This has been one of the most interesting and fruitful offseasons I can remember. It signals the intent of the owner to move forward, as well as bringing the fans back. I am very excited to see Spring Training and the regular season unfold.
-- Melinda R., Fleming Island, Fla.
The plan is an interesting one. The restructured front office targeted "team players" with playoff experience. They made a financial splash, and a statement, by signing catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three-year, $21 million deal. Because of their sweeping changes last year, many questioned if a high-profile free agent would sign a multiyear contract with this organization any time soon. Saltalamacchia was the first. The decision to sign Garrett Jones and trade Logan Morrison was based on a couple of factors, and there is some risk involved. Jones has more of a track record of consistency. Morrison, 26, has upside, but he's had two surgeries to his right knee. Even though Morrison is entering Spring Training healthy, there remained skepticism within the Marlins that he would bounce back and produce. Rafael Furcal is a low-risk signing, and he provides speed and experience as a leadoff batter. He's agreed to switch to second base. Casey McGehee has some risk to him, because he is 31, and he spent last year in Japan.
These signings aren't of the superstar variety, but each player is a fitting part in what is becoming an intriguing overall roster.
Behind the scenes, the front office has added some highly respected personnel evaluators and scouts. It's an energized and united group that is looking to turn things around with a modest budget quickly in Miami.
Now that the position players have been covered with the McGehee signing, what do you think the chances are that we can get at least one veteran starter? Also, Mark Canha and Kyle Jensen should definitely have a chance to platoon at first. They have pop and if given a chance, I think they should be able to contribute at the big league level.
-- Mark R., Homestead.
There is always a chance to sign a veteran starter to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training, but I don't see that as a high priority. A year ago, Kevin Slowey opened the season in the rotation, earning his spot as a non-roster invitee. Granted, the rotation is young, but it's pretty solid. I see perhaps the fourth and fifth spots being a competition with Jacob Turner and Tom Koehler as the incumbents, and probable front-runners to win spots for the season opener. You have to ask yourself, is a veteran on the market right now a better option than Koehler? Koehler already has big league experience, and there are a number of talented starters who are close to being ready to become staples in the big leagues. I don't see where a veteran, just based on experience, is an upgrade.
Jensen is on the 40-man roster, and he will be interesting to watch in Spring Training, because the club has to make a decision on him pretty soon. I would expect he would see some time at first base, but he's been an outfielder to this point. He does have power that the team lacks, but will his home run totals in the Minors translate to the big leagues? That is to be determined. Canha is not on the 40-man roster, and there are several candidates ahead of him entering Spring Training. Triple-A New Orleans is a more likely starting point for Canha.
Now that we know that Jose Fernandez is the real deal, why don't the Marlins give him an eight- to 10-year deal? Wouldn't it be easier to sign him now than when he hits arbitration?
-- Jay E., Plantation, Fla.
The system doesn't really work that way. Eight- to 10-year deals are extremely risky, and those types of contracts are going to position players. You just saw Robinson Cano sign for 10 years with Seattle.
Fernandez will reach arbitration in 2016, and if he performs as expected, he will be threatening some salary records for a first-year arbitration pitcher. Also, Fernandez's agent is Scott Boras, who typically lets his clients get to free agency.
Don't look for any long-term signing attempts on Fernandez for several more seasons. Best advice is enjoy watching the launch of his career.
Is Derek Dietrich going to be on the 25-man roster come the start of the season?
-- J.G., Ocala, Fla.
I think Dietrich is going to be one of the most intriguing players to watch in Spring Training. The 24-year-old offers power from the left side, reflected by his nine home runs in just over 50 games as a rookie. He clearly was rushed to the big leagues last May when Donovan Solano went on the disabled list. Like the rest of the offense, he had his struggles, and he was optioned to Double-A after going into a slump.
Obviously, he was linked to the controversal resignation of hitting coach Tino Martinez. From what I've gathered, that issue is behind the organization. Dietrich will be in Spring Training competing for a position on the 25-man roster, but I think he likely will open the season at Triple-A New Orleans, where he can play every day rather than come off the bench in the big leagues.
Dietrich is expected to see time at second and third base.
Before signing McGehee to play third, the Marlins weighed their internal options. Dietrich profiles the best because of his power. But the fact he never played third base in the big leagues before played into the decision to add McGehee.
I project Dietrich to start off at New Orleans, and if he takes off, he could be up in the big leagues if there is a need.
Since Brad Hand had a better September than Brian Flynn, would the Marlins consider Hand for the fifth starter spot in Spring Training? They had similar success at Triple-A New Orleans.
-- Al, Kendall, Fla.
When talking about prospects, baseball insiders will say to not get fooled by April and September. There are many examples of players who start off great in April, and then get figured out. September is the same way in many cases. Players get called up, and the league hasn't seen much of them, and they have some success. Hand clearly did some nice things as a September callup, but he pitched 20 2/3 innings total in the big leagues last season. Flynn clearly struggled in four big league appearances, posting an 8.50 ERA in 18 innings.
Hand and Flynn are the left-handers with the most realistic shot of winning a rotation spot coming out of Spring Training.
The organizaiton feels Flynn tired in September, which is not uncommon for players who had never previously reached the big leagues. The Minor League season wraps up in late August or early September, if a team makes the playoffs.
You will see competition deciding the order of pitching, not some numbers in September.
Flynn is 6-foot-7 and he has upside. I anticipate he will come into Spring Training in better shape, knowing the grind of playing in September. Hand throws in the mid-90s, making him worthy of a long look. For both, it is a matter of command.