Figuring out who is in Marlins’ “core”

MIAMI — We’ve repeatedly heard the Marlins intend to retain and build around their “core.” Before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline there was a lot of talk that the club wasn’t going to deal any players in that core.

The “core,” as identified a few weeks ago, consisted of regulars either signed or under club control through at least 2016.

The question I’m dealing with now is figuring out if that “core” indeed has remained the same. There is just over 40 games to go, and in my opinion (based on observations and conversations) is some of the core pieces may become trade pieces in the offseason.

The way I see it, and this is my take, not necessarily the organization’s, the core consists of Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez, Dee Gordon, Adeiny Hechavarria, J.T. Realmuto, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Martin Prado, Tom Koehler, A.J. Ramos, Carter Capps, Jarred Cosart and Mike Dunn.

I’m not counting players not yet eligible for arbitration, guys like Derek Dietrich and Justin Bour, or rookies like Justin Nicolino and Jose Urena.

Of the main core, players I see back automatically are Stanton, Fernandez, Gordon, Hechavarria and Realmuto.

Likely back, but not automatically are Yelich, Ozuna, Prado, Ramos, Capps, Koehler, Cosart and Dunn.

Why are Yelich and Ozuna not automatics? For one, the Marlins need front-line starting pitching. I don’t see them winning any bidding wars for top-tier free agents like David Price or any of the other big names on the market, so a trade is most likely. With that being the case, they may need to part with a core position player or two.

As for Prado? The Marlins really don’t want to move him, and it would take a significant offer. That may or may not come in the offseason.

The club would like to see more productivity from Prado. I think one reason it isn’t a bit higher is because his shoulder hasn’t been completely right since he missed a month from mid-June to mid-July.

The Marlins don’t have a rotation that compiles a bunch of strikeouts, so they need to play great defense. Having Prado at third is critical. He makes the entire infield better, and has been a huge influence on Hechavarria’s improvements.

Dietrich, meanwhile, deserves a lot of credit for the improvements he has made this season. He has shown more plate discipline, and he’s open to moving around to other positions. Even if Prado is dealt in the offseason, it is doubtful Dietrich would automatically play third base every day. Again, defense is a priority.

Dietrich is finding a nice role playing left field, third, second and some first. Depth is key, and Dietrich basically is a left-handed hitting version of Enrique Hernandez, a super utility player the Marlins included in the trade for Gordon and Miguel Rojas.

Bour has the inside edge to return at first base. But first base is definitely a position the club may look to add from the outside.

Frontrunners for bench jobs next year are Dietrich, Cole Gillespie and Rojas.

The organization is open to bringing back Ichiro Suzuki, a free agent who turns 42 in the offseason.

Right now, the team is evaluating whether Casey McGehee could fit into a bench role.

The backup catcher also must be decided as Jeff Mathis is a free agent, who still could return. Tomas Telis is a possibility.

There is a lot of baseball still to be played, and the organization is using these final six weeks to better identify which parts of the core will return in 2016.


— Joe Frisaro

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