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Marlins expect turnover as GM Meetings begin

Marlins expect turnover as GM Meetings begin

Marlins expect turnover as GM Meetings begin
MIAMI -- For more than a month, the Marlins' front office has been assessing personnel, evaluating the team's talent and formulating an offseason strategy.

Now they get a chance to exchange ideas with other ballclubs. MLB's General Managers Meetings are getting under way on Wednesday in Indian Wells, Calif., and the Marlins should once again be active.

But unlike a year ago, when the Marlins were rebranding and eager to bolster their roster with big-name free agents, the organization has more modest ambitions.

Last week, youthful Mike Redmond was hired to replace outspoken Ozzie Guillen as manager. The 41-year-old Redmond is still finalizing his staff, which as of now includes Joe Espada (third base), Reid Cornelius (either bullpen or pitching coach) and Perry Hill (infield/first base).

In terms of the roster, only shortstop Jose Reyes and right fielder Giancarlo Stanton are locked in as starters at their respective positions. Emilio Bonifacio will start somewhere, either center field or second or maybe third base. And Logan Morrison, coming off right knee surgery, projects to be in the Opening Day lineup, most likely at first base.

Either Rob Brantly or John Buck will start at catcher.

Third base is wide open, and second base may be as well, although Donovan Solano could see substantial time there. Left field also will be an area that is explored on the market. Justin Ruggiano also could be a fit.

Ruggiano and Solano give the team flexibility because both can play multiple positions. They likely will get their share of starts, but it could be at different spots.

For all the uncertainty, one thing is for sure -- Miami will offer opportunity at a number of positions when Spring Training gets under way.

"When you have a new manager, and potentially half your coaching staff is new, you can have a lot of competition naturally," president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "These guys [the staff], they want to have that fresh-slate-kind-of-thing going on. They want to see competition. They want to make their own evaluations in conjunction with us. I think it's an opportunity to do that."

Coming off a 69-93 last-place finish in the National League East, turnover should be expected. At the top of the Marlins' shopping list is third base. It's the biggest need and most up-in-the-air area on their roster.

Speculation arose a few weeks ago that the Marlins could be a fit for Alex Rodriguez, if the Yankees are willing to move their aging star. Still, making a deal between both parties work is a long shot.

There is the issue of A-Rod's contract, which has $114 million remaining. And the direction of the club also is a factor. If the team is looking to build for the long term, Rodriguez may not fit the profile.

There could be public sentiment to make a push for the Miami-raised third baseman, but the more realistic scenario is the Marlins will pursue a lower-profile possibility.

On a team with plenty of holes to fill, the Marlins' strength right now is their rotation. Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Ricky Nolasco are veterans with track records. On the back end, Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi each showed promise during the second half.

"Pitching is the fastest way, the most sustainable way and proven way to win," Beinfest said. "I think we have some guys who can do better than they have. I think that's fair to say. We were very pleased with Eovaldi and Turner in September. We can start to see them getting more comfortable in the Major Leagues. We love both of their arms. We think they're going to be real good Major League pitchers for a long time."

The question the Marlins also will be asking themselves is, do they need to trade a front-line starter to address third base, or another area of need? If so, Johnson ($13.75 million) and Nolasco ($11.5 million) are free agents after 2013. One or both could be dangled in trade talks. The same holds true with Buehrle, who is under contract for three more years.

Another area that will be explored is the bullpen. When Heath Bell was traded to the D-backs, it opened the door for Steve Cishek to remain the closer.

"With Heath gone, Cishek right now is our closer," Beinfest said. "But we need to replace Cishek as our setup guy. Whether that is Ryan Webb, or we go with a young guy like [A.J.] Ramos. But we have to look at all of those things. I hate to sound so kind of broad, but if you look at our team, you dig into it, we need to look into all the areas."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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