Barry Jackson

Marlins’ plans with two key pieces come into focus

The Marlins’ plans with two of their key position player pieces are coming into focus.

Catcher J.T. Realmuto, who is under team control through 2020, said his conversations with the Marlins have left him with the impression that the Marlins intend to make a long-term contract offer this winter.

“We are looking forward to speaking to him during the offseason and hopefully it’s something we can work out and keep him a Marlin for the foreseeable future,” Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said Tuesday. “He is having a great year on both sides of the ball. It has been a tremendous offensive season for him and defensively he continues to grow as he runs our pitching staff.”

Realmuto, 27, is hitting .290 with 20 homers and 70 RBI and has thrown out 37 percent of attempted base-stealers. He’s eligible for arbitration this winter.

Realmuto is open minded to considering what the Marlins have to offer. If he rejects the offer, the Marlins likely would trade him at some point.

Meanwhile, the Marlins need to see a productive September from Lewis Brinson to feel comfortable projecting him for a big-league starter’s role entering the season.

“Big month for him to see if he can be consistent,” manager Don Mattingly said. “At some point, you have to produce.”

Miami Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson looks from the dugout before the start of a Major League Baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Marlins Park on Tuesday, July 3, 2018. The Rays beat Marlins 9-6 in 16th innings. David Santiago

Does he need a good September to give the organization peace of mind that he can be a starter next season?

“I think that’s part of it,” Mattingly said. “It’s is he going to be a guy that’s going to produce? Not just knowing he can play a great center field. He’s got power. He’s got a lot of things, but to actually produce that at this level, that’s the thing you’ve got to find out with him and a number of guys.

“Other guys, too. Trying to find out what Austin Dean can do. Is he a piece? Is a platoon? i don’t think we know any of those answers at this point. But that’s what this will do for us, to be able to make better decisions going into the winter and have an idea of how to at least start your season next year and know what your plans are.”

Brinson is hitting .400 (5 for 16) since returning from a hip injury and Mattingly said he has shown a “good approach the last month.”

He hit .267 in June (23 for 86, four homers, 13 RBI) before being sidelined July 4 for nearly two months.

For the season, he’s at .197, with 10 homers and 31 RBI in 88 games.

The Marlins still don’t have clarity whether they have any long-term closers in their bullpen.

Kyle Barraclough (0-5, 4.11, 10 saves, six blown saves) was dominant as a closer in June, then blew several saves and lost his closer’s job. Drew Steckenrider (4-4, 4.01, three saves) and Adam Conley (3-4, 4.54, two saves) also have closed games, and former Marlins pitcher Brad Ziegler has said hard-throwing Tayron Guerrero (1-2, 5.02, 62 strikeouts in 52) has the best stuff of those young bullpen arms.

“Kyle in general has been the guy three years pitching in big situations, doing well,” Mattingly said. “Just hit a [poor] stretch, had a little back thing going on. I don’t know if you want to sit here and predict who’s going to be the closer. Bullpens are so volatile. Change almost yearly, so at this point I would say we’re more of a club that will close by committee than to say this guy is going to the guy.

“But if anyone would be that guy, [Barraclough] and Steck are the two guys. Claw with the experience in the late innings. Steck is a guy that throws strikes, has developed the second pitch more and more. It’s tougher to close games out with that one pitch.”

And what about Guerrero?

“He has shown more command from the standpoint of the walks are down,” Mattingly said. “We see the stuff as far as the fastball is concerned. Closer type fastball. But really truly doesn’t have a second pitch [and that] always puts you in a bind. But there have been a lot of positives with Tayron this year.”

The key, Mattingly said, is “having a breaking ball teams will respect.”

Per sources, MLB players association lawyers were in Miami last week gathering information for the union’s grievance against the Marlins, which alleges the Marlins didn’t use enough of their revenue sharing money on payroll this year. MLB rules require the Marlins to share information with those lawyers.

The union lawyers also visited with Tampa Bay Rays officials last week in Tampa.

In February, the players union filed a grievance to MLB, claiming that four teams - the Marlins, Rays,Pirates and Athletic - have not spent revenue-sharing money in the way intended by the collective bargaining agreement.

MLB has said it strongly disagrees with the union’s contention on the Marlins.

If the league and union cannot agree on whether the teams violated the agreement, then the union has the right to send the matter to arbitration.

The Marlins, in their defense, can say that their $100 million payroll is the third-highest in franchise history.

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