The Marlins are in desperate need of offense. If they are to improve on their 62-100 record, that is really the biggest piece of the puzzle they will need to solve in order to turn this thing around.
The pitching was there last season. Jose Fernandez is a lock to be the staff ace and there is potential for other starters to step up in Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Justin Turner. The bullpen is anchored by closer Steve Cishek, who totally turned around is season and proving to be a dominate closer on the rise.
We all know the offense is anemic. No stats need to be thrown around to show how historically bad it is. There are some pieces that are promising, of course, but there are three targeted areas the Marlins have specified they need help – 3B, 1B, and C.
Third base is the biggest problem because there is no one really in the pipeline to take the position. Colin Moran is being groomed and targeted for arrival in 2015. This is another reason why the Matt Dominguez trade continues to haunt this franchise – he could be playing 3B and not only adding very good defense but a plus power bat to the lineup with Giancarlo Stanton wedged in there. The other problem is that free agency is also anemic for any immediate help at 3B. The best free agent options are Juan Uribe and Eric Chavez – two guys who don’t have enough in the tank to justify the Marlins signing them even as stop-gap measures. Placido Polanco was an attempt at a stop-gap and he just proved to be unable to stay as healthy as was needed. Moving Chris Coghlan over to 3B is the next likely move, but I still contend that Derek Dietrich could make the transition both defensively and offensively in the interim until Moran gets ready. There is also an intriguing option in south Florida native Danny Valencia from the Orioles.
Another area of critical need is 1B and the Marlins do have some options. They have Logan Morrison, who has yet to prove to be healthy and a consistent MLBer. Other than his whiny diatribes via Twitter, there is little value to having Morrison on the roster. Defensively he still needs to make a lot of improvements, and Perry Hill is definitely helping there. Offensively he seems to be regressing – complaints about the fences aside. The Marlins should invite competition in to force Lomo to really tighten up for playing time. Free agency has some options but don’t expect much. Kendrys Morales is most likely going to stay in Seattle; Justin Mourneau is probably going to focus on winning right away. Mike Morse had a very down 2013 splitting time between Washington and Baltimore, but being that he is from Fort Lauderdale, he could look to return to his hometown team. He is only a few seasons removed from a .303/.360/.550 slash line with 31 home runs in 2011. Joe Mahoney and Kyle Jensen are some in-house possibilities to compete in Spring Training.
Catcher also doesn’t have many options on the free agent market. Sure, Napoli could be had to play catcher but there are concerns over his degenerating hip problem, which is one of the reasons why he played 1B for the Red Sox. Saltamacchia, another bearded champion, is probably not going to run down to Miami depending on what kind of offers may be out there although he is from the West Palm Beach area. The Marlins are looking at Rob Brantly again, and hoping he can rebound after a solid rookie campaign followed by a horrible sophomore year. Adding offense at catcher is a priority, but most likely the Marlins will have to drastically overpay to make that happen and that does not offer a lot of return on investment. Pudge Rodriguez is not walking through that door, folks. Unless of course the Marlins go crazy and sign Brian McCann, which would mean another $100M mint.
Overall, the Marlins will have very little on the free agent market to improve with. If they are to improve, they will have to do so via trade. The Marlins do have some very strong prospects, particularly pitching, that could yield some results but the Marlins are historically a team that is not likely to deal pitching for hitting.