What would it take to trade away a regular?
"I'd say a better guy going onto our big league roster," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "If it's an upgrade, and it's somebody we think is better than what we have currently on our roster or in our organization, that's what we want to do. We came up short [in 2014]. We won 77 games. It wasn't good enough. We're trying to win more. So we need to improve."
Hill didn't single out any specific players. But at the Winter Meetings, where speculation runs rampant, closer Steve Cishek and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia have been mentioned as potential trade targets.
Miami will listen to pretty much anything, but chances are the club won't trade either player. There is an issue of cost. Second-year arbitration-eligible, Cishek's salary expects to jump to around $6 million after he made $3.8 million in 2014.
Saltalamacchia, entering the second year of his three-year contract, is set to make $7 million, which right now is the highest salary on the team. Although Giancarlo Stanton signed his record-setting 13-year, $325 million contract on Nov. 19, he will make $6.5 million next year.
Finding better options for Cishek and Saltalamacchia is the challenge.
Cishek saved 39 games in 2014, and the team currently doesn't have a legitimate closing option to replace him. The same holds true at catcher.
The Marlins view prospect J.T. Realmuto as their catcher of the future, but he isn't ready to play regularly. So if Saltalamacchia were to be dealt, it would create uncertainty behind the plate. Jeff Mathis is a veteran who has been most effective in a backup role.
Mike Dunn also falls into this category. The club doesn't have another established lefty to fill his relief role. So Dunn, second-year arbitration eligible, is expected to return at a salary of around $3 million.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who paced the team with 199 2/3 innings this past season, could be a trade piece, but only if the team brings in a top-of-the-rotation replacement.
What the Marlins are trying to avoid is filling one need by creating another hole.
"That sort of defeats the purpose," Hill said. "We're at the point now where we've built some depth and some inventory. We're operating in a manner where we've never really made that available.
"I think we realize where we are as an organization and as a team. We love the pieces that we have. We think this team is very close and ready to play into October. We're trying to make the right decisions to get there."
The Marlins are willing to part with prospects to address their needs. A number of teams have inquired about the organization's pitching depth.
Movement on the pitching market is partly tied to free agents Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields. When they sign, it will trigger a domino effect, and a number of other deals will follow.
"I think people are definitely waiting to see what happens with those guys," Hill said. "But I think the attraction of the teams coming after our pitching is it's all controllable. It's all young, and obviously less expensive than the free-agent market. There's a lot of clubs that would prefer to go that route than to spend the multiple millions that might be tied up into a free agent."