MIAMI — The Marlins have made plenty of moves this offseason, but it doesn’t appear they will make one more splash before Spring Training starts on Friday.
The club has explored the available reliever options, but none appears to be a fit.
Francisco Rodriguez is an interesting option, and Miami has been in contact with his agent, Scott Boras. The team is open to offering a two-year deal in the $10 million range. But there are reports K-Rod is seeking much more than that — like $10 million for one year.
If that’s the case, the Marlins are out.
Lefty Phil Coke has attracted Marlins’ attention, but only on a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invitation. Andrew McKirahan is a Rule 5 pickup from the Cubs system, and he will give him a chance to win the job.
Mike Dunn is signed for two years, and he is the lone lefty who is a lock to make the club. If Coke signed a big league contract, then McKirahan would be squeezed out before the competition even began.
Rule 5 picks typically have at least half of Spring Training to impress. So Coke isn’t very likely.
Miami also doesn’t have serious interest in Joba Chamberlain.
Bottom line is the Marlins like the bullpen they already have. If K-Rod’s demands lowered, he could be the most realistic choice to give another boost to the ‘pen. If not, they will stay the course.
Miami also has an interesting non-roster invitee in right-hander Nick Masset. With the Reds from 2009-11, the right-hander had three straight seasons of tossing at least 70 innings. But he suffered a right shoulder injury, which derailed his career until he joined the Rockies last year.
The Marlins are eager to see if Masset, 32, can bounce back and resemble the pitcher he was in Cincinnati.
— Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — It appears the Marlins will make another move or two before Spring Training starts on Feb. 20.
Miami is looking to sign lefty Phil Coke to a Minor League deal with a big league camp invite.
Mike Dunn, who signed for two years, $5.8 million, is the lone left-hander who is a lock to be on the Opening Day roster.
Coke, 32, has been with the Tigers since 2010, and he was 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 58 innings.
Coke reportedly also is drawing interest from the Rangers and Blue Jays.
Ideally, Miami would like to add at least one more left-hander.
Andrew McKirahan, a Rule 5 pick from the Cubs’ system, also is a lefty in the mix.
The Marlins haven’t closed the door on signing right-hander Francisco Rodriguez, but the team has an abundance of right-handed candidates.
Another question with K-Rod is how would he accept a setup role instead of closing? Also, at what level of commitment. It likely will take an offer of two-years, $10 million to land the veteran.
— Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — With James Shields likely heading to the Padres, are there any potential upgrades available on the market? The answer is yes.
Francisco Rodriguez is a free agent who could be a nice final piece to an already incredible offseason for the Marlins. If Miami can’t get that final boost to its rotation, then go for a reliever with a proven track record.
K-Rod, 33, had 44 saves with the Brewers last season. He would add another quality arm to the back of the ‘pen. While Steve Cishek is the closer, Rodriguez is a nice fallback option.
The Marlins actually came into $1 million when they won their arbitration hearing with Mat Latos.
Latos filed for $10.4 million, and Miami countered at $9.4 million. The ruling went in favor of the club.
Make no mistake, the Marlins were aggressive throughout in trying to sign Shields. They were hopeful to land the 33-year-old starter, who appears to have a better offer on the table from San Diego.
Barring something unforeseen, Shields will be headed out West instead of South Florida.
So that means the rotation shapes up as Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos, Jarred Cossart, Dan Haren, and either Tom Koehler, Brad Hand or David Phelps.
It’s a strong unit. And one or two of those options may wind up in the ‘pen.
But if the Marlins want even more depth, K-Rod is a viable alternative.
— Joe Frisaro
JUPITER, Fla. — Roger Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Marlins and Cardinals, will have a fresh, new look when both teams report to camp later this month.
A couple of upgrades fans will notice immediately are brand new seats and a higher-quality sound system for Grapefruit League games.
All 6,500 seats have been replaced. The new, forest green one range from 19-22 inches wide, depending on location. The sound system also will be better.
Marlins pitchers and catchers begin workouts on Feb. 20, and full-squad workouts get underway on Feb. 24.
The first Marlins games at the park will be March 2 against Florida International University, and March 3 vs. the University of Miami. After two exhibitions against college clubs, Miami opens its Grapefruit League play on March 5 as the home team vs. St. Louis.
