The GM's Office: Miami Marlins

Mike Rizzo and Frank WrenAP PhotoWashington GM Mike Rizzo and Atlanta GM Frank Wren don't need to pull off a blockbuster this season.
Deadline objectives: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West

The National League East has become a two-team race between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, with the second-place team still having a good chance to reel in one of the two wild-card berths. Neither team is expected to make a blockbuster deal by the trade deadline, but both are looking for the same thing: left-handed relief help and bench upgrades. Sometimes improving a team by inches rather than feet or yards can be the difference between making the postseason or going home.

The rest of the division should be sellers. The Marlins are hoping for enough wins between now and the deadline to become buyers, but realistically, they should be in sell mode. The Mets have Bartolo Colon and Daniel Murphy to offer in deals, while the Phillies should be open to trading every veteran on their roster.

In fact, the Phillies should be the center of attention between now and July 31 because there is not a "seller" in baseball with more talented difference-makers to trade. The difficult part for teams getting deals done with them will be dealing with all of the bad contracts, no-trade provisions and high return the Phillies are asking for in return.

With that in mind, let's take a look at where each team stands and who they should be looking to either acquire or trade away:


1. Washington Nationals: Buyers

Needs: Left-handed reliever and a bat off the bench.

Lefty reliever targets: Antonio Bastardo, Phillies; Neal Cotts, Rangers; Andrew Miller, Red Sox; James Russell, Cubs; Oliver Perez, Diamondbacks; Tony Sipp, Astros; Mike Dunn, Marlins.

Bench targets: Chris Carter, Astros; Chris Denorfia, Padres; Alejandro De Aza, White Sox; Jonny Gomes, Red Sox; Dayan Viciedo, White Sox; Jake Smolinski, Rangers; Mike Olt, Cubs; Drew Stubbs, Rockies.

What to expect: The Nationals don't need to make a move; they are the team to beat in the NL East and should be considered a legitimate World Series contender. They could stand to improve the two areas above, and I expect GM Mike Rizzo to upgrade one or the other by the trade deadline.

Trade I'd like to see happen: Right-handed pitching prospect Austin Voth to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for lefty reliever James Russell.
Bartolo ColonBrad Penner/USA TODAY SportsBartolo Colon could prove to be a useful cog for a contending team aiming for the playoffs.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Bartolo Colon | RHP | New York Mets

Possible destinations: Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins, New York Yankees


Miami Marlins

Why? Marlins president of baseball operations Mike Hill and general manager Dan Jennings both told me on separate occasions this past week that owner Jeffrey Loria is committed to contending and winning this year, and is prepared to provide the financial backing necessary for trades. Hill characterized his relationship with Jennings as a partner, and both have been told if they find a good baseball deal to bring it to Loria and he will approve it. This includes the David Price sweepstakes if he’s traded. They’ve also told me that starting pitching, not second base, is their top priority.

Therefore, based on who's available, Colon -- who's signed through next season and not just a rental -- would be a good target. Colon would provide leadership for their young pitchers and more important increase their chances of staying in the pennant race all season.

Who? A package of right-handed pitcher Nick Wittgren and outfielder Austin Dean would be fair value.

Will it happen?

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Ben ZobristRob Tringali/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesBen Zobrist's switch-hitting ability should appeal to many teams.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Ben Zobrist | 2B | Tampa Bay Rays

Possible destinations: Miami Marlins, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays




Miami Marlins

Why? Rafael Furcal batted .171 with a .216 on-base percentage for the Marlins prior to his injury. Ed Lucas is batting .256 with a .295 on-base percentage, Derek Dietrich is batting .228 with a .326 on-base, Jeff Baker is at .217 and .273, and Donovan Solano is at .182 and .241. In other words, second base has been by far the Marlins' weakest position from an offensive perspective, and it needs to be upgraded if they want to stay in contention in the second half. The fact that Zobrist is a switch-hitter capable of playing all infield and corner outfield positions also gives the Marlins much-needed depth around the diamond.

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A GM makes the top 10 picks 

May, 28, 2014
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As fans of Insider's NFL draft coverage know, Mel Kiper likes to do what he calls the "Grade A" draft, in which he puts himself in the GM's seat for every team and makes a first-round pick for each. I decided it would be fun to try something similar for the first 10 picks of the MLB draft.

