5 priorities awaiting Marlins this offseason

5 priorities awaiting Marlins this offseason

MIAMI -- The threat of Hurricane Matthew preoccupied the entire Marlins organization over the past few days. Like the rest of South Florida, team employees and officials were preparing for the powerful storm that reached Category 4 status.

Fortunately, the hurricane just caused minimal damage to the area -- and in the upcoming days and weeks, it will be back to business for the Marlins as they plan for 2017.

Among the most pressing topics are:

1) Manager Don Mattingly's staff: The team announced on Wednesday Barry Bonds (hitting coach), Lenny Harris (third base) and Reid Cornelius (bullpen) will not be returning. Nothing is imminent on replacements, but Mike Pagliarulo is getting serious consideration for a hitting-coach spot. A former teammate of Mattingly with the Yankees, Pagliarulo, 56, is familiar with South Florida. He attended and played baseball at the University of Miami.

The Marlins will employ two hitting coaches. Frank Menechino is returning, but how the responsibilities are broken down has yet to be determined.

Another candidate to join the staff, perhaps as third-base coach, is Arnie Beyeler, the Triple-A New Orleans manager this season. Before joining the Marlins organization, Beyeler was the Red Sox's first-base coach for three seasons. Beyeler has managed a number of players on Miami's roster when they were at New Orleans. He also spent time around the big league club in late September, after the Zephyrs' season ended.

Former Marlins and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is another possibility to coach third.

2) Search for starters: The Marlins planned on being in the market for starting pitchers before Jose Fernandez's death. Now, there is more urgency to solidify the rotation. Finding a true ace is doubtful, so the focus will be on starters with track records of quality performance. If the Nationals don't pick up the $12 million club option for left-hander Gio Gonzalez for 2017, the Marlins would have serious interest.

3) Bullpen depth: To counter the possibility of starters not pitching deep into games, the club is leaning toward stockpiling as many reliable relievers as possible. There are internal closer candidates like A.J. Ramos, David Phelps and Kyle Barraclough, but the organization may look to make a big free-agent splash and go after either Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen.

4) Possible trade pieces: Signing third baseman Martin Prado to a three-year, $40 million contract is a signal the Marlins intend to retain many of their core position players. Still, some turnover may occur. Three arbitration-eligible players -- outfielder Marcell Ozuna, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and infielder Derek Dietrich -- could be available for pitching help.

Ozuna's two-run homer

5) Payroll projections: Team president David Samson said payroll will increase in 2017. By how much has yet to be determined. According to Cotts Baseball Contracts, the Opening Day payroll this season was $74,364,500. Some of the increases next season will come from raises due to players already on the roster. A more clear picture of payroll is expected at the end of the month, after their organizational meetings.

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.