Position battles shaping up for Marlins
MIAMI — Until the final days of a busy offseason the Marlins remain active in their search for additional depth.
The latest pickup is Jeff Baker, who offers flexibility at a number of positions.
Baker’s two-year, $3.7 million deal will be announced at the completion of his physical examination.
Adding Baker creates even more competition for roster spots when Spring Training gets underway on Feb. 16 at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.
All the moves over the past few months will give the team a new look, as well as give manager Mike Redmond, his staff and the front office plenty to thinking about in Spring Training.
The Marlins are expected to carry 13 position players and 12 pitchers.
Here is a look at how the competition for position players is shaping up:
Catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the club’s top offseason pickup, will be the starting catcher. The veteran, who won a World Series title with the Red Sox, is a switch-hitter who will bat somewhere in the middle of the order. Veteran Jeff Mathis will be the backup. For Rob Brantly, the Opening Day catcher last year, it will be a camp where he will look to make strides. But barring injury, Brantly is pretty much set to open the year at Triple-A New Orleans.
First base: Garrett Jones signed a two-year deal in December. The biggest question is whether he will hit lefty pitching. The Marlins are going to give him a shot. But if he struggles against Southpaws, a platoon situation is likely. Baker is a candidate to platoon, as is Ty Wigginton, a non-roster invitee.
Second base: Rafael Furcal, a former All-Star shortstop, is making the switch to second. Offering depth is Baker, as well as Donovan Solano, Ed Lucas and Derek Dietrich.
Shortstop: Adeiny Hechavarria has tremendous talent and upside. Key will be if he has progressed as a hitter after a rough 2013. Who backs up will be something to watch. Solano is an option, so is Lucas. Furcal also is an option for depth.
Third base: This will be one of the most watched spots in Spring Training. Casey McGehee was signed after turning in a strong season in Japan. Again, Baker is in the mix to back up. There will be plenty of competition. Lucas, Solano, Dietrich and Wigginton will get a look. Greg Dobbs fits at third base and first base. But the veteran appears to be the primary lefty pinch-hit specialist.
Left field: Christian Yelich will enter his first full season in the big Leagues. The 22-year-old left-handed hitter has the makings of a future star. Some corner outfielders in the mix for depth are non-roster invitees Reed Johnson, Matt Angle and Joe Benson. Kyle Jensen and Jimmy Paredes are already on the 40-man roster.
Center field: Marcell Ozuna is the frontrunner, but he is coming back from left thumb surgery. Brian Bogusevic is expected to make the team as a reserve. Jake Marisnick and Brent Keys are on the 40-man roster.
Right field: Giancarlo Stanton looks to have a bounce back year after a disappointing 2013. An All-Star in 2012, Stanton has more protection in the order this year. Baker and Paredes provide depth. If need be, Ozuna to play right field.
– Joe Frisaro