After another last-place finish in 2013, the Miami Marlins are making a concerted effort to bolster an offense that ranked at the bottom of Major League Baseball with a .231 team batting average, 95 home runs and 513 runs scored last season.
The Marlins made strides at the winter meetings by signing three players -- catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Rafael Furcal and first baseman Garrett Jones. Those aren't exactly top-shelve names in terms of proven production, but for Miami it can only be viewed as a boost.
"We lost 100 games, had one of the historically awful offenses in the game," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "What we had wasn't acceptable, and we had to fix it. There is still work to be done."
Signing Jones prompted the trade of Morrison, who battled injuries and never developed into the first baseman the Marlins had hoped.
"Any young, controllable piece we acquire is going to have some versatility, some flexibility to them," Hill said. "That's what plays in this league.
"If we need to make room for Moran, we can do something with this piece, so we can make room for Moran, if need be."
The Marlins looked overseas to plug their hole at third base, bringing back free agent Casey McGehee from Japan. The 31-year-old veteran agreed to a one-year, $1.1 million deal on Dec. 18.
Before adding McGehee, the top internal options for third base were Ed Lucas, Derek Dietrich and Donovan Solano. Miami hopes McGehee can plug the hole until Colin Moran, the team's first-round draft pick last year, is ready, which could be in 2015.
--3B Casey McGehee agreed to a one-year, $1.1 million deal with the Marlins on Dec. 18, and he will get the chance to be a regular in 2014. McGehee, 31, played last season with the Japanese champion Rakuten Golden Eagles, hitting .289 with 27 homers and 90 RBI in 137 games. Over five seasons in the U.S. major league, McGehee has a career hitting line of .257/.314/.414 with 61 homers and 283 RBIs in 551 games.
--C Kyle Skipworth was designated for assignment by the Marlins on Dec. 18 to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for newly signed 3B Casey McGehee. Skipworth, 23, went 0-for-3 in four major league games with Miami last season. The 2008 first-round draft pick hit .188/.241/.397 with 11 homers and 30 RBIs in 73 games for Triple-A New Orleans in 2013.
--OF Brian Bogusevic was traded from the Cubs to the Marlins on Dec. 12 in exchange for OF Justin Ruggiano.
Bogusevic, 29, hit .273/.323/.462 with six homers and 16 RBIs in 47 games for Chicago last season. He played the previous three years with the Astros, and he has a career .236/.313/.370 batting line with 17 homers and 62 RBIs in 299 games.
Ruggiano, 31, batted .222/.298/.396 with 18 homers, 50 RBIs and 15 steals for the Marlins in 2013. Over five major league seasons -- three with Tampa Bay, two with Miami -- Ruggiano has a career .251/.315/.432 batting line with 37 homers and 109 RBIs in 317 games.
--1B Logan Morrison was shipped to Seattle in exchange for RHP Carter Capps in a deal that was finalized a day after the winter meetings ended.
Capps, 23, is a hard-throwing right-hander who appeared in 53 games with Seattle last season. He struck out 66 and walked 23 in 59 innings. He posted a 3-3 record with a 5.49 ERA.
Morrison was slowed by two surgeries to his right knee, which limited him to 85 games last season. He batted .242 with six homers and 36 RBIs
--C Jarrod Saltalamacchia signed a three-year deal with the Marlins. His arrival means Jeff Mathis will return as the backup catcher, and Rob Brantly, Miami's Opening Day catcher in 2013, will open the 2014 season at Triple-A New Orleans.
Miami ranked last in the majors in runs scored and home runs in 2013. Saltalamacchia batted .273 with 14 homers and 65 RBIs. He hit a career-high 25 homers in 2012.
--INF Rafael Furcal will switch from shortstop to play second base with the Marlins, who took a chance on the veteran. Furcal, 36, missed all of last year with the St. Louis Cardinals because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
"He had one of the best arms in baseball, and we have zero concerns about his arm," baseball operation president Mike Hill said.
Furcal will hit at the top of the batting order.