Roger Dean Stadium also is offering two new batting practice packages. The park is opening 2 1/2 hours before 1:05 p.m. ET starts for those who purchase either a $5 or $25 package. For $5, fans can have their normal access to the park, which allows them to watch the home team’s BP.
The $25 package gives fans on-field access in designated areas. Those fans receive a souvenir pass, plus they get a close-up view of both teams hitting and fielding.
Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton tends to put on a show in batting practice, routinely launching 400-plus foot home runs. But he isn’t the only Marlin who can drive the ball a long way. New first baseman Michael Morse also has light-tower power.
Spring Training also will be the first opportunity to see Miami’s newcomers, such as Morse, Dee Gordon, Martin Prado and Ichiro Suzuki.
— Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Before throwing in the towel, the Marlins may consider tossing one last Hail Mary pass at James Shields.
With no clear frontrunner for Sheilds’ services, what’s the harm in making a final run at the best starting pitcher on the market?
To make something clear, there is no indication the Marlins are thinking this way. In fact, the door to signing Shields may already be firmly closed.
From what I’m hearing, Shields would practically have to fall into Miami’s lap to get a deal done.
Just in case there is a sliver of hope, here’s a scenario that might work.
The proposal the Marlins should consider is two years in the $35 million range. If it makes sense, then add an option year. That’s it.
Miami has balked at a four or five year deal, for good reason. The club is gradually building up payroll over the next few seasons as it seeks a better local TV deal. It would be devastating to the long-term success to risk blowing up the long-range budgets.
The solution could be offering a shorter deal.
After signing Ichiro Suzuki, the Marlins may have already maxed their 2015 budget. To squeeze in Shields at, say, $17.5 million would require the front office convincing owner Jeffrey Loria that the right-hander is the missing piece to reaching the playoffs.
Say they do get the financial commitment, could they convince Shields to accept a two-year deal? It could be tough. Shields’ camp has sought at least four years and $70 million.
Cutting those demands in half to two years, $35 million likely would open up a larger market for Shields. For the Marlins, it’s still worth the risk.
The Marlins could sell sunny South Florida and no state income tax. Miami is a team on the rise, and it plays in a pitchers’ park.
Why should Miami consider a two-year deal over one, which could again get Shields back on the market in ’16?
Because Shields rejected the Royals $15.3 million qualifying offer in November, Miami would surrender the 12th overall pick in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft.
Giving up a high first-round pick, plus the dollars it would take to pay Shields, would be too much for one season of service.
Two years works for Miami because it would mean the club has a front-line starter to join Jose Fernandez and Henderson Alvarez for 2016 as well. Mat Latos and Dan Haren, two key rotation pieces, are both one-year options.
If Shields still says no, the Marlins can close the door completely, with no regrets.
— Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — If you’re the Marlins, you can’t dismiss what is happening in Washington. The best rotation in the sport is getting even better with the pending signing of Max Scherzer.
Not only is Scherzer a game changer, he very well could be a season changer. So much so that the Nationals are considered not just a lock to win the National League East, but a strong favorite to also reach the World Series.
So if you’re the Marlins, how do you survey the landscape leading into the start of Spring Training? Actually, you don’t divert off the path you’re already on.
If they make no additional moves, the Marlins have dramatically improved themselves. They’ve added speed in Dee Gordon, power in Michael Morse, starting pitching in Mat Latos and Dan Haren. Martin Prado is a proven veteran who takes over at third base. The club has added some experienced pitching depth with the acquisitions of David Phelps and Aaron Crow.
There is a lot to be excited about. Also, if the team remains as competitive as they think they will, Jose Fernandez will return midseason.
You can boldly state right now, if Fernandez is close to being what he was before Tommy John surgery, he will be the best midseason addition for any club in the Majors. It’s hard to imagine a player moving in a July trade who could make more of an impact than a healthy Jose. Jon Lester and David Price were midseason moves in ’14, and many would take Fernandez over both of them right now.
All this said, how does the N.L. East shape up?
Well, the Nationals won 96 games and won the East by 12 games in 2014. Throw Scherzer into the equation, and bar major injuries or disappointments, this looks like a 100-victories club ticketed for the World Series.
If you’re Miami, remember you won 77 games in ’14, a year in which Fernandez missed about five months and Giancarlo Stanton was out the final three weeks.
A realistic approach should be to improve by at least 11 games. If the Marlins can get to 88 wins, they will like their chances of being one of 10 playing in the postseason.
