Marlins find slim pickings behind plate

Fish find slim pickings behind plate

MIAMI -- Speculation has the Marlins weighing whether to pursue Andruw Jones, but according to a baseball source, the team's bigger priority remains finding catching depth.

Working with limited financial resources in a down economy, the Marlins are being guarded in which free agents to pursue.

A few days ago, the Sun-Sentinel reported the Marlins are talking internally about Jones, the 10-time Gold Glove Award-winning center fielder who is moving on after one season with the Dodgers.

But a source familiar with Florida's objectives says that more than adding a veteran like Jones, a free agent such as Ivan Rodriguez fits the club's needs better.

Indications, however, are the only way Rodriguez would be a Marlin is if he is willing to play for the league minimum. For an established star like Pudge, that may not be the price he is willing to accept.

A scout added that there is a chance Rodriguez could still be available when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 14.

The Marlins are planning on starting John Baker as their everyday catcher, but the team is seeking experienced depth. There is a void behind the plate since the Winter Meetings, when Florida released backup Matt Treanor, who has since signed with Detroit.

The longer Rodriguez remains unsigned, the greater the chance a team such as the Marlins could end up taking a chance on the 37-year-old, who finished up last year with the Yankees.

A standout on Florida's 2003 World Series title team, Rodriguez has appeared in 2,267 games and is a career .301 hitter.

In 2008, baseball insiders say there was a dramatic decline in the former All-Star's skills. With the Tigers and Yankees, he combined to appear in 115 games, and he batted .276 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs.

Hot Stove

With 2,605 career hits, one of Rodriguez's goals is to reach 3,000, a milestone that could be difficult to reach if he isn't playing regularly.

Defensively, there also are concerns. The grind of 17 seasons has taken a toll, and one scout says that defensively, right now Rodriguez is on par with Baker.

Without Treanor as a backup, though, the Marlins lack an experienced alternative to Baker. Mike Rabelo has the inside edge to be the backup.

Acquired from the Tigers as part of the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis trade, Rabelo entered Spring Training last year competing with Treanor for the starting job.

But in Spring Training, Rabelo injured his left knee and hip, and he had a rough season physically. He played in 34 games for Florida, and injuries limited him to nine games at Triple-A Albuquerque.

While the team is high on Baker, he has 61 games of MLB experience, all coming last year. The Marlins are hopeful that the left-handed hitter from Northern California can handle 120 or so games.

Last year, counting 59 games at Triple-A, he reached 120 total games.

Just before New Year's Day, the Marlins considered whether to sign Gregg Zaun, but those talks didn't progress far because of the dollar figures being discussed. Zaun has since agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Orioles, and the team also has been exploring trade options for the Rangers' Max Ramirez.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.