Building depth a priority for Marlins' offseason

'Bread and butter' moves could help club withstand injuries, stay competitive

Building depth a priority for Marlins' offseason

MIAMI -- Coming out of this week's General Managers Meetings in Arizona, the Marlins got a better feel for how the pitching market is shaping up. Make no mistake about it, pitching is the team's No. 1 offseason priority, but that isn't the only focus.

The big picture includes rounding out the rest of the big league roster, as well as deepening a Minor League system that has been depleted in recent years.

The foundation for a winner is in place in Miami. The core of the roster is stable with All-Star outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, and emerging stars like Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto. But to reach the next level and become a legitimate playoff contender, more organizational depth is needed.

Realmuto's 432-foot homer

"I think an area for us will be depth," manager Don Mattingly said. "Can we build depth around these guys? Can our system continue to improve to have guys ready to fill in during injuries? Can we make incremental moves where our depth is better, and we're better prepared to sustained more injuries?"

The Marlins were competitive for 4 1/2 months, remaining in the thick of the National League Wild Card race. But eventually, a string of injuries became too much to overcome.

Injuries limited Stanton to 119 games, and first baseman Justin Bour appeared in 90. Second baseman Dee Gordon, a two-time All-Star and the 2015 NL batting champion, served an 80-game suspension and finished with 79 games played.

"Are we going to be able to sustain that?" Mattingly said. "Those are areas that are probably not glamorous moves, but they are moves that are bread and butter."

The Marlins have decisions to make regarding their bench. Outfielder Jeff Francoeur, infielder Chris Johnson and backup catcher Jeff Mathis are free agents. All three could be back, but there's also a chance the club could look for other options.

Johnson's walk-off double

Mathis, 33, has been with the Marlins since 2013, and he's one of the most respected players on the roster. He works well with Realmuto and the pitchers, and there is mutual interest in returning.

But Francoeur, who is seeking to be with a contender, could seek other options, or even return to the Braves. He's also open to learning first base to help his versatility.

The free-agent outfield market has some possibilities for Miami. Chris Coghlan, who broke in with the Marlins and won the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year Award, is coming off a World Series championship with the Cubs.

Coghlan's bases-clearing triple

A left-handed hitter, Coghlan plays left and right field, and he also saw limited action with the Cubs at third base and second. Former Marlins Emilio Bonifacio (with the Braves in 2016) and Alejandro De Aza (Mets) are also available.

In years past, the Marlins showed some interest in Steve Pearce, who was with the Rays and Orioles this year. A right-handed hitter, he can play corner outfield and first.

For the front office, it's a matter of finding the right fits.

"That's how you're going to be better able to sustain injuries and things that happen to every team," Mattingly said.

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.