Weighing options: Marlins exploring free agent/trade scenarios
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
JUPITER, Fla. — Do something!
That’s the overwhelming sentiment among frustrated Miami Marlins’ fans, eager for the club to make a major move. Any move. They’re voicing themselves loudly on social media, and their patience is running thin. And we’re not even a full week into Spring Training.
As top-tier free agents like Freddie Freeman and Kris Bryant are signing megadeals elsewhere, the Marlins still haven’t made their final big splash before Opening Day.
Memo to the fanbase: Sit still. Miami is weighing all options in hopes of landing that much-needed impactful hitter.
With their first Grapefruit League game scheduled for 6:05 p.m. on Friday against the Washington Nationals at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, here’s what we know.
First, some housekeeping for Game One of spring. Ace Sandy Alcantara will start for Miami and log about 50 pitches against the Nationals. On Saturday afternoon, against the Houston Astros at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, Pablo Lopez will start.
When it comes to their biggest needs, upgrading the offense, the search continues.
The club’s ideal option is Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Bryan Reynolds. The drawback? Do the Pirates want to make a trade? Their asking price remains high, and the Pirates may not be willing to deal their best player.
Realistically, they could be seeking Max Meyer, JJ Bleday and Edward Cabrera (these are educated guesses with inputs from several sources). If that’s the case, the Marlins must ask: does this make sense?
Another trade possibility is Oakland A’s outfielder Ramon Laureano, who still has 27-games remaining on his suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. The cost to acquire Laureano is much less than Reynolds, who is the better overall player.
From what we’re hearing, there are many outfield trade options. Stay tuned there.
The free agents to pay attention to are Nick Castellanos, Michael Conforto and Jorge Soler.
The latest on the three is as followed. According to what we’re being told, Castellanos’ price tag remains high. Exactly what, we don’t know. But Freeman signed for six-years, $162 million with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
We had been told that more clarity would be had once Freeman’s deal was done.
What would it take to get Castellanos? Would six years, $130 million to $140 million be the figure? That’s a hefty price tag for a right-handed hitter who has limitations defensively.
Now, could Castellanos’ cost lower due to less suitors? The Philadelphia Phillies, even after signing left-handed slugger Kyle Schwarber, are reportedly in the mix for Castellanos.
ManOn2nd, since early in the 2021 MLB season, publicly pushed for Miami to go after Castellanos.
Obviously, other teams we don’t know about could also be in on the South Florida native who attended Archbishop McCarthy in Broward County.
Agent Scott Boras also isn’t one to rush into a deal. So the process lingers.
The way we handicap Castellanos interest from Miami is, as long as he’s unsigned, he is a possibility to wind up with his hometown club. Either way, he’d be their most expensive option.
Michael Conforto, another Boras client, is a left-handed hitter who provides power and positional versatility. The belief is he is seeking a deal around $100 million. Yes, that would be a lower price tag that Castellanos, but still a number that the Marlins may have trouble agreeing to.
Defensively, Conforto can play all three outfield spots, and is a left-handed hitter. Lefty power plays better at loanDepot park. Conforto actually would be a terrific pickup. Castellanos, meanwhile, mainly would be a corner outfielder and a designated hitter.
Soler, not strong defensively, is another corner outfield possibility.
The question with Soler is, does he provide more of an upgrade than who already is on the roster? Left field is open. Brian Anderson, who also plays third, is a possibility, at least on some occasions. Jesus Sanchez and Avisail Garcia are other corner candidates. They each can play all three outfield spots.
Then you have Bryan De La Cruz, Monte Harrison and Jon Berti (more of an infield utility player), who are in the mix to make the club. And at the Minor League level, JJ Bleday could be making his push to be in the equation. Bleday, not on the 40-man roster but in big league camp, isn’t an Opening Day candidate. But he could be ready a few months into the season.
All this is being considered by the front office.
Before Opening Day, we believe the Marlins will do something significant. Their process just so happens to be testing their fans’ patience.
Where will Joey Wendle play?
On any given day, utility infielder Joey Wendle can be playing anywhere on the diamond. The other day he was at second base, and on Thursday he was at short. Wendle also will be playing third base.
An offseason pickup from the Tampa Bay Rays, Wendle brings plenty to the plate. He’s versatile and understands what it takes to win.
From watching his work habits and his approach, you can see why.
Wendle understands what it’s like to be playing in a lower revenue paying market. He’s also playoff tested.
“For any team that doesn’t spend as much money as the large market teams, or whatever,” Wendle said. “You have to buy into what you’re doing. You have to buy into your teams’ identity. You have to buy into each other, and you have to go out there with the expectation that you’re going to go win baseball games.
“I think to have the excuse, we can’t hang with these guys, they’ve got such and such making $30 million a year. Come game day, it doesn’t matter. Come game day, all that matters is who plays a better baseball game that day. I think that’s where the competitive aspect comes in, where the gamer mentality comes into play. We have that. It doesn’t matter who is on the other team. What matters is who comes out to play that day.”
Prospect watch: There’s a reason why Kahlil Watson is the Marlins’ top prospect, per MLB Pipeline. The club’s first-round pick in 2021 can flat out hit.
Watson, who turned 19 on Wednesday, is a left-handed hitting shortstop who has the skillset to stick at the position. If not, he can slide over to second base.
Against a left-handed New York Mets prospect on Thursday, Watson laced a double to the wall in right-center.
Watson possesses elite bat speed, and he shows advanced plate discipline for such a young player. He has a real plan at the plate. He handles velocity well, and he has the makings of being a really good big leaguer.
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