--Garrett Jones is Miami's new first baseman after signing a two-year deal. Jones, 32, is a left-handed hitter with 102 career home runs. He can also play right field.
--OF Chris Coghlan and RHP Ryan Webb were non-tendered by the Marlins, who let both become free agents. Money was the reason. Coghlan was in line to make about $1 million in arbitration. Webb could have received $1.5 million in arbitration. Instead, he signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Orioles.
"As we looked at our allocation of dollars and the roles that each would fit on our club, we thought it would better serve the organization to non-tender both and to use their dollars elsewhere in helping put the ballclub together," baseball operations president Mike Hill said. "Both had been great Marlins. I spoke with both players. Both were extremely professional and thankful, and I was thankful to them for their time with us."
--RHP Jose Fernandez was thrilled to win the NL Rookie of the Year award. However, he was even more honored to finish third in the National League Cy Young Award voting, trailing only the winner, Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw, and runner-up, Cardinals RHP Adam Wainwright.
"Those two guys are incredibly good," Fernandez said. "Just the chance to be top three (is an honor), and this was my first year in the big leagues."
--Miami hired Frank Menechino as its new hitting coach.
"I'm anxious to talk to my guys, see what they want to do," he said. "See what their plans are. See what they think about themselves. And I'll help them along. I'm going to be their eyes."
Tino Martinez was hitting coach when last season started, but he was fired in late July.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We lost 100 games, had one of the historically awful offenses in the game. What we had wasn't acceptable, and we had to fix it. There is still work to be done." -- Baseball operations president Michael Hill.
The Marlins look pretty good with their starting pitching, but they need to address an offensive hole at third base. The front office will field plenty of offers for Giancarlo Stanton, but the Marlins won't part with him unless they're blown away by an offer. The payroll will be in the area of $37 million again, so the Marlins' options will be limited.
BIGGEST NEEDS: You would think the biggest lesson the front office learned this year is that their current formula for offense isn't working. The Marlins once again ranked among the worst offensive teams in runs, batting average and home runs. They need more pieces to build around slugger Giancarlo Stanton, and they might have to give up pitching prospects to get the right hitters. The front office's other miscalculation is its refusal to move in the fences at spacious Marlins Park, which has been an issue for Stanton and other hitters.
ARRIVALS: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (free agent from Red Sox), INF Rafael Furcal (free agent from Cardinals), 1B Garrett Jones (free agent from Pirates), RHP Carter Capps (trade with Mariners), OF Brian Bugosevic (trade with Cubs), 3B Casey McGehee (free agent from Japan)
DEPARTURES: RHP Chad Qualls (free agent, signed with Astros), OF Justin Ruggiano (traded to Cubs), RHP Ryan Webb (non-tendered, signed with Orioles), 1B Logan Morrison (traded to Mariners)
FREE AGENTS: OF Matt Diaz, OF Austin Kearns, OF Juan Pierre, 3B Placido Polanco, OF/3B Chris Coghlan
Pierre loves Miami but he'd have to accept a bench role. The others are less likely to return because they don't fit into Miami's plans. Coghlan was non-tendered.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: RHP Steve Cishek, LHP Mike Dunn, RHP Kevin Slowey, OF Giancarlo Stanton, OF Brian Bogusevic
Cishek and Stanton are locks to return. Slowey wants to return but might have to accept a long relief role.
IN LIMBO: Juan Pierre is both a front-office and fan favorite, but there's no room in the outfield for him. Miami could offer him a deal to return as a bench player, but he might not be in the team's long-term plans.
--C Jeff Mathis (broken right thumb) missed Miami's final three games. He initially bruised the thumb Sept. 9 but a second X-ray on Sept. 24 showed the fracture. Mathis missed the first month of the season with a broken collarbone. He will focus on coming to spring training healthy.
--RHP Kevin Slowey (right forearm tightness) is on track to head into spring training healthy.
--OF Marcell Ozuna (torn ligament in left thumb) is playing winter ball and expected to arrive for spring training healthy.
--RHP Jose Ceda (Tommy John surgery in April 2012) never pitched in the majors in 2013. He hopes to be ready by spring training.
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