Brian Anderson, who proved to be a quality defender at both third base and in right field last season, will begin the season as a third baseman, the Marlins said Saturday.
That decision means veteran Martin Prado, who has played in only 91 games the past two years because of assorted injuries, likely will begin the season as a backup, manager Don Mattingly said.
Anderson, one of the franchise’s cornerstone players, played 91 games in right field and 71 at third base last season, while hitting .273 with 11 homers and 65 RBI.
“He was excellent in right field for us but organizationally we feel he makes us a better organization playing third base,” Mattingly said at the team’s FanFest at Marlins Park.
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Prado, due $15 million this season in the final year of a three-year contract, appeared in just 37 and 54 games the past two seasons and went on the disabled list for good Aug. 13 last year with a left quad strain.
Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said “we’re hopeful Martin is healthy,” but Prado did not answer directly when asked if he expects to be ready for spring training games.
“I’ve been running, feel a lot better,” he said. “We’ll start doing baseball stuff and see how it feels.”
Mattingly said he envisions getting Prado at-bats at third base this season and “we will be working him around the field a little bit. Nobody questions if Martin can play. It’s been keeping him on the field. There will be plenty of opportunity for him.”
Prado said moving to the bench will not be problematic because “I started my career as a utility guy. They have been really patient with me the last few years and it’s understandable [they want to look out for] the future of the team. The only thing I ask them is to be on the same page and get me healthy on the field and I will do my part.”
The Marlins’ payroll is down to about $73 million after the J.T. Realmuto trade, and Hill indicated Miami likely will sign a veteran reliever in the coming days.
“Hopefully, we’ll get that taken care of before pitchers take the field [on Wednesday],” Hill said, adding he would like a “veteran bullpen piece to help with” Drew Steckenrider, Adam Conley and Tayron Guerrero in the back end.
▪ Mattingly said shortstop will be an open competition between Miguel Rojas and J.T. Riddle and said there’s nobody on the roster assured of a starting outfield job, though Lewis Brinson figures to be in the lineup if he has a decent spring and Curtis Granderson also has a good chance.
Hill and Mattingly cautioned not to overlook Rosell Herrera, who hit .234 with one homer and 20 RBI in 86 games for Kansas City and Cincinnati last season and was claimed by the Marlins off waivers on Jan. 2.
▪ Mattingly envisions Neil Walker playing primarily at first base. A platoon with Peter O’Brien is a possibility.
Mattingly spoke of the value of adding Walker and Granderson, two respected veterans.
Walker “has been through a rebuild with Pittsburgh,” Mattingly said. “He’s a guy that can still play. Neil, Curtis those kind of guys you have to have in your clubhouse for leadership.”
▪ Hill and Mattingly made clear that the priorities this season extend well beyond player development.
“We’re going to be talking about winning every day,” Mattingly said. “We’re not going to be talking about building. Last year was the most patient you had to be. This year we have to move past that and expect more from our guys….
“We’re counting on our guys getting a lot better. We had guys in trades last year; different times they showed a lot of progress, other times they didn’t.”
Hill noted the Marlins have acquired 38 “prospects and upper level talent to a system that was barren.”
Hill’s message to fans off a 63-98 season and in the midst of a rebuild?
“I would tell our fans to give us a chance. So many people have written off the Marlins and really haven’t taken an opportunity to take a deep look at what we’re doing. When you have a lot to do, it’s going to take time. We’ve added tremendous amount of talent in the last 18 months...
“We were aggressive in going out and getting the top international free agent in the market [Victor Victor Mesa]. Every trade, we’re trying to get back international money.”
▪ Second baseman Starlin Castro (visa issue) and Mesa (personal commitment) missed FanFest, but both are expected for the start of spring training.