Reasons why Marlins are likely to trade LoMo

MIAMI — With the Marlins closing in on a two-year deal with Garrett Jones, Logan Morrison suddenly becomes the club’s top trade chip heading into the Winter Meetings.

For more than a month, Miami’s front office has discussed how to move forward with Morrison. In many ways, they like all the left-handed hitting first baseman brings to the table — his work ethic, leadership, power potential and approach at the plate.

Basically, all the qualities that made Morrison one of the game’s top prospects in 2010 still remain.

So does doubt.

Two surgeries to his right knee have dramatically reduced his playing time. After being asked to play left field his first few seasons, Morrison is back at first base, his primary position in the Minor Leagues. But he’s had struggles in the field, and he didn’t demonstrate the type of power the club had hoped — six homers in 85 games.

Obviously, missing all of Spring Training was a factor. But in a bottom-line business like the big leagues, it’s about results.

For the first time since 2011, Morrison will be heading into Spring Training fully healthy. He began his hitting routine on Friday near his offseason apartment in Denver. He’s once again able to do squats in the weight room. He’s running, pain-free, and taking care of his body by eating right and trimming down.

“I have no doubts in my mind that I will be back to where I need to be next year,” Morrison told on Friday. “It’s a process, like anything else. You’ve got to stick with it.”

Highly-motivated, there are plenty of reasons to be encouraged that Morrison can become the player the industry envisioned before his injuries.

Yet, the decision the Marlins are making is based on about what they’ve actually seen — the results. Morrison now is entering arbitration, and his projected salary, according to the MLB Trade Rumors site is $1.7 million. The arbitration model was developed by Matt Swartz, and it has been pretty accurate in recent years.

To an organization like the Marlins, where every dollar matters, they want to feel confident Morrison will be on the field for 140 or more games for guaranteed money close to $2 million.

Already, the team has a risky situation at second base. Rafael Furcal on Friday officially signed a one-year, $3 million contract with Miami.

Miami is rolling the dice that Furcal, who missed all of 2013 due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, will be able to perform regularly.

The 36-year-old Furcal, a career shortstop, is moving to second base.

If Morrison returns, the Marlins would have about $4.7 million locked up on the right side of their infield on two players rebouding from injuries.

Jones, meanwhile, is a left-handed hitting first baseman who has played in at least 144 games in each of the past four years with the Pirates. Three-times he’s hit more than 20 homers in a season, and he has a career slugging percentage of .458.

At age 32, Jones is six years older than Morrison, but he’s stayed healthy.

The Marlins reportedly are offering Jones $7.75 million for two years.

Jones also is a player the Marlins have had their eye on for years. Granted, he would be a platoon candidate because of his splits against left-handed pitching. But he also can play right field.

While Miami is not considering trading Giancarlo Stanton, Jones gives some depth and left-handed pop at the position.

Keep in mind, Stanton also has had his injury issues. Last year, he missed more than a month with a hamstring strain.

Assuming Jones’ deal becomes official in the next day or two, Morrison pretty much is guaranteed to be traded.

The Brewers and Rays are a couple of potential landing spots.

In the offseason, the Marlins hired Jeff McAvoy as their the new director of pro scouting. McAvoy cames to Miami after working for Tampa Bay. So, if Miami is wanting to do business with the Rays, they have someone who knows their system well.

Sean Rodriguez, a versatile infielder, could be a possible piece to play third. And he gives insurance at shortstop.

The Brewers, meanwhile, have also checked in on Morrison’s availability.

There could be a fit with Milwaukee.

In the past, the Marlins have coveted Juan Francisco. Perhaps a Morrison for Francisco deal may make sense? There are questions about Francisco’s work ethic, which could present a problem.

Francisco, 26, is a left-handed hitter with power, who is arbitration eligible for the first time.

In 2013, Francisco belted 18 homers while playing for both the Braves and Brewers.

Francisco can play third base and first.

Third base is the club’s primary need heading into the Winter Meetings. The organization has a highly-touted third base prospect in Colin Moran, but he likely won’t be big league ready for another year or so.

The way the Marlins’ roster is shaping up, the Marlins may have a few platoon candidates on the field. Jones is one at first base, perhaps third base could be handled that way. Rodriguez is solid defensively. He doesn’t have the power of Francisco, but he brings has playoff experience, and is able to take on several roles.

The Marlins may be best suited to do a bit of what the Rays have done, mix and match.

Rodriguez, along with Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas, could be used in a variety of roles. Each can play several infield spots.

As is, Stanton and Marcell Ozuna are Miami’s main right-handed power threats. Justin Ruggiano is another option off the bench.

From the left side, Jones would be a proven 20-homer candidate, and Christian Yelich is a pure hitter capable of 15 or so home runs.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Furcal are switch-hitters.

If Francisco and Jones join the lineup, immediately what was the Major League’s worst offense in 2013 becomes dramatically better.

Joe Frisaro

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