Marlins likely to seek talent with playoff experience

Vets changed clubhouse culture in '14; Shields, Panda would continue trend

Marlins likely to seek talent with playoff experience

MIAMI -- Success often breeds success, which is a major reason the Marlins last offseason placed a high emphasis on acquiring players with postseason experience. Many of their major pickups had previously played into October.

Expect more of the same when the hot stove season gets underway after the World Series. Miami made strides in the standings in 2014, largely because of a cultural change that focused on finding players with winning in their pasts.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia signed as a free agent after winning a World Series with the Red Sox. Garrett Jones, Rafael Furcal, Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson all had postseason experience. Even Casey McGehee, who spent 2013 in Japan, won a championship overseas.

Granted Saltalamacchia and Jones had their struggles in 2014, and Furcal was injured pretty much all season. Still, they were big parts of helping change the culture in the Miami clubhouse, along with setting examples for a young nucleus.

Beginning in November, the Marlins again will look to infuse more talent. If they happen to have gone through the rigors of October, all the better. There are at least a handful of players who were involved in these playoffs who could be targets for the Marlins. The top five possibilities are:

1. RHP James Shields, Royals
Shields will likely be at the top of Miami's shopping list. Big Game James would be a game-changer for the Marlins, elevating the rotation to another level.

A high-end starter is the Marlins' top offseason priority. The club wants another established arm to help bridge the first few months of 2015 until Jose Fernandez (Tommy John surgery) is ready.

But Shields, who made $12 million this year, will be highly coveted on the open market.

2. 3B Pablo Sandoval, Giants
The playoffs seem to bring out the best in Panda. A switch-hitter with power who is accustomed to the big stage, Sandoval would be an ideal middle-of-the-lineup bat to help offer protection for Giancarlo Stanton.

Sandoval earned $8.25 million in '14, and he is headed for a big pay day. Prying Panda away from San Francisco won't be easy.

A major selling point for the Marlins on any power hitter they approach is the fact that he would be joining a lineup that includes Stanton in the No. 3 spot and Christian Yelich leading off. Marcell Ozuna is another talented young threat.

Miami is an inviting opportunity. If the Marlins were able to obtain Sandoval, McGehee could be moved to first base.

3. RHP Justin Masterson, Cardinals
Masterson is coming off a down season. But the right-hander, who made $9.76 million this year, could be primed to bounce back.

Masterson opened the year in Cleveland and was traded to St. Louis, where he was used sparingly. After the trade, his ERA was 7.04 in nine games with six starts. He had his struggles in the first half with the Indians, as well, going 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA.

But in 2013 in Cleveland, he was 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA.

The hope with Masterson is catching him at the right time, when the Marlins can get him at an affordable rate, and he returns to his old form.

4. 1B/LF Michael Morse, Giants
A South Florida native, Morse is another power bat on the brink of hitting the free-agent market.

In San Francisco, the 32-year-old is already a postseason hero with his pinch-hit home run in Game 5 against the Cardinals. Again, a big bat behind Stanton would make the Miami lineup more imposing.

Morse, who made $6 million this year, appeared in 83 games in left field and 42 games at first base for the Giants in the regular season. Miami would be looking for him to play first.

5. 1B Ike Davis, Pirates
Second-year arbitration eligible, Davis is a left-handed hitting first baseman with power. He made $3.5 million in 2014, a season in which he belted 11 homers and drove in 51 runs. His slash line was .233/.344/.378.

The question the Marlins would have to ask: Does Davis, 27, have more upside than Jones, 33, who hit 15 homers and drove in 53 runs with a line of .246/.309/.411?

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.