Marlins have more of a veteran flavor entering spring
Late signings of Baker, Marmol give Redmond more to work with in 2014
MIAMI -- From the start of the offseason until days before Spring Training, the Marlins aggressively explored the market for potential upgrades.
The front office actively sifted through the list of free agents and weighed various trade options. What surprised president of baseball operations Michael Hill was how many quality players still were available in early February.
Miami claimed a coupled of them this month, topping off its shopping by signing infielder Jeff Baker and reliever Carlos Marmol. Baker, who spent last year with the Rangers, is locked up for two years at $3.7 million. And Marmol, formerly the Cubs' closer, finalized his one-year, $1.25 million deal on Tuesday.
The Marlins will open Spring Training on Sunday with 69 players.
Baker provides depth at third, first and second base, plus he can play both corner outfield spots. Marmol brings closer experience, but his role will be to compete for a setup spot for Steve Cishek.
Manager Mike Redmond, who inherited mostly an inexperienced squad last year, now has a number of veterans to work with this spring.
"I think we've upgraded our talent, and [that should] give Red a lot of options to do different things," Hill said.
Finishing with 100 losses a year ago prompted a number of organizational changes. Hill was promoted to president of baseball operations, and Dan Jennings moved up to general manager.
Through free agency, the club was able to address four starting position spots without having to trade any of its young starting pitchers. And through trades, reliever Carter Capps was acquired from Seattle for Logan Morrison, and outfielder Brian Bogusevic was brought in from the Cubs for Justin Ruggiano.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (catcher), Garrett Jones (first base), Rafael Furcal (second base) and Casey McGehee (third base) all signed in December.
Those six deals alone headlined a hectic offseason. Baker and Marmol put the finishing touches on a more experienced roster.
"Baker was another one that we didn't expect to be able to sign," Hill said. "He was a consideration when we went through the third-base search, when we focused on McGehee.
"Baker is an incredibly versatile player. We know he can play first. We know he can play second. We know he can play third. We know he can play the outfield. To be able to get him, it gives Red the ultimate versatile player."
Baker's arrival creates some stiff competition for bench spots. Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas each saw considerable playing time last year, but now they must win their roster spots. Their best chances may be in middle-infield roles.
Ty Wigginton is a veteran who will be in camp as a non-roster invitee, and Derek Dietrich is another in-house candidate who can play second and third. Greg Dobbs, signed for $1.7 million, is a pinch-hit specialist who plays both corner infield spots.
As for the bullpen, the Marlins don't consider Marmol a risky signing because he isn't coming in to close. He will be in the mix with Capps and A.J. Ramos for the late-inning setup roles.
Marmol has a lively arm, which has led to control issues, especially with his slider. The inconsistencies led the Cubs to trade him to the Dodgers in the middle of last season.
Marmol still has great velocity, throwing 96 mph recently at the Caribbean Series. He pitched winter ball in the Dominican Republic, and the Marlins took notice.
"There has been issues in the past, getting the last three outs," Hill said. "Command of his slider wasn't always there. It was sort of a flailing delivery, where his stuff was getting yanked out of the zone."
When effective, Marmol's slider breaks away from right-handed hitters and bends beneath the hands of lefties.
Even with his wild streaks, the Marlins feel Marmol's raw ability was too good to pass up.
"I'm very surprised we were able to sign him," Hill said.