Hechavarria, Gordon prime extension candidates

In a season where so much has gone wrong for the Marlins, the club’s flashy middle infield is an example of what has gone right.

Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and second baseman Dee Gordon have become the best double-play combination in the National League East, and arguably the top tandem in the entire National League. Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik of the Giants are the only duo with a higher WAR.

Defensively, those two don’t match Miami’s middle infielders.

The play Hechavarria made to throw out Jonathan Lucroy to end Monday’s 6-2 win at Milwaukee is another example why the slick-fielding shortstop is so valuable.

Hechavarria and Gordon are regarded as the two most likely contract extension candidates for the Marlins when they enter the offseason. There is still plenty of games to go, but internally those two are the ones considered priorities to lock up long term.

The Marlins approached Hechavarria last offseason, but talks didn’t go very far. Now, with the shortstop about to enter arbitration, the time is right to get a deal done. Gordon, a Super 2 arbitration player, is making $2.5 million this season. He has three more seasons of arbitration, unless he agrees on a long-term deal.

More than any free agents who may be on the market, retaining these two is a higher priority for Miami.

What about Jose Fernandez?

There is plenty of speculation about if or when the Marlins will be able to secure Fernandez to a long-term deal. Before those thoughts gain any steam, foremost, everyone is waiting to see when Fernandez will be healthy.

On the disabled list with a right biceps strain, Fernandez played catch on Monday. He hopes to pitch before the season ends.

Many are saying Fernandez shouldn’t risk anything and be shut down. That may end up happening. If there are any red flags, then obviously, the 23-year-old shouldn’t pitch.

If that is what happens, though, I don’t see the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year being a realistic contract extension candidate.

The Marlins have always been hesitant to sign pitchers long-term anyway. In Fernandez’s case, you have injury to weigh in. He missed nearly 14 months due to Tommy John surgery. Now the shoulder/biceps.

Yes, the Marlins approached Fernandez and his agent, Scott Boras, last offseason, about making a deal. That was coming off Tommy John surgery. Even that was risky.

Now, there is a shoulder issue to go along with previous elbow surgery makes it more likely that Fernandez will wind up going through at least one year of arbitration in 2016. If a multi-year deal could be worked out, it would appear to be for 2017 and beyond.

Now, if Fernandez does pitch again this season, and there is confidence he is healthy, then an extension this offseason may be possible.

Marcell Ozuna?

Many have asked about Ozuna, who recently rejoined the team after spending more than a month at Triple-A New Orleans. Clearly, the 24-year-old wasn’t happy about his extended Minor League stay, which likely now means he won’t be arbitration eligible until 2017, not ’16, as he was trending.

Now another full season away from arbitration, it appears the Marlins are less likely to consider making a long-term deal with the outfielder this winter. Also represented by Boras, it makes little sense for both sides to do something.

Could Ozuna be dangled as a trade piece? Of course. He drew interest at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Unless Ozuna finishes strong, and shows higher value, don’t expect him to be moved.

Ozuna is not untouchable. But to move the outfielder for a top of the rotation starter without him first posting bigger power numbers is not realistic.

Joe Frisaro

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