Do the Marlins see Justin Bour as their everyday first baseman next year? Or will they be open to upgrading?
One reason Michael Morse was dealt at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline was the emergence of Bour, who is making the most of his opportunity. Bour is popular with his teammates, and he provides much-needed left-handed power. The club feels Bour is a potential 20-homer candidate. He already has 15.
In September, Bour will be tested against left-handed pitching. It will be interesting to see how he performs with Giancarlo Stanton also in the lineup. If Bour continues to progress in the final month, I don't see Miami searching for a first baseman in the offseason. However, if there are concerns about him facing lefties, then the team may look to add a right-handed first-base option, perhaps bringing back Casey McGehee.
I have seen Don Mattingly's name out there as a possible new manager. What are the chances of that happening? And what other choices would the Marlins consider?
-- William S., Hollywood, Fla.
From what I'm hearing, a manager with experience and a track record is a high priority. Mattingly could fit the profile, but I am not sure he will be available. The Dodgers are on a roll, and they are in position to win the National League West.
A couple of more realistic candidates, in my opinion, are Larry Bowa and Jim Riggleman. They both have previous experience and are no-nonsense choices.
The general feeling within the organization is that selecting the right manager will be the most important offseason decision this franchise makes. There are a number of really qualified coaches who could become terrific managers, but I don't sense the Marlins are looking at those possibilities right now.
The Marlins don't want someone learning on the job, they want a track record.
Given the health questions of the starting pitching (Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez), wouldn't a top free-agent arm provide stability and insurance for a young, talented, but inconsistent staff?
Without question, the top offseason personnel priority will be to add one or two starting pitchers. If the Marlins plan on challenging the Mets and the Nationals in 2016, they would likely have to add front-line starting candidates. The question is how to acquire them.
I don't see the Marlins becoming major players for the top-tier free agents such as David Price. Mike Leake makes sense, but even his price may be more than the team is willing to spend.
The most likely scenario is finding a starter in a trade. If that is the case, I could see Miami having talks with the Padres regarding James Shields. Marcell Ozuna could be a potential trade piece. I also believe the Marlins should go after a starter who could be primed for a bounce-back year, like Doug Fister.
Do you see the team ultimately being able to sign Fernandez to a long-term extension?
There are too many unanswered questions, in my opinion, to make that the top offseason priority. First is his health. Fernandez, who threw a simulated game on Wednesday, isn't expected to be reinstated from the disabled list until mid-September. Along with coming back from Tommy John surgery, he now has a right biceps (shoulder area) strain. Foremost, Fernandez has to show that he is healthy before Miami makes a long-term commitment.
Some raise the question of why Fernandez would even pitch down the stretch, since the team is so far from contention. But the player and the club need to find some answers. If he doesn't return, there will be an unknown about his status until Spring Training, and we're talking about the team's ace. Both sides want some clarity on what to expect in 2016.
Fernandez is entering arbitration next year, and I don't sense any urgency on his side to sign a long-term deal. From the Marlins' perspective, it's also risky to lock him up with a substantial amount of money, knowing he's missed so much time to injury.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.