The Miami Marlins remain keen to add another big bat

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A six-pack Miami Marlins trades on a Wednesday with no end in sight for MLB’s latest work stoppage:

Once the lockout is lifted, the Marlins remain intent on adding another impact bat/starting outfielder, but whether that will be through trade or free agency remains a question. My feeling is that a trade might be a little more likely.

The Marlins have held trade talks with more than half a dozen teams; No deal was close to completion before the December 2 lockout began.

According to a Pirates source, the Marlins and the Pirates were talking about midfielder Bryan Reynolds, who hit .302 with 24 homers and 90 RBI last season. The pirates would charge a lot for it. So the odds are against it, but it’s not impossible.

As Fox’s Ken Rosenthal noted, the Marlins spoke to Arizona about Ketel Marte, who hit .318 in 90 games with 14 homers and 50 RBI. They’ve also spoken to several American League teams.

If the Marlins can’t find an outfielder through trade, they have by no means ruled out the top three free agents: Kyle Schwarber, who hit .266 with 32 homers and 71 RBI for Washington and Boston last season; Nick Castellanos (.309, 34 homers, 100 RBI for the Reds); and Seiya Suzuki, a five-time All Star in Japan.

Neither is a midfielder – Suzuki played in right field in Japan. Castellanos and Schwarber have never played midfield in the big leagues, according to baseball-reference.com.

The Marlins say they would be fine with playing right fielder Avisail Garcia primarily in the middle. The sense here is that ideally they want someone who can play at least a little in the middle so Garcia doesn’t have to play in the middle every day. But if Schwarber or Castellanos turn out to be the best option as opposed to a trade, I don’t think that would deter the Marlins from signing either.

Bryan De La Cruz was always able to pick up some bats in the center. And predicted starter Jesus Sanchez, who was a right fielder by trade, played 91 games at center for the Minors (though none in his 72 big league games for the Marlins).

Castellanos – who was born in Davie and visited Archbishop McCarthy of Plantation American Heritage and Southwest Ranches – would welcome a return to South Florida if conditions were right, according to a source close to him. But he has said he wants a long-term deal at a large dollar amount.

The Marlins – like many teams – appreciate the skills of the 27-year-old Suzuki, although it would be somewhat surprising if the Marlins landed him. The Texas Rangers are among the teams that have been linked with the Japanese star.

The 27-year-old Suzuki hit .319 with 38 homers and 88 RBI in 2021 and has a career .943 OPS in nine seasons with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. He’s a .314 career bat.

ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel predicts Suzuki will be given a four-year, $48 million deal, in addition to a likely $9 million posting fee. Once the lockout ends, Suzuki will have 20 days to sign with a team. However, with Japan spring training starting Feb. 1, he could decide to return to Japan if the MLB suspension extends into February.

The Marlins have the financial means to sign Castellanos, Schwarber or Suzuki unless the bid gets out of hand.

But one question the Marlins need to reconcile is how many years are they willing to give to one of the free-agent outfielders, or if there’s more value pitching depth for a few years against a natural midfielder under Swapping team control (rather than a corner outfielder) makes sense.

The Marlins gave Garcia four years (and $55 million). But the belief is they are also sensitive to blocking the path of their best outfield prospects, JJ Bleday and Peyton Burdick.

While free agent Eddie Rosario was mentioned as a possibility, I’d be surprised if the Marlins go down that route. They shoot high in search of another impact bat.

Speaking of Bleday, the Marlins were very encouraged by his work in the Arizona Fall League. He closed at .316 with five homers and 24 RBI and a base average of .435.

“What he did was pretty convincing,” said a top scout. “He was arguably the best player in the fall league.”

The Marlins believe the performance and his performance in the last 27 games at Pensacola last year (.263, three homers) reflects his ability more than the .195 average in his first 83 games at Pensacola, which the Marlins believe is partly a was a byproduct of the cancellation of the 2020 minor league baseball season.

Even when he struggled in the first three months of last season, Bleday showed strong plate discipline. So the Marlins remain hopeful that the former fourth overall can become a starter in the premier league.

The Marlins expect the backup catcher to be a three-way fight between Alex Jackson, Nick Fortes and Payton Henry.

Jackson struggled offensively after his takeover from the Braves (.157 with 60 strikeouts in 108 at-bats), but the Marlins can option him to Triple A without exposing him to waivers.

Fortes is a good defender and impressed with his bat in his Marlins cameo in September (.290, four homers, seven RBI in 14 games).

Acquired by the Brewers, Henry is considered to be above average at calling games and dealing with a pitching staff. He went 4 for 15 with the Marlins after hitting .266 with two Triple-A teams and one Double-A team last season.

New Marlins starter Jacob Stallings played 112 games for the Pirates last season in his first season as a big league starter.

The Marlins will likely add a reliever with some back-end bullpening experience, but it may not be a veteran more closely proven.

If a very good closer becomes available at a reasonable price they will consider it.

Otherwise, they’d be fine sharing finishing duties with Anthony Bender, Dylan Floro (15 saves), Richard Bleier and another veteran.

Tampa Bay used at least a dozen players to close games last season. And the Marlins acquired one of those players in Louis Head, who finished 12 games and went 2-0 (no saves) and a 2.31 ERA, with 30 baserunners allowed and 35 strikeouts in 32 innings.

Bally Sports Florida has begun recruiting a new analyst for Marlins TV; Todd Hollandsworth’s contract was not renewed.

Bally hasn’t decided yet whether to hire an analyst or potentially split the package across several employees, including Gaby Sanchez, JP Arencibia, Kelly Saco and Jeff Nelson. The Marlins would support a rotation, but that is primarily Bally Sports Florida’s decision and Bally seems more inclined to pick one.

On the radio side, Glenn Geffner is expected to announce most games. Dave Van Horne withdrew after turning down the team’s offer to call about 20 games.

This story was originally published Jan 26, 2022 3:26 p.m.

Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and for the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.

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