MIAMI -- As the Hot Stove season gets underway, don't expect the Marlins to provide much sizzle -- at least on the free-agent market.
Unlike a year ago, when the Marlins stunned the industry by signing slugger Giancarlo Stanton to a record-setting 13-year, $325 million contract, the organization intends to spend more cautiously when free agents are eligible to sign with other clubs beginning at 12:01 a.m. ET on Saturday.
The Marlins have made it clear they are in the market for starting pitchers, but not necessarily the marquee free agents. Barring a change of heart, Miami doesn't anticipate joining the bidding for David Price (Blue Jays), Johnny Cueto (Royals) and Jeff Samardzija (White Sox).
There is another potential big-name starter who could be joining the free agent list -- Zack Greinke, who may opt out of his contract with the Dodgers. Although new Miami manager Don Mattingly was with Greinke in Los Angeles, a reunion in South Florida is extremely unlikely.
Marlins president David Samson said Monday that he would not recommend to team owner Jeffrey Loria to allocate top dollars to a free-agent pitcher.
"I would never have Jeffrey spend his money that way and incur more losses," Samson said. "Long-term position-player contracts work. I just don't think long-term pitching contracts work."
Free agents: C Jeff Mathis, INF Casey McGehee, INF Don Kelly. Mathis is extremely popular with his teammates, and he is valued as a backup. The veteran could be a candidate to return, but the team likely will explore other backup catcher options. McGehee and Kelly are primed to go elsewhere.
Needs: The highest priority is a top-of-the-rotation starter or two to join ace Jose Fernandez. Henderson Alvarez (right shoulder surgery) is not expected to be ready by Opening Day, which increases the need for a starter. Alvarez could be a non-tender candidate. Hard-throwing relievers also are on the shopping list. If there is a closer candidate available, expect the Marlins to look into it. Most position spots are set, but a right-handed-hitting first baseman to platoon with or back up Justin Bour is possible.
Potential targets: An ideal starting pitcher candidate would be free agent Mike Leake, who is open to returning to the Giants. But cost is going to matter. Miami isn't planning on getting into a bidding battle for a starting pitcher. More realistic free-agent targets are Yovani Gallardo (Rangers), Brett Anderson (Dodgers), J.A. Happ (Pirates) and Ian Kennedy (Padres). Expect the club to monitor the market for closer Aroldis Chapman (Reds).
Trade assets: The farm system was depleted last offseason due to several high-profile trades. There are some young pitchers who could be dangled in potential deals, such as Jose Urena and Kendry Flores. Lefty Brad Hand, who hasn't secured a role either as a starter or reliever, is a potential trade piece. There has been much speculation that center fielder Marcell Ozuna could be dealt for a frontline starter. And third baseman Martin Prado enters the final year of his contract. Lefty reliever Mike Dunn, who will made $3.45 million, could be shopped.
Financial situation: No firm figures have been revealed, but the belief is payroll will be in the $80 million range. Five players already under contract -- including Stanton ($9 million) -- account for $23.45 million.
Bottom line: The biggest offseason additions may wind up being hiring Mattingly and making additions to beef up the Marlins' development staffs. The focus is on building a strong foundation over spending big on the open market.
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.