I wouldn't rule out another veteran reliever, especially if the market drops on someone who could provide depth. I would be surprised if the Marlins opted to use David Phelps in the rotation, because they're already on record saying he impacts more games being in the bullpen. Considering their plan has been to build a "super bullpen," I'm sure Phelps' role has been discussed since October. Plus, they may have already reached out to the 30-year-old, who is going through the arbitration process. The Marlins owe it to him to give an indication of what they have planned.
Not that Phelps couldn't be a factor in the rotation, but the key is how to best maximize the right-hander. If he is out of the bullpen, it weakens. I know Neftali Feliz would be a replacement, but Phelps already has raised his game with Miami. After being injured in 2015, Phelps was healthy in '16, and his fastball velocity picked up. Per Statcast™, his four-seam fastball averaged 94.37 mph. In '15, when he mostly started, his fastball average was 90.2 mph.
From what I've gathered, I don't believe there is strong interest in Doug Fister. As for Tyson Ross, there is a shoulder concern, which is why the Padres non-tendered him. That's not to say the Marlins wouldn't take a chance on Ross, but their objective this offseason has been to focus on pitchers who have shown durability. They are not ideally situated to wait and see if someone who has missed substantial time can rebound and be ready for Opening Day. For me, Fister would have been a terrific fit on a one- or two-year deal. The team is targeting ground-ball pitchers, as we've seen with some of their bullpen additions.
No question, it's been quiet for power-hitting first basemen. I believe that is about to change, and there will be a run on these sluggers in the next few weeks.
At least with the Marlins, the focus for much of the first half of the Hot Stove season has been on pitching.
Quite frankly, the market is not as wide open for players who may be seeking average annual contracts of $20 million or more. Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo and Mike Napoli are likely best suited for the American League, where they can also DH. Chris Carter could be interesting for the Marlins, who first must ask themselves, "What are the plans for Justin Bour?" When healthy, the left-handed-hitting first baseman is impactful. Perhaps Carter or Mark Reynolds could be a fit with Miami.
@JoeFrisaro do Jarlin Garcia or Luis Castillo get a chance in Spring Training for the 5th starter spot?
Unless there are injuries or something unforeseen, as of right now, the Marlins have five starting pitchers who have guaranteed big league contracts. Free-agent additions Jeff Locke signed for $3 million and Edinson Volquez is on a two-year, $22 million deal. They join Adam Conley, Wei-Yin Chen and Tom Koehler, which rounds out the five. This is the rotation. Obviously, that could change if there is an injury in Spring Training.
According to MLBPipeline.com, Jarlin Garcia and Luis Castillo are Miami's third- and fifth-rated prospects, respectively. They both are interesting possibilities, but neither is big league proven. Miami hasn't indicated it will have an open tryout for a spot or two, like it did last year when Jarred Cosart had to win his place. Look for Garcia and Castillo to open at Triple-A New Orleans and likely be in line to be called up sometime in June, if needed.
@JoeFrisaro with AJ Ellis as our back up, do you see JT playing some innings at 1B?
President of baseball operations Michael Hill raised this as a possibility recently. It is an interesting idea, and it would maximize the use of J.T. Realmuto, who is a terrific offensive catcher. He's also athletic enough to play first base. The Giants occasionally play Buster Posey at first base, so why not try that in Miami?
The grind of catching, at some point, will be a concern with Realmuto. So any way to best maximize his talents would be worth exploring. I wouldn't expect him to play first every time the Marlins face a left-handed starter. Miami also has No. 12 prospect Tomas Telis, a switch-hitting catcher who has seen time at first base at Triple-A. I would think we'd see Realmuto at first base more if the Marlins carry three catchers. Not that this is the thinking for Opening Day, but at some point during the season, Telis also could be on the roster, which would add more depth for Realmuto to play first base more.
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.