Marlins leave GM Meetings with pitching as priority

Jansen, Chapman would come at high cost in free agency

Marlins leave GM Meetings with pitching as priority

MIAMI -- After spending the past few days interacting with agents and peers, the Marlins on Thursday exited the General Managers Meetings in Arizona with a clearer picture of how the pitching market is shaping up.

And the takeaway is not surprising: The price to acquire pitching through trades or in free agency is going to be high.

"Any time you're shopping in the pitcher's market, it's a challenge, because it's something all teams covet and all teams are seeking," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "So you just hope you can find the right fit and right combination to make something work."

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Miami's top priority is to acquire at least one starting pitcher, as well as increase its bullpen depth.

The death of ace Jose Fernandez in a boating accident has increased the urgency to solidify the rotation.

Ultimately, the strength of the market helps dictate what is realistic. The reality is there aren't many ideal free-agent targets. The Marlins are also dealing with the fact that they don't have many prospects to deal for a starter, unless they are open to moving players off their big league roster.

The organization is open to all possibilities but hopes to retain much of the core.

Typically, teams explore possibilities during the GM Meetings, while deals tend to get done between now and through the Winter Meetings, which are set for Dec. 5-8 in National Harbor, Md.

"I think [agents] are feeling us out to see how aggressive we might be with the market," Hill said. "I think that's natural because the market will dictate the demand and ultimately the cost to sign."

A year ago, the starting pitching free-agent market was strong, with David Price and Zack Greinke at the top of the list.

This season, the market has a number of impactful relievers: Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon are the top free-agent closers.

Marlins could bolster bullpen to help rotation

In the case of Jansen, the drawback for the Marlins is the $17.2 million qualifying offer he received from the Dodgers. Should Jansen reject that one-year deal and sign elsewhere, that club would have to part with a top Draft pick as compensation.

The Marlins have shown interest in Chapman for several seasons. There is no qualifying offer attached, so it would come down to cost. It promises to be steep.

At the GM Meetings, it has been reported that the hard-throwing left-hander could seek a total package of $100 million, which would shatter the richest contract ever offered to a reliever. Five years ago, Jonathan Papelbon set the bar with his four-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies.

If the Marlins don't get in the mix for Chapman, Jansen or Melancon, there are still a number of lower-priced relievers available, including Greg Holland, Travis Wood, Neftali Feliz, Brett Cecil, Joe Blanton and Brad Ziegler.

Holland works out for teams

The Marlins are open to everything.

"When the market is really good, you see the types of numbers you saw last offseason," Hill said. "With a different caliber of pitcher out there, you may not see that. But if there is a club that feels it needs to make a splash, it may step up.

"I think you look at everything. You look at where that market goes and you also evaluate the trade market to see where it goes."

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.