In a couple of days, it will be time for the Marlins to take the field, for real, with Spring Training set to start on Tuesday for pitchers and catchers.
"This is an exciting time, because we know that baseball is near," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "Obviously, we're pretty excited about the offseason that we had. We think we were among the more active ballclubs this offseason in trying to add to our existing core and put pieces in place to really help this team get to where it wants to go, and that's into a playoff and to bring a championship back to South Florida."
Manager Don Mattingly enters his second season at the helm, coming off a 79-82 campaign that was filled with so much early hope. But the year ended with the tragic death of Jose Fernandez on Sept. 25 in a boating accident.
As the organization moves forward, the Marlins decided to keep the nucleus together, bringing back all eight of their Opening Day starting position players.
"That's big," right fielder Giancarlo Stanton said. "We have a solid core. We all have got to be on the field at the same time. We all have to battle at the same time.
"We didn't need much lineup-wise. We've got a pitching core and a hitting core. We've got to put it together in spring and be together all year."
Pitchers and catchers report: Tuesday
Position players report: Friday
First Grapefruit League game: Home vs. Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. ET on Feb. 25
Accumulating as much pitching depth as possible was the primary offseason goal, and the club signed five free-agent pitchers: Edinson Volquez (two years, $22 million), Brad Ziegler (two years, $16 million), Junichi Tazawa (two years, $12 million), Jeff Locke (one year, $3.025 million) and Dustin McGowan (one year, $1.75 million). McGowan, who was with the club in 2016, became a free agent in the offseason and opted to return. Catcher A.J. Ellis (one year, $2.5 million) signed to back up J.T. Realmuto.
The Marlins also added rotation depth by acquiring right-hander Dan Straily from the Reds for prospects Luis Castillo, Austin Brice and Isaiah White.
Interesting non-roster invitees
Outfielder Brandon Barnes, who has 19 big league home runs, is a 30-year-old outfielder with 465 MLB games with the Astros and Rockies. Lefty Kyle Lobstein threw 25 innings with the Pirates last season, and the 27-year-old offers depth in the rotation. Right-hander Javy Guerra, 31, is a former closer with the Dodgers, with 30 big league saves and 156 2/3 innings. Outfielder Matt den Dekker, 29, is a Fort Lauderdale native who attended the University of Florida. He appeared in 19 games with the Nationals last year, previously playing for the Mets. First baseman Tyler Moore last played in the big leagues with the Nationals in 2015, and the 30-year-old has 24 MLB homers and 91 RBIs. Ryan Jackson, a 28-year-old shortstop, is a Miami native who has seen time in the Majors with the Cardinals and Angels.
Prospects to watch
A number of the Marlins' top prospects will be at Spring Training, with the highest ranked being left-hander Jarlin Garcia and third baseman Brian Anderson. Garcia and Anderson are rated third and fourth, respectively, on Miami's top-30 prospects list, according to MLBPipeline.com. Perhaps the two most interesting prospects are left-hander Dillon Peters (No. 11) and Drew Steckenrider (No. 16). Neither will likely make the Opening Day roster, but Peters could find himself in the rotation by midseason, and Steckenrider may be in the bullpen by then as well. Right-hander Jake Esch (eighth) and catcher Tomas Telis (10th) each have big league experience and offer organizational depth.