LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Marlins are banking on free agent acquisitions Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Rafael Furcal and Garrett Jones to help in more ways than one.
The team is hopeful they’ll ignite a run-starved offense.
But the Marlins also are looking at the three to provide veteran, “championship-caliber” leadership to a team whose most talented players are also its youngest.
“We feel like we have a lot of good young talent,” said Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill. “But we wanted to supplement that with ... guys who are battle-tested, who have been through it.”
Saltalamacchia’s 14 homers and 40 doubles appealed to the Marlins. But so did the fact he was the primary catcher last season for the World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
The Marlins wanted the speed Furcal could provide at the top of the order. But they were also attracted to the fact he’s been on playoff teams in nine of his 13 big-league seasons.
And Jones, whose two-year, $7.75 million deal is pending the satisfactory completion of a physical, was a member of a Pittsburgh Pirates team that ended a 20-year postseason drought last season.
It’s one of the reasons the Marlins are not only willing to trade Logan Morrison, but are actively talking to teams at the Winter Meetings about dealing the first baseman. Morrison is not only coming off two injury-marred seasons, but — like many Marlins — has no inkling what it’s like to be in playoff contention in September, much less appear in a postseason.
The Marlins formally introduced Saltalamacchia at a press conference Monday, and the 28-year-old catcher said he had no reservations about going from a World Series winner to a team that just lost 100 games.
“The year before [in Boston] we had lost 93 games and went from last to first,” Saltalamacchia said. “So there’s no reason why we can’t do it here. We’ve got a great corps of pitchers, and that’s where it starts and ends, with pitching. This is just a perfect fit.”
Saltalamacchia said the Marlins didn’t have to make any “sales pitch” to convince him to sign in the near-aftermath of a massive roster selloff the previous year.
“I’m a baseball junkie,” he explained. “I watch baseball all the time. So these guys [the Marlins], I know what they’ve got.”
Saltalamacchia said he is most impressed with the Marlins’ young pitchers.
“I watched all these guys on TV, all these young arms,” he said. “I’ve never been excited about coming to camp to catch bullpens. But I’m excited to see what these kids can do.”
• Hill said the Marlins have no concerns with Furcal’s surgically repaired right elbow. The 36-year-old infielder missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
“He had one of the best arms in baseball, and we have zero concerns about his arm,” Hill said.
The Marlins intend to play Furcal at second base and put him at the top of the order.
“We felt like, at his age, moving him over to second could add a few more years to his career,” Hill said. “You put him at the top of your lineup, it lengthens your lineup out. It pushes [Christian] Yelich deeper into a run-producing spot in your lineup, and you start to set the table for the Yelich’s, [Giancarlo] Stanton’s, [Marcell] Ozuna’s and Saltalamacchia’s. And we’re still not done.”
• The Marlins have not yet had to dip into their “inventory” — their surplus of young pitching — to acquire players.
“I didn’t think we would be able to do what we have done without moving inventory to this point,” Hill said. “To think that we filled holes that we’ve filled without touching our inventory is good for us, because as quickly as it’s a surplus, it can be all gone and then you’re in a tough position.”
• The Orioles, Rays, Pirates and Brewers have all been named as potential trade targets for Morrison. There’s a very good chance the Marlins will deal Morrison to acquire a third baseman. But whether that player is an everyday player or a part-timer who platoons is something the team is still considering.
“There are internal candidates [Ed Lucas, Donovan Solano, Derek Dietric], that paired appropriately, give you production at third base,” Hill said. “Right now there’s a universe of third basemen, and we’re still arguing through the merits of them.”