The ground rules are simple: At each slot, I make a pick in the best interest of the team holding the pick. I won't pass on a player at No. 5 just because I like how he fits better at No. 7. This is not a projection. If you want that, check out Keith Law's mock draft from Tuesday.

A general manager's involvement

There is a common misconception that the GM makes the selection of a team's draft picks. In fact, with nearly every team, it's the scouting director who makes the call in consultation with the GM.

Usually, the GMs of teams picking in the top 10 will go out and see the elite prospects and settle debates at the top of the draft board. Most organizations will say their philosophy is to take the best player on the board, but very few do. For example, a team needing pitching at the major league level might move a college pitcher up on the board a few places to take him. And some teams will bypass players for financial, medical or makeup reasons. I've tried to incorporate that mindset into my picks.

These selections were based mostly on talking with more than a dozen general managers and scouting directors, but I've also watched video of a number of the top prospects. This year's draft doesn't feature a generational talent like Bryce Harper, but it is deep, and there are roughly a dozen players who will get serious consideration for picks No. 5 through 10.




1. Houston Astros | Pick: Carlos Rodon | LHP | NC State

Without a top-notch bat to debate in this spot, the Astros should take one of the top three pitchers in Rodon, Brady Aiken or Tyler Kolek.

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MLB has never had more parity 

March, 15, 2014
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One of the main purposes of ESPN Insider's Future Power Rankings is to offer fans hope.

Even if your team is bad now, it might be really good in three years. The rankings are designed to peer into the projected future. However, this year’s FPR also illustrated something else: baseball has achieved a tremendous amount of parity. If you look at the overall scores, you'll see that the gap between No. 1 and No. 5 (25.8 points) is larger than the gap between No. 5 and No. 25 (23.8). This kind of parity keeps fans’ hopes alive because, year to year, any team could be that surprise contender.

The rankings showed there were four elite teams with scores well above the average: the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers. Conversely, there was a significant drop to the last four teams: the Philadelphia Phillies, Seattle Mariners, Milwaukee Brewers and Miami Marlins. But what about that middle 22 teams?

For fans celebrating their teams ranked just below the elite at fifth or sixth, not so fast. For fans upset their teams ranked as low as 24th or 25th, not to worry. The reality is, there isn’t much difference between the fifth-ranked team and the 26th-ranked team, thanks to this new competitive balance. Any of the teams within this range can easily move up or down within a year with some solid moves and decisions.

But how did baseball create such competitive balance so quickly?

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10 bold predictions for spring training 

February, 14, 2014
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Matt KempLisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesIs it possible Matt Kemp might miss all of spring training? Could be.
It was in March 2013 that I predicted that some time during the season, Yasiel Puig would become a star on the level of past star rookies such as Fernando Valenzuela and Hideo Nomo and create his own mania -- "Puigmania."

Well, it's time for more bold predictions, and I'm beginning with spring training. Let's take a look at my 10 bold predictions for 2014 spring training. (Don't worry, I'll make more bold predictions for the regular season.)

1. Matt Kemp doesn't play in a single major league spring training game.

Kemp is still recovering from microfracture surgery on his left talus bone (a major weight-bearing bone in his ankle), and I think he will begin the season on the disabled list.

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The missing link for every NL team 

January, 14, 2014
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Clayton KershawAP Photo/Jeff RobersonThe Dodgers likely will cease chasing Masahiro Tanaka after Clayton Kershaw gets his extension.
For the vast majority of major league teams, pitchers and catchers will report to spring training exactly a month from now. Usually teams are simply fine-tuning their rosters, whether it's that last utility bench guy or an additional bullpen arm.

But with teams from both leagues waiting on the fate of free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, many teams still have significant moves they must make to shape their team into a championship club. What is the missing link for each team? On Tuesday I will focus on the National League teams and Wednesday I’ll present the American League.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks

Missing link: Top-of-the-rotation starter
Solution: Sign RHP Masahiro Tanaka or Ervin Santana or Matt Garza
Both general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson’s option years for 2015 were not picked up, leading Towers to admit that both are on the hot seat to win this year. Every move they’ve made this offseason has involved trading future assets for win-now results. With this type of pressure on him, Towers knows the best way to keep his job is to add an elite starter.

