Marlins in pursuit of Jansen, Chapman

With Melancon off the board, Miami still in mix to sign a premier closer

Marlins in pursuit of Jansen, Chapman

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Marlins are prepared to do what it takes to strengthen what the club already believes is a strength. They're exploring ways to bolster the back end of their bullpen.

Without naming any specific players, president of baseball operations Michael Hill on Monday at the Winter Meetings confirmed the club is open to signing experienced late-inning relievers. MLB.com was told the club has interest in the two top closers on the free-agent market -- Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. If they opt to not spend what it takes to land either of those two, Miami also has interest in both Brad Ziegler and Koji Uehara.

To land either Chapman or Jansen, the Marlins are prepared to go either four or five years for $80 million or more.

But making the big financial splash signing isn't the only relief option the Marlins are considering. They're also weighing whether the more practical direction would be to sign a couple of proven back-end relievers for a far less cost. Ziegler and Uehara both were with the Red Sox in 2016, and each has experience closing.

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"I think we're exploring everything at this point," Hill said. "The names that are out there, there's a lot of quality. I think as we look to improve our club, we're exploring every option.

"We know the challenges in the starting market. If there is an opportunity to maybe build things from the back end forward, I think that's what we're exploring."

One free-agent closer came off the market on Monday. Miami had also expressed interest in Mark Melancon, who signed a four-year, $62 million deal, the richest ever for a closer.

The Marlins appear to be willing to top that figure with either Chapman or Jansen. The pursuits of the two free agents are among the most followed topics at the Winter Meetings.

The largest deal for a Marlins reliever was signed by Heath Bell -- three years, $27 million in 2012.

Jonathan Papelbon previously had set the record for the largest contract for a closer in '12, when he signed with the Phillies for four years and $50 million.

Melancon notched 47 saves in 2016 with the Pirates and Nationals.

Marlins look to add closer

MLB.com and MLB Network 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 Thursday at 9 a.m. ET.

"You look at how the postseason unfolded and you saw a lot of the quality relievers going multi-innings, and managers looking to shorten the game as much as possible," Hill said. "It's just a different direction, a different way to try to win a ballgame."

The club is open to making trades, but it is hesitant to move players off its big league roster.

Miami has already made one significant signing, locking up starter Edinson Volquez on Thursday to a two-year, $22 million deal. The search continues for at least one more experienced starter. Left-hander Jeff Locke, non-tendered last week by the Pirates, is a potential free agent target. Right-handers Doug Fister and Jason Hammel are other rotation possibilities.

With a thin market for starters, the Marlins are taking the approach that they want to build a dominant bullpen.

"We're trying to improve our starting depth and the quality of our starting rotation," Hill said. "But knowing that the front-line starting options aren't there, we're looking to add to a strength. We felt like our bullpen was a strength for us last year. If we can add another layer of depth to potentially shorten the game, that makes some sense also."

If Miami can land either Chapman or Jansen, it could then slide All-Star A.J. Ramos to the eighth inning and Kyle Barraclough to the seventh.

David Phelps, a candidate to start, may ideally wind up in a multi-inning setup role.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly previously managed Jansen in Los Angeles. The drawback to signing the right-hander is, because he declined the Dodgers' $17.2 million qualifying offer, Miami would have to part with the 14th overall pick in the 2017 Draft as compensation.

Chapman is appealing for a number of reasons. The Cuba native would be an instant fan favorite in South Florida with its large Cuban-American population. And unlike Jansen, there is no Draft-pick compensation tied to the left-hander agrees to come to Miami.

The Yankees also are interested in Chapman, and if he demands six years, the Marlins best option may be to sign Ziegler and Uehara.

Uehara, 41, appeared in 50 games for the Red Sox last year, and he struck out 63 in 47 innings. He has 93 career saves, with seven in 2016.

Ziegler, 37, pitched for the D-backs and Red Sox in 2016, posting a 2.25 ERA in 68 innings. The righty sidearmer has 115 career saves.

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.