MIAMI -- One starter is in the fold, but the search for another continues. The Marlins will take steps towards rounding out their rotation at the Winter Meetings, set to begin Monday in National Harbor, Md.
Miami already addressed one of its major needs by coming to terms with right-hander Edinson Volquez on Monday to a two-year, $22 million contract. Still, the Marlins would like to add at least one more starter, and the Winter Meetings may provide some answers.
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 had been quiet for much of the Hot Stove season until they hammered out the agreement with Volquez, who spent the past two years with the Royals. The 33-year-old became a free agent after Kansas City declined his $10 million club option.
Miami remains committed to its core position players, and the team is looking for pitching, which became a glaring need after ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident on Sept. 25.
Rotation: The Marlins understand no one person can replace Fernandez either on the field, in the clubhouse or in the community. They are looking for durable starters who can provide around 30 starts and toss 170 or more innings. Free agents like Doug Fister, Jonathon Niese and C.J. Wilson are possibilities.
Bullpen: The ideal free-agent catch would be Kenley Jansen. The hard-throwing right-hander is familiar with Marlins manager Don Mattingly from when they were together with the Dodgers. But Jansen is expected to have several suitors, and Miami may not be in position to match up financially. Mark Melancon and Daniel Hudson may be more realistic targets. The search is also on for left-handed bullpen help.
Bench: Perhaps this will be addressed later in December or in January, but the Marlins are looking for a right-handed bat off the bench. Preferably, it would be someone who could also play first base. With Jeff Mathis, who has been with Miami since 2013, now a free agent, the club is also seeking a backup catcher. While other candidates are being considered, the Marlins may wind up bringing back Mathis.
Who they can trade if necessary
OF Marcell Ozuna: An All-Star in 2016, Ozuna has been the subject of trade speculation for more than a year. The Marlins are not actively shopping Ozuna, and they will be hesitant to move the 26-year-old. But if a deal presents itself for a front-line starting pitcher, Ozuna could be dealt. But that appears to be a long shot.
SS Adeiny Hechavarria: Like Ozuna, the Marlins aren't eager to deal Hechavarria, one of the top defensive shortstops in the game. But if there is a fit with another club, they might be swayed. Miguel Rojas is an internal option to play shortstop, but Hechavarria is established at the position, although he's coming off a down year offensively.
RHP A.J. Ramos: Fresh off his best season, Ramos was an All-Star in 2016, and he's been durable and dependable over the past few seasons. In his second season of arbitration, Ramos is controllable for two more years. If the Marlins are able to acquire Jansen, they may consider dealing Ramos.
Overall, the Marlins are regarded as having a comparatively thin farm system. But that doesn't mean there isn't depth that can contribute in 2017, or that they don't have prospects who may be used in potential trades. Some of the players close to being Major League-ready are right-handers Luis Castillo and Drew Steckenrider, as well as left-handers Dillon Peters and Jarlin Garcia. According to MLBPipeline.com, Garcia is Miami's No. 3 prospect, while Castillo is fifth, Peters is 13th and Steckenrider ranks 18th. All four could be in the big leagues at some point in 2017.
Rule 5 Draft
The addition of Volquez will bump Miami's 40-man roster up to 37 players, meaning the club has roster space to accommodate a Rule 5 Draft pick. The Marlins have participated in the Rule 5 Draft in the past, most notably with Dan Uggla, who became an All-Star second baseman after being selected in 2005. First baseman Justin Bour was selected a few years ago in the Minor League phase. The team likely will participate, perhaps going with a left-handed reliever.
Big contracts they might unload
Ramos, according to MLB Trade Rumors projections, could make $6.8 million in arbitration, a price Miami may not want to pay, especially if it signs a closer like Jansen. It's doubtful any of the established starting pitchers will get moved, but if there was a blockbuster-type deal and the team could get out from the remainder of Wei-Yin Chen's contract, the team might do so. Chen is in the second of a five-year, $80 million contract, and he will make $15.5 million in 2017.
The Marlins haven't given much indication where their payroll is headed. But the decision to sign Volquez for $22 million over two years shows a commitment to increasing it to some degree. Miami's payroll may wind up in the $90 million range.
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.