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Marlins unwilling to mark down pitching depth

Marlins unwilling to mark down pitching depth

Marlins unwilling to mark down pitching depth play video for Marlins unwilling to mark down pitching depth

MIAMI -- It will take a special offer for the Marlins to part with some of their surplus pitching.

Even though Miami is in need of more offensive firepower, the club is treading carefully if it means dealing away some, if any, of its young pitching.

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From the Minors on up to the big leagues, the Marlins have a nice stable of talented arms. If possible, they'd like to keep it that way.

With the Winter Meetings set for next week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill says the team plans on keeping its pitching strong.

"We don't want to take a strength and make it a weakness," Hill said. "Like I've said, we're definitely mindful that pitching is what drives this game.

"There is definitely a need for pitching out there. No doubt about it. Clubs that have scouted our system and scouted our team feel that we have an area of depth there."

It's also no secret Miami is in the market for a third baseman, and more speed and power.

The general feeling is the Marlins will operate from their position of strength to solve a weakness. It may eventually be the case, but the club has already addressed a need on the free-agent market without costing a pitcher in return.

On Tuesday, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia agreed to a three-year, $21 million contract. The deal will become official after the completion of Saltalamacchia's physical. An announcement is expected either by the end of the week, or perhaps early next week in Florida, where it would receive the most national attention.

Saltalamacchia's contract is expected to be the largest free-agent move Miami makes this offseason.

There had been speculation that the club would have interest in Mike Napoli, the free-agent first baseman and former teammate of Saltalamacchia's in Boston. But Miami is not interested in spending Napoli's projected asking price, which is believed to be around four years, $60 million.

In theory, parting with some pitching may be the best way for the Marlins to attract more offense. But it doesn't mean the club is ready to pull the trigger on any deals.

"As we field these calls, we want to make sure that if we do anything with our young pitching, it's a deal that makes sense for us, not only in the near term, but in the long term," Hill said.

Last season, the Marlins used 12 starting pitchers, showing why having an abundance of arms is important.

Jose Fernandez is the 21-year-old ace of the staff. The National League Rookie of the Year Award winner was dominant in his 28 starts and 172 2/3 innings. But he is still young.

Because of Fernandez's age, and overall experience level, his innings will again be closely monitored in '14. The team will loosen his limit a bit, but it may not be ready to let him reach as many as 200 innings.

This is where the overall pitching depth comes into play. Like Fernandez, the Marlins have a number of young pitchers they have to be careful about pushing too fast.

Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez are impressive talents. But both opened the '13 season on the disabled list.

Jacob Turner, 22, is striving for consistency, and he's still developing. The same holds true for Tom Koehler, Brad Hand and Brian Flynn.

On the rise in the Minors are Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani, Adam Conley and Sam Dyson, who made a big league start in '13.

Heaney, selected ninth overall in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, may be Miami's next young pitching star. But he may not be ready for Opening Day. If Heaney is, he likely would be on an innings limit similar to what Fernandez had as a rookie.

"There have been a number of calls checking in on [the pitching], to see if there may be fits," Hill said. "To this point, we just haven't felt comfortable parting with any of that in any deal."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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