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Offseason grades thus far: NL 

December, 15, 2013
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Curtis Granderson AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackCurtis Granderson went across town and helps the Mets' outfield substantially.
On Saturday, I graded every American League team based on the moves they have made thus far this season, and today we move to the NL.

While the free-agent class wasn't as exciting in years past, we've seen some bold trades that should change the baseball landscape in 2014 and beyond. (Teams are listed in order of their grade, by division.)

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One deal for every NL team 

November, 18, 2013
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The hot stove league is already fired up, as the Philadelphia Phillies struck first by signing outfielder Marlon Byrd last week. With such a weak free-agent class this offseason, teams will look heavily in the trade market.

Below you will find a proposed trade or free-agent signing that could help each National League team. On Tuesday I'll address the American League.

NL East

Atlanta Braves

The move: Trade top pitching prospect Lucas Sims, shortstop Jose Peraza and Alex Wood to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for left-handed pitcher and former Cy Young Award winner David Price and outfield prospect Drew Vettleson.

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Fernandez tops rookie rankings again 

September, 6, 2013
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As we head into the final weeks of the season, the one thing that really stands out is how much stronger the National League rookie class is than that of the American League and how deep this rookie class is in starting pitching -- with six hurlers making my top 10.

Of course, some rookies have dominated so thoroughly that they’ve either sat in the top position for months or have done so at one point. However, some rookies are surging with at-bats and innings under their belts. Here’s how my monthly rookie rankings stacked up through August.

(For a look at last month's version of the rankings, click here.)


1. Jose Fernandez | RHP | Miami Marlins


In August, Fernandez was named NL Rookie of the Month for the second consecutive month, becoming the first pitcher to win the award twice in a single season since Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel did it in 2011.

Fernandez made six starts in the month, finishing with a 3-1 record and an impressive 1.15 ERA and limiting opposing batters to a .158 batting average. In 15 of his past 16 starts, he hasn't allowed more than two runs and is averaging 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings on the season with a WHIP below 1.00. His mid-to-upper 90s fastball and devastating secondary pitches have not only cemented his spot as the season’s best rookie but as one of the game’s best pitchers.

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Young stars who I'd sign long-term now 

August, 21, 2013
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Major League Baseball is loaded with more impact stars who are non-arbitration eligible than the game has seen in decades. Although teams can control the salaries of these young stars for the first three years of their service time, it won’t be long before they become arbitration eligible and their salaries skyrocket to record-breaking levels.

The fact is that for young superstar players, the closer they get to free agency, the more likely they are to reach it. So smart teams are locking them up early and buying out their arbitration years in order to save money in the long run.

Signing their non-arbitration-eligible young stars to long-term contracts keeps the players relatively cost efficient. In turn, these young stars net millions of guaranteed dollars early in their careers, which sets them up for life and eliminates any injury and/or baseball risk. And everyone agrees that it’s difficult for a player in his early 20s to turn down approximately $100 million to instead wait four or five more years with the hopes of getting more. It’s a smart play for both the team and the player.

Before this type of action is taken, however, position players must prove to the team they can hit all types of pitches and can sufficiently counter all the adjustments pitchers have when facing them. Teams need to make sure these guys are two-way players (offensively and defensively), low medical risks and that their makeup and character fits the team in the long term. Clubs also have to make sure that long-term security won’t negatively impact these young players' work ethic, passion and will to be the best they can be.

It should be noted that two of the best young starting pitchers in baseball, Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins and Matt Harvey of the New York Mets, should also be under consideration for long-term deals if their respective teams aren’t afraid of the inherent injury risk that often accompanies pitchers.

The deliveries of both Harvey and Fernandez are so clean that both pitchers are solid bets to succeed and stay healthy. Both are No. 1 starters and, in my mind, represent the lowest risks of any non-arbitration-eligible pitchers in baseball. But to be clear, I am not a proponent of signing pitchers to long-term deals until they have logged at least four consecutive years of approximately 200 innings pitched without arm troubles.