Guess how many games the Giants and Pirates won in ’14? You got it, 88. Those were the two N.L. Wild Card teams.
We all know which team caught fire at the right time, and went on to win the World Series.
In the American League, the A’s won 88 games and the Royals won 89 games. Those were your two Wild Card teams. Again, we know who represented the A.L. in the World Series.
So, regardless of whether Scherzer is in Washington or not, the Marlins still have to figure out how to at least 11 more games. If they get to 90, they increase their playoff chances even more.
Not that the team is conceding anything heading into the season. Over a long year, you never know. But the approach is to get at least 88 wins, no matter how.
Even though winning the division means not playing a one-game Wild Card playoff, reaching the postseason is the main objective. Once in, anything can happen.
The Giants and Royals proved that in ’14.
— Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — It’s already been one of the busiest and potentially most productive offseasons the Marlins have enjoyed in years. Still, there and indications the club isn’t finished just yet.
We’re not talking about the obligatory signing of arbitration-eligible players and finding a fourth outfielder. We’re talking another significant move or two.
We do know the club has maintained interest in free agent James Shields. Some in the industry are rumbling Miami could be a sleeper squad in pursuit of Max Scherzer. I can flat out say, there is zero chance Miami is in on Scherzer.
For the sake of discussion, if Miami is willing to pay Shields, 33, a five-year deal worth, say, $90 million, is that a better investment than going after Yoan Moncada, the 19-year-old Cuban sensation?
This much I can say about Moncada. All the hype you hear about him is true. He’s a switch-hitter with power from both sides. He’s also a versatile athlete who can play five positions. He may profile in the infield, perhaps even at shortstop, and he plays the outfield.
Moncada’s price tag also could be in the $80 million range.
The Marlins also are monitoring the market on Moncada.
In recent years, Miami has come up short in the bidding of high-profile Cuban players. They made plays for Jose Abreu and Yeonis Cespedes, but in both cases, they underestimated the market.
Right now, teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers have been linked to Moncada. It’s probably a long shot Miami can get the deal done.
But keep this in mind. Center fielder Marcell Ozuna is a year away from being arbitration-eligible. Ozuna also is represented by Scott Boras, who traditionally stays away from contract extensions and allows his players to reach free agency.
If that is the case, Ozuna could move on in a few years. By then, Moncada could be an option to take over in center field.
The Marlins clearly are looking to win now. Shields would help them do that. But Moncada could be the type of impact player who can keep the team competitive for years to come.
Something to ponder.
— Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — In so many ways, James Shields and the Marlins are a perfect fit. So why does it remain a long shot that Big Game James will sign with Miami?
Quite simply, the dollars have to make sense. Miami had no intentions of going five years and more than $100 million for a 33-year-old. Now, there are indications the demands are lowering, which again makes the Marlins a possibility.
But at what price? Would fives years, $90 million get the deal done? Perhaps, but that would depend on how it the contract is structured.
The Marlins are in a precarious place when it comes to their payrolls. The projected payroll for 2015 is in the $65 million range. Now, that figure could have some wiggle room based on Dan Haren’s situation. If Haren retires, Miami still gets $10 million from the Dodgers. And if Haren pitches for Miami, L.A. is paying the $10 million.
Either way, the organizaiton is aiming to avoid the overspending it did in 2012, when the payroll topped $100 million for the only time in franchise history. A number of players on that squad had heavily backloaded contracts. When ticket sales and other revenues didn’t meet expectations in the first season in the new ballpark, upper management opted to break the team up.
The Marlins don’t want history to repeat itself. They don’t want to relive that ugly chapter again.
So Miami must be careful how to approach Shields, because a bad contract could upset the rest of their roster in upcoming seasons.
The Marlins probably could stretch their budget in 2015, and pay Shields perhaps as much as $20 million. But if the club is on the hook for that figure or more in 2016, it could eat up a majority of the projected 2016 budget. No figure has been revealed for ’16, but it could be in the $80 million range.
Four players are already signed for $33 million in ’16. Giancarlo Stanton will make $9 million, while Martin Prado, Morse and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are each on the hook for $8 million. Prado technically is signed for $11 million in ’15 and ’16, but the Yankees are paying $3 million in each season.
Along with those four, 14 players on this year’s roster will be arbitration-eligible in ’16. Many are core players.
