Marlins hoping to retain core position players

Marlins hoping to retain core position players

MIAMI -- Barring an offer too enticing to pass up, the Marlins are not looking to trade any core position players to upgrade their rotation. The general feeling is they don't want to weaken one area to improve another.

Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill repeated that stance on Monday morning during his segment on MLB Network's Hot Stove show.

"We've gone through the GM Meetings, and you have a feel [for] where everyone is, and there has been interest in our position players," Hill said. "I think we've been pretty consistent in the message we have out there. We're trying to keep this group together."

Hot Stove Tracker

The Marlins have been silent for much of the offseason.

Miami did make its biggest moves days after the regular season ended -- signing third baseman Martin Prado to a three-year, $40 million contract extension and picking up outfielder Ichiro Suzuki's $2 million club option.

Still, the rotation remains a concern, and finding potential options is difficult.

Without a deep farm system, the Marlins have discussed the possibilities of dealing players from their big league roster.

The player gaining the most attention is outfielder Marcell Ozuna. An All-Star in 2016, Ozuna had a slash line of .266/.321/.452 with 23 home runs and 76 RBIs. He was one of 38 outfielders to belt at least 20 homers.

Ozuna's three-run homer

This marks the second straight year teams have inquired about Ozuna. Last Thanksgiving, Ozuna was linked to Seattle in a possible deal for right-hander Taijuan Walker. Those rumors didn't progress far, but the reality is, the Marlins are seeking a top-of-the-rotation-caliber pitcher with controllable contract years for Ozuna.

Finding that kind of match is extremely tough.

Ozuna, who turned 26 on Nov. 12, is entering his first season of arbitration, and he won't be eligible for free agency until 2020. So there isn't any urgency for Miami to deal the right-handed-hitting outfielder, who is popular with his teammates.

Miami's outfield trio of Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton is the strength of the team. All three hit more than 20 homers, with Yelich at 21 and Stanton at 27.

Along with Ozuna, the Marlins may be open to trading shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who is in his second arbitration season.

Hechavarria comes off a down season at the plate, where he batted .236. Defensively, however, he has been a National League Gold Glove Award finalist in two of the past three seasons.

Hechavarria's tremendous grab

If pitching is going to be a challenge for the Marlins, they'll need to be as strong as possible defensively. This necessity is reflected by potential strikeouts. In 2016, the Marlins' rotation combined for 809 strikeouts, and Jose Fernandez recorded 253 of them.

If more balls are put in play, having Hechavarria and second baseman Dee Gordon as the double-play combination could be essential.

Since trades may be difficult to pull off, the Marlins are open to signing free agents, and they've been linked to closer Kenley Jansen.

The free-agent route also enables the Marlins to retain their primary position players.

"We like the progress that they've made, the growth that they've made, and we want to give them every opportunity to achieve at the highest level," Hill said. "We're trying to avoid taking anything off of our club as we look to the future."

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.