Therefore, here are the six position players who match the criteria I laid out above. Their long-term contracts should avoid the three years of salary arbitration and tie up at least two years of free agency, ending no later than when the players are between the ages of 30 and 32.

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Managers, GMs who must finish strong 

August, 16, 2013
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Jerry Dipoto and Mike SciosciaKyle Terada/US PresswireCould Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, right, be on his way out in L.A.?

Stability and continuity in the general manager and field manager positions are how an organization wins championships.

In the early 1990s, the Atlanta Braves’ combination of general manager John Schuerholz and manager Bobby Cox set the bar. After Schuerholz and Cox retired, the Braves’ torch was passed on to GM Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez, but the Detroit Tigers’ Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland might be the closest parallel to the Schuerholz-Cox dynamic.

Up until Friday, when Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was fired, the 2013 season had been kind to both general managers and field managers as there hadn’t been a single firing -- which was good for baseball and its teams. Such stability underscores the success of competitive balance in the sport.

As was the case in Philadelphia, the lack of management upheaval elsewhere won’t last forever as there inevitably will be some changes this offseason. It’s simply the nature of the business. After polling executives in both leagues, here are four general managers or field managers who might have to finish this season strong in order to retain their jobs in 2014:


Jerry Dipoto | general manager | Los Angeles Angels

Dipoto is one of the bright young minds in the game. The problem is that he hasn’t been able to carry out his vision for the Angels because most of his moves have backfired. The decision to include shortstop Jean Segura in the Zack Greinke trade would have been justified had the Angels either won the World Series or re-signed Greinke. However, they didn’t win and Dipoto chose to sign free-agent Josh Hamilton instead of Greinke.

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Who will land Jose Abreu? 

August, 12, 2013
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Jose AbreuAP Photo/Koji SasaharaJose Abreu is sure to spice up what most thought would be a dull free-agent class.
Over the past few years we've seen a trio of Cuban defectors receive big free-agent contracts and subsequently take the league by storm. Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig all came to the majors with a lot of hype, and thus far all have delivered on it.

Enter Jose Dariel Abreu. According to reports, the 26-year-old Cuban slugger has defected. He is reportedly in Haiti now, and he could be up for bidding right around the time free agency gets going in November. Expect a bidding war.

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Bowden's rookie rankings 

August, 9, 2013
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Wil MyersJared Wickerham/Getty ImagesWil Myers has been quickly rising up these rankings since his debut.

With less than two months left in the 2013 season, we’re heading down the stretch for this season’s top rookies.

It’s been a list dominated thus far by National League pitchers such as Shelby Miller, Jose Fernandez and Julio Teheran, to name a few, as well as outfielder Yasiel Puig. However, an American League outfielder and shortstop finally cracked the top 10.

Keep in mind that most minor league campaigns conclude at the end of August. For some, this will be far more innings pitched or games played than they’ve ever experienced, so September and the postseason could be taxing.

Regardless, below are my monthly rookie rankings, and there are some new names on the list, mostly because I've extended it from 30 names to 50.

1. Jose Fernandez | RHP | Miami Marlins


For the second month in a row, Fernandez leads the way, this time after going 6-2 with a 1.79 ERA in 11 starts since the start of June. Batters still are hitting just .182 against Fernandez after starting an at-bat with a first-pitch ball. He was named July NL Rookie of the Month and co-player of the week for the week of July 29.

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Grading the GMs at the deadline 

July, 31, 2013
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While many people are going to say this year's trade deadline was a bit of a dud, there were still plenty of deals made. Here's the way I would grade how every GM did leading up to the deadline, but please keep in mind that sometimes standing pat is the best course of action, and some GMs who did very little still received good grades.

So here are the grades for every GM, with the teams listed in alphabetical order.

Kevin Towers, Arizona Diamondbacks

This was a team that I thought should stand pat, but they did make one notable move, shipping Ian Kennedy to San Diego for Joe Thatcher, pitching prospect Matt Stites and a competitive balance draft pick. Kennedy once looked like a potential No. 2 starter, but he's had a terrible year and would have been the odd man out in Arizona's deep rotation next year. Thatcher is one of the best situational lefties in the game, and he will come in handy against Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier in September, when the D-backs face the Dodgers seven times.

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