Projected arbitration players in ’16 are Steve Cishek, Aaron Crow, Mike Dunn, Dee Gordon, Jose Fernandez, David Phelps, Marcell Ozuna, Henderson Alvarez, Bryan Morris, Donovan Solano, A.J. Ramos, Carter Capps, Tom Koehler and Adeiny Hechavarria.
Miami also is considering extensions for Fernandez, Ozuna and Hechavarria, as well as Christian Yelich, who is eligible for arbitration in 2017.
The Marlins clearly are going for it in 2015. Shields just might be the missing piece to being in the postseason.
What Miami is weighing is how to afford Shields without impairing future budgets.
— Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — All options remain in play for the Marlins in their search for a fourth outfielder. There are at least four candidates, and no clear frontrunner.
Free agents Nate Schierholtz and Ichiro Suzuki definitely are in the mix. But the list is deeper than these two.
The organization is pretty much exploring several left-handed hitters to handle backup outfield and pinch-hit roles. Andy Dirks, non-tendered by Detroit, and Will Venable of the Padres, in his final season of arbitration, also have drawn attention.
Schierholtz is an ideal fit because he is accustomed to the role. He’s solid defensively, and an accomplished pinch-hitter. When it is all said and done, he may be the choice.
Ichiro, of course, is the flashy name. It’s still hard to imagine that the 41-year-old, who is 156 hits shy of 3,000, would accept a National League bench role. The American League, with the DH, would give him more chances for playing time.
Miami’s outfield also is set with Christian Yelich in left, Marcell Ozuna in center and Giancarlo Stanton in right. The Marlins feel that trio is as good as any in the National League.
Still, injuries happen. And an established veteran like Suzuki is attractive.
The fact the Marlins continue to consider the 41-year-old shows they may have something creative in mind.
Perhaps the club is entertaining Ichiro also playing more than just three outfield spots. Could some first base be a consideration? Suzuki has never played first in the big leagues, and I have not gotten confirmation that is part of the club’s thinking. But if it were, it would help make more sense in luring the former All-Star to South Florida.
Free agent pickup, Michael Morse, will be the regular first baseman. But depth at the position is needed. Ichiro could get on the field more if he shows he can adjust to the spot.
Miami infield coach Perry Hill, regarded as one of the best in the business, could greatly help with the transition.
Justin Bour, a left-handed hitter, has a chance to make the Opening Day roster as a backup first baseman and pinch-hitter. But it may not be an ideal situation to have a promising young player sitting on the bench in the big leagues over playing regularly at Triple-A.
We’ll likely get more clarity on the fourth outfield situation in the next week or two.
— Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Don’t close the door on Dan Haren pitching for the Marlins just yet.
I’m hearing rumblings that Miami hasn’t given up hope the 34-year-old will have a change of heart and ultimately report to Spring Training with the rest of the pitchers and catchers on Feb. 20.
Perhaps with Spring Training 41 days away, Haren is open to pitching for the team that acquired him from the Dodgers on Dec. 10.
During the holidays, Haren informed the Marlins that his preference remained to pitch close to home on the West Coast. He also told the team he wanted to go through Spring Training in Arizona.
With a limited trade market, the Marlins have explored their options. The Giants and Padres are considered two possibilities.
Haren is doing his part, preparing himself for Spring Training somewhere. That place may end up being with Miami at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.
If Haren is indeed having a change of heart, it would be an ideal situation for the Marlins. Bottom line is Miami wants a veteran pitcher, and Haren is an ideal candidate.
If he is dealt, the Marlins would likely seek other options, like signing free agent James Shields. But “Big Game” James is a costly alternative because reportedly he is seeking a deal in the five-year, $100 million range.
The Marlins have no intention of meeting those demands.
Haren, acquired from the Dodgers on Dec. 10 as part of the Dee Gordon trade, fits what Miami is seeking — a proven veteran who adds depth to an already strong rotation.
The Marlins would certainly welcome the chance to go into Spring Training with a rotation of Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos, Jarred Cosart, Dan Haren and either Tom Koehler or Brad Hand.
The rotation also will get a huge boost midseason when Jose Fernandez completes his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
Another plus to having Haren is, if he reports, his $10 million salary would be picked up by Los Angeles. There are a lot of positives to having Haren say yes to Miami.
— Joe Frisaro