Pitchers at top of Marlins' wish list

Veteran starters, top-tier closers on Miami's radar

Pitchers at top of Marlins' wish list

MIAMI -- What has thus far been a quiet offseason for the Marlins may get busy in a hurry. The Winter Meetings are set for Dec. 5-8, and if the past is any indication, Miami promises to be active.

The Marlins are searching for pitching, preferably starters, but they are open to bolstering the bullpen as well. They got a head start on the Meetings on Monday by agreeing to a two-year, $22 million contract with free-agent right-hander Edinson Volquez. The club has not confirmed the deal.

After weeks of surveying the free-agent and trade markets, the Winter Meetings are a time when deals that have been simmering tend to get done.

The challenge for the Marlins is adding pitching without subtracting from their big league roster.

Hot Stove Tracker

"We like our position-player core, and we'll put it up against anybody in the National League," said Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill. "Now, the goal is to find a way to fortify our pitching."

MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 8 at 9 a.m. ET.

The Marlins made great strides in 2016, remaining in National League Wild Card contention until mid-September. But the season ended in tragedy when Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident on Sept. 25.

Fernandez's passing shocked the sports world and rocked the South Florida community.

"We're not going to replace him," Hill said.

No one person can.

Best Moment: Marlins honor Jose

Along with being one of the best pitchers in the game, Fernandez had an energy and passion that also will be missed.

Rather than trying to find the next Fernandez at the Winter Meetings, the more realistic options are finding starters with track records of durability, as well as other pitchers who could be on the rebound.

If the Marlins don't stop with Volquez, free agents such as Doug Fister, Ivan Nova, Travis Wood, Jonathon Niese and Justin Masterson could be fits. So are pitchers coming back from injuries, such as lefty C.J. Wilson.

Another strategy the Marlins are considering is finding starters capable of going five or six innings a game, and supporting them with a lock-down bullpen.

Miami already is connected to free-agent closer Kenley Jansen, whose stock is on the rise after a strong season and postseason with the Dodgers. Commanding plenty of attention on the market, Jansen previously pitched for Marlins manager Don Mattingly in Los Angeles.

Although the Marlins haven't made any major signings or trades in recent weeks, they did address a couple of offseason priorities a couple of days after the regular season ended.

On Oct. 5, third baseman Martin Prado signed a three-year, $40 million extension. The same day, the club picked up the $2 million club option on outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.

Hill on Prado, Ichiro returning

Retaining Prado was essential because of the leadership the veteran provides to the club, especially in the aftermath of Fernandez's death.

Outfielder Marcell Ozuna has been mentioned in possible trade discussions. Miami could be open to moving the 26-year-old for a frontline starter. But the Marlins have made it clear that they won't be parting with Ozuna for a cheap return.

Ozuna bounced back from a disappointing 2015 -- when he hit 10 homers with 44 RBIs -- to belt 23 home runs and drive in 76 while making the NL All-Star team in '16.

"He had an off year in 2015, but it didn't change our evaluation of the player," Hill said. "I credit my peers for asking about him. But if you are coming and asking, I hope you're prepared to pay fair value."

If the Marlins can retain their core and shore up their pitching, they believe they can contend in 2017, a year in which Marlins Park is hosting the All-Star Game.

They're building around right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, center fielder Christian Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto.

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.