two, potentially three openings, in their starting rotation.

Neidert struggled in six games in Double A last season (8.10 ERA), Guzman hasn’t pitched above Single A, and Alcantara was merely OK in 25 Double A appearances last season, including 22 starts, with a 7-5 record and a 4.31 ERA. Some scouts believe Alcantara is a year away.

So if those prospects aren’t ready to join the rotation at any point this coming season — and Alcantara might have the best chance — the Marlins are looking at a rotation of Straily and Jose Urena and three question marks.

At this point, contenders to fill out the rest of the rotation are Wei Yin Chen (a cinch to start if healthy after a year and a half of elbow problems, which is a big if), Caleb Smith (the former Yankees lefty was mentioned by Marlins and ex-Yankees executive Gary Denbo as a possibility to be in Miami’s rotation), lefty Dillon Peters (needs to lose weight, according to a Marlins staffer), lefty Adam Conley (his regression last season frustrated the staff), lefties Justin Nicolino and Chris O’Grady and right-handers Odrisamer Despaigne and Jacob Turner and whoever else is added before the March 30 opener against the Cubs.

We also shouldn’t rule out right-hander Zach Gallen, the 2016 third-round pick out of North Carolina who was acquired in the Ozuna deal with St. Louis and was 4-5 with a 3.79 ERA in Double A last season and 1-1 with a 3.48 ERA in four Triple A starts.

The 2017 stats of the aforementioned contenders for three rotation spots:

Chen: 2-1, 3.82 in nine games, including five starts.

Conley: 8-8, 6.14 in 22 games, including 20 starts.

Peters: 1-2, 5.17 ERA in six games, all starts.

Despaigne: 2-3, 4.01 in 18 games, including eight starts.

Nicolino: 2-3, 5.06 in 20 games, including eight starts.

O’Grady: 2-1 and 4.36 ERA in 13 games, including six starts.

Caleb Smith: 9-1, 2.41 ERA in 19 games, including 17 starts, in Double A and Triple A. Was 0-1, 7.71 ERA in nine games, including two starts with the Yankees.

Turner: 2-3, 5.08 ERA in 18 games for Washington, including two starts

ANNOUNCER SEARCH

Fox Sports Florida is auditioning candidates to replace ousted Marlins play-by-play man Rich Waltz, and Sirius XM’s Craig Mish said the finalists are Mets announcer and UM grad Scott Braun, MLB Network host/play-by-play man Paul Severino, Milwaukee Brewers radio announcer Jeff Levering and Anaheim Angels announcer Jose Mota.  

Todd Hollandsworth will return as the team’s television analyst. Studio analysts Preston Wilson and Jeff Conine were dropped.

If you missed it, here’s a link to my five-part series on the Marlins’ new ownership and the team’s future, with details from Derek Jeter’s secret Project Wolverine document and another top-secret MLB document. 

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