The GM's Office: Miami Marlins

Teams that improved most this offseason 

February, 8, 2015
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White SoxAP Photo/M. Spencer GreenJeff Samardzija, David Robertson and Melky Cabrera were key acquisitions for the White Sox.
Several teams made key singular moves this offseason that could push them over the top and actually have more impact than the overhauls that other teams did. For instance, the Nationals' signing of Max Scherzer gives them the game's best and deepest starting rotation. The Mariners' signing of Nelson Cruz finally got them the right-handed power bat they needed between Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager in the lineup. The Cardinals' trade for right fielder Jason Heyward gives them the game's best defensive right fielder.

These were some of the best moves, but which teams made the best series of moves to make their major league rosters drastically better this offseason? Here are my top five organizations
ShieldsDenny Medley/USA TODAY SportsPitchers and catchers report in a couple of weeks, and James Shields remains a free agent.
Before the offseason began, I projected that James Shields would receive a five-year deal for around a $100 million (or a $20 million average annual value). But I also wrote that there was a question as to whether he would get that fifth year. I can answer that question now: He's not getting the fifth year.

As a former general manager, I can tell you that when a player gets to the first week of February unsigned, there's usually a good reason. If something were going to happen, it would have by then. Now Shields is looking at a four-year deal in the $70-$80 million range as the best possible result, and the price tag could be even lower than that.

There are still several clubs engaged with Shields, including the San Diego Padres, my current best guess to sign him. But the Miami Marlins and several other teams are in play, too.

Shields and his representatives overshot at the outset of free agency, and have been stubborn to come down. It has even been reported that his camp was claiming to have turned down a five-year, $110 million deal. If that’s true, it was a colossal blunder.

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Updated landing spots for Max Scherzer 

January, 15, 2015
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Max Scherzer Mark Cunningham/Getty ImagesMax Scherzer will have a season-altering effect on whoever signs him. But who will that be?
Here we are in the middle of January and the industry’s No. 1 free agent, Max Scherzer, is still unsigned. So I spent this week checking with as many sources as possible, on teams and otherwise, to find out what is really going on with the elite starter.

I found mostly denials of involvement from teams we believe to be in the Scherzer sweepstakes, and then it dawned on me: Most of my sources are MLB team presidents, general managers, assistant general managers, managers, players and agents. Under Scott Boras, Scherzer's agent, modus operandi for players of this stature (in the $140 million to $200 million range) is to go directly to the owners. He knows that every GM would love to have Scherzer in their rotation; it just comes down to money, years and risk. It’s really an owner decision, not one made by the executives under them.

For most clubs, the GMs are in the loop at all times, but that's not always the case. Boras has always had carte blanche, access to meet with most owners directly in person or on the phone. Owners also know that GMs might recommend not signing Scherzer for economic reasons because of dollars or contract length, but owners want to win at the end of the day, too. They also know that Scherzer could be the difference in reaching the postseason. Therefore, as I went digging, although I couldn’t find a raging fire, I did find smoke, some smoldering and an occasional small fire.

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Three best and three worst moves so far 

December, 19, 2014
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Jeff Samardzija and Alex RiosGetty ImagesJim liked the White Sox's acquisition of Jeff Samardzija ... but not the Royals' signing of Alex Rios.
To me, the obvious best moves this offseason are the Cubs' hiring of Joe Maddon as manager and signing of free agent Jon Lester, the Mariners' signing of Nelson Cruz, and the Red Sox inking Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. However, most of those moves had more to do with the size of a team's checkbook, being a contending club or simply being the ideal market for the player. Therefore, I decided to pick the best and worst moves based on pure baseball decisions, eliminating the cost/location factors:

Three best moves

1. White Sox's trade for Jeff Samardzija

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This was the best trade for a major leaguer so far this offseason.

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10 bold predictions for this offseason 

November, 20, 2014
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Major League Baseball's offseason is in full swing, complete with 13-year contracts, a trade including a Gold Glover and a good, young pitcher, and a key free-agent signing or two. But that's just the beginning of this wild and wooly offseason.

With that, here are 10 bold predictions I see happening in the weeks ahead:

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1. Jon Lester re-signs with the Boston Red Sox

Most analysts think Lester has pitched his last game for the Red Sox. … I'm not one of them. I think the Chicago Cubs will offer the most years (six) and dollars, but a return to Boston for fewer years (five) and less money is my prediction. The Red Sox desperately need a top-of-rotation starter and won't be a legitimate contender unless they get one. Lester was happy in Boston, and unless the Cubs blow the Sox's offer away, I think that's where he lands.


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2. Marlins sign James Shields

The Marlins shocked the baseball world with the signing of Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year deal, and they'll do it again by landing a top-of-rotation starter.

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So what's next, Marlins management? 

November, 18, 2014
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Giancarlo StantonSteve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsThe Marlins have more than just slugger Giancarlo Stanton to build a team around.
The Miami Marlins just agreed to terms with their star slugger, Giancarlo Stanton, for 13 years and $325 million, but that doesn't mean they're done spending money.

They're looking at contract extensions for their top young players, another top-of-rotation type starting pitcher and more offensive punch from some of their infield positions. Here's my quick breakdown of what's next for the Marlins:

Contract extensions

The Marlins would like to sign Jose Fernandez to a long-term contract next, but based on initial negotiations with his agent Scott Boras, it's highly unlikely something gets done anytime soon. That's better for the club anyway since they don't know how well he'll bounce back from Tommy John surgery.

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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.

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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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