MIAMI -- The Marlins jumped out ahead of the market and upgraded their bullpen by acquiring All-Star reliever Fernando Rodney from the Padres on June 30. Next on their shopping list is bolstering the rotation before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
In buyer mode, Miami is in a tricky spot because it's trying to make a major deal without taking pieces off the 25-man roster.
"We're just trying to be as thorough as we can and give ourselves as many opportunities as we can to help this club," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said.
Manager Don Mattingly, in his first season in Miami, has the club positioned for a second-half push. The organization also has the flexibility to take on additional salary to make a match work.
Getting Rodney for pitching prospect Chris Paddack strengthened the bullpen. Finding a starting pitcher could be more challenging, with so many other clubs eyeing the same thing.
If the Marlins are shut out from landing a starter, they likely would go for another reliever to create as much depth as possible.
"With the additional Wild Card, there are more teams that still feel like they're in it, but we wanted to get out in front and improve this team," Hill said. "The Rodney deal gives us more depth in the bullpen and gives Donnie more ability to shorten the game behind our rotation. But this gives us the rest of the month now to focus on improving the rotation."
Acquiring one starter, or perhaps two, is the highest priority. Ideally, the Marlins would like a No. 2 or 3 starter, but any upgrade is desirable. So it could be help for the back end of the rotation. If they are shut out on the starting front, they'd be willing to stock up on relievers.
WHAT ARE THEY PLAYING FOR?
Reaching the postseason for the first time since they won the World Series in 2003 is the goal. The Wild Card seems the most realistic path, but Mattingly makes it clear they are aiming to win the National League East.
THE ROAD AHEAD
The road doesn't get any easier. After playing 10 of the final 13 before the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard on the road, Miami comes out of the break with three at St. Louis as part of a seven-game trip. The Marlins cap July with 10 at home, including series against the Mets and Cardinals.
KEY PLAYER Dee Gordon's 80-game suspension ends July 28, so getting their 2015 All-Star second baseman back is like making a major trade. Gordon's energy, speed and defense have been missed. But how productive he'll be after missing three months and how he'll handle the public scrutiny remains to be seen.
PROSPECTS TO WATCH
Right-hander Austin Brice (No. 19 prospect), who switched from the rotation to the bullpen, and speedy center fielder Yefri Perez are two standouts at Double-A Jacksonville primed for callups.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. 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.