The Miami Marlins are attempting to fill a lot of holes this offseason in order to prepare for what should be a second straight grueling campaign in 2014. But while last year was designed to be a roster implosion with very few future pieces, the 2014 season should be the start of a true rebuilding process, with a number of Marlins forming the core of a potential competitive team two years down the line.
At the same time, the Fish still have a number of roles left to fill on their roster, particularly at the catcher, second base, and shortstop positions. According to our positional strength report, the Marlins are at their weakest in those areas and could use upgrades. We already discussed the team's trade assets, but whom could they acquire in a deal to fill those roles long-term? Here are just a few names of interest to whom the franchise can look.
The Los Angeles Angels are said to be ready to deal one of their two catchers, with Iannetta the more likely candidate. Last year, Iannetta put up a two-win season with the Angels in just under 400 plate appearances and hit an acceptable .225/.358/.372 (.330 wOBA), and he is on a cheap contract that would pay him about $10 million over the next two years. The Angels are shedding unnecessary salary due to their high-value contracts and they would like to keep Conger, the cheaper and younger of the two players, so Iannetta could be had for a reasonable price.
Iannetta is the more offensively-minded of the two players, and given the team's need for power and runs, perhaps their choice would be him. The Angels are looking for young, cost-controlled starting pitchers, and the Marlins happen to have just that in a boatload of unproven but rising pitching prospects. There is no way Miami would offer one of Henderson Alvarez, Jacob Turner, or Nathan Eovaldi for either catcher, but a deal for a prospect like Adam Conley or Anthony DeSclafani is a start.
The next tier of catcher tandems whom the Fish could acquire would be in Atlanta, where the Braves have a prospect and an aging rookie in the backstop fold. Gattis was a disaster in the outfield, so returning him behind the plate would be a good idea. The fact that the Braves will not likely re-sign incumbent Brian McCann signifies that the team is ready to go with one of these two for the foreseeable future. But what might happen to the other player?
The Marlins could offer their plethora of starting pitching in a deal for Gattis, but with Bethancourt not ready for the majors, it would be a risk for Atlanta to go without a big-leaguer next season. Bethancourt's stock has fallen and he could be available, but the Braves also are not interested in pitching depth, as they seem to have plenty. The team may need help on the infield, which is where Miami is weakest. Add in the intra-divisional component and there may not be a fit.
The Padres have not had any discussion about trading either their potential star Major Leaguer in Grandal or the potential star minor leaguer in Hedges, but this issue may eventually arrive to a head as early as next year. Hedges will likely start in Double-A, while Grandal will hope to have a bounce-back year after losing a lot of 2013 with injuries and a 50-game drug suspension.
The Marlins would certainly love to acquire one of those two talents, and the team has the pitching depth the Padres might want. For a talent like Grandal, the Fish could certainly offer one of their three Major League talents like Alvarez, Turner, or Eovaldi. For Hedges, who ranks as the 33rd-best prospect right now by MLB.com, the team could try and form a package around a prospect swap with players like Andrew Heaney or Justin Nicolino. However, a trade for Grandal would run counter to what the Padres want for their mediocre offense, and Hedges is still a year away from being a contributor, as would be the members of the trade going the Padres' way.
Espinosa is another potential intra-divisional talent whom the Marlins could go after. The Nationals have few glaring non-offensive holes, so it may difficult to pry Espinosa off of their hands, but he should be potentially available after a devastating season in which he lost his job and batted .216/.280/.286 (.266 wOBA) in Triple-A. Espinosa no longer has a Major League opening as of right now, as Anthony Rendon has taken over at second base and Ian Desmond appears to be the long-term answer at shortstop. At the same time, Espinosa is only a year removed from a .247/.315/.402 (.315 wOBA) line and a three-win campaign.
The problem is that Miami offers little in the way of help for the Nationals. They seem all but set at multiple positions, with only the question of whether they can rid themselves of Adam LaRoche and his contract. Their rotation is strong at the top and filled with decent options in the back. The team's only weakness is with left-handed relievers, and while the Fish have Mike Dunn, that simply may not be enough.
This would be the least realistic of the options listed here, but if the Marlins offered a sweetheart deal for the struggling Castro, who is coming off of his worst season as a big leaguer, the Fish could be set at shortstop for years. Castro just hit .245/.284/.347 (.280 wOBA) and was a replacement-level player through 700 plate appearances, and he has six years and $55 million and change left on his long-term extension signed last season.
The Chicago Cubs are rebuilding and desperately need talent, and the Marlins can at least help provide quality pitching prospects to add depth to their organization. It is likely a Major League starter and perhaps one of the Marlins' better pitching prospects like Heaney or Nicolino would be necessary, but the return would be a 24-year-old middle infielder for a franchise with no talent at the position. It is extremely unlikely, but worth mentioning.