The Marlins were on the hunt for outfield upgrades all winter, eventually culminating in multi-year free agent deals with Avisaíl García and Jorge Soler. Neither player required parting with young talent, but the Fish looked into potential higher-impact acquisitions on the trade market.
Miami has long had interest in prying star center fielder Bryan Reynolds from Pittsburgh, and Barry Jackson and Craig Mish of the Miami Herald shed some light on the teams’ discussions. The Bucs and Marlins discussed permutations that would’ve involved top shortstop prospect Kahlil Watson — Miami’s first-round pick last summer — headed back as part of a deal. However, Jackson and Mish write that the Marlins balked at including both Watson and 2020 #3 overall pick Max Meyer in a Reynolds trade.
Baseball America placed both Watson and Meyer among the back half of their Top 100 prospects this winter. Watson, a lefty-hitting shortstop with big bat speed and athleticism, fell to the Marlins at 16th in last year’s draft but signed for the 10th-highest bonus. That better reflected how evaluators viewed him as an amateur prospect, and he’s generally regarded as one of the highest-upside players in the minors. Meyer, meanwhile, has one of the minors’ best fastball-slider combinations and struck out 27.2% of Double-A hitters in his first full pro season. Prospect evaluators have raised some concerns about his size and command consistency, but he boasts a high-octane arsenal and isn’t that far from MLB readiness.
Parting with both Watson and Meyer would’ve been quite a blow to the Miami farm system, but it reflects the huge asking price the Pirates can justifiably set with four years of arbitration control over Reynolds. Reports going back to last summer’s trade deadline have suggested the Bucs preferred to build around him rather than move him. Reynolds told reporters (including Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) this afternoon the Pirates haven’t approached him about an extension this offseason, and they’re set to go to an arbitration hearing to determine his 2022 salary after not agreeing to terms yesterday. Still, the 27-year-old downplayed the notion that a hearing could affect his relationship with the organization. “I’m an adult,” he said. “I can handle it. I don’t care. I have a pretty good idea of what’ll be said and all that. We’ll prepare, and we’ll be fine.”
Jackson and Mish write the Marlins and Pirates may eventually revisit trade talks, although it’ll again be difficult to pry him out of Pittsburgh. The Herald reports the Marlins also had some pre-lockout discussions with the Blue Jays regarding corner outfielder Teoscar Hernández, but those conversations are no longer active. Soler’s signing to play right field would seem to close the door on the possibility of Miami making a run at another corner outfielder/DH option like Hernández.
Speaking with reporters (including Christina De Nicola of MLB.com) this afternoon, general manager Kim Ng expressed her confidence in the Miami outfield. She pointed to García and Bryan De La Cruz as options to see some time in center field, while Jackson and Mish write that Jesús Sánchez could get a look there as well. Ng didn’t expressly rule out the possibility of further moves on the position player side, but she suggested it was more likely they’d look to add another arm to the bullpen.
“As I mentioned, the bat was first and foremost, and making sure that we secured that and what the parameters of that looked like,” Ng said (via De Nicola). “And now we’re definitely focused on relievers. I will say that I’ve gotten some nice reports on some of the guys here, so we might be able to pull from within as well.”
Among those internal possibilities is right-hander Nick Neidert. A well-regarded starting pitching prospect early in his career, Neidert has yet to find success in 44 MLB innings. The Marlins are deep in rotation options, and manager Don Mattingly told reporters today that Neidert will transition to a bullpen role (De Nicola link). Despite his profile as a changeup specialist — which theoretically should aid him against opposite-handed batters — Neidert has been hit at a .314/.444/.500 clip by lefties in the majors. He was similarly ineffective against southpaws in Triple-A last season (.306/.393/.471), and the bullpen role may afford Mattingly the opportunity to deploy him more often with the platoon advantage.
At present, the Marlins look likely to open the year with a starting five of Sandy Alcantara, Trevor Rogers, Pablo López, Elieser Hernández and Jesús Luzardo. That’s a particularly strong top end, and Miami has high-upside young arms like Meyer, Edward Cabrera and Sixto Sánchez who could factor into the mix at some point.
Sánchez has already had some MLB success, but he missed the entire 2021 season due to injury and will also begin this year on the injured list as he recovers from last July’s shoulder surgery. De Nicola tweets that the fireballing 23-year-old is currently a third of the way through a six-week shutdown period. Given that he won’t even pick up a ball until at least a few weeks into the season, it seems likely he’ll spend a fairly significant amount of time on the IL to open the year.