Editors Note: Today we have a guest post from Michael Natelli. He had a chance to interview Marlins play-by-play commentator Glenn Geffner and offered to let us post it on Marlin Maniac.
I recently had a chance to chat with Miami Marlins radio play-by-play man Glenn Geffner, and we chatted about a slew of Marlins topics, including the team’s potential free agent targets, who they should resign, and whether or not they should bring the fences in. Check out the interview below:
Michael Natelli: Perhaps the most obvious question going into this offseason is what the Marlins should do with Giancarlo Stanton. In your opinion, should the Marlins trade Stanton for some top young prospects or look to keep/extend him?
Glenn Geffner: Whether or not people nationally choose to listen to what has been said repeatedly, I think the Marlins have made it very clear their plan is to build a team around Giancarlo. I can’t imagine them trading him unless they get to the point a year or two from now where they offered him a long-term extension and he, for whatever reason, makes it clear he doesn’t want to be here. Unless that happens, I think Giancarlo’s a huge part of this team for a long time. Remember, they still control Stanton for three more seasons, through 2016. As desperate as the Marlins are to add offense after last season, I don’t see any way this becomes a better offensive team in the short term by trading Stanton.
That said, the onus is also on him to be healthy and significantly more productive than he was last season. I think based on what he’d done in 2012 especially, Giancarlo would be the first to tell you, his 2013 season was hugely disappointing.
MN: When you take a look at the roster as a whole, what areas do you target in free agency? The Marlins don’t seem like they plan on spending on several players, so what do you see as the top one or two positions they need to address?
GG: Looking at 2014, priorities number 1 through 10 for the Marlins have to be adding offense. This team pitched well enough to be very competitive last season, and there’s every reason to believe most of the pitchers on this staff will only get better, and there are more arms on the way in the upper levels of the farm system. But the offense was the worst in baseball by virtually any measure. Catcher and third base are the two obvious positions where you could look for an upgrade via free agency or trade. Depending on how things play out, you could also look at adding a bat at first base or second base, but I think they’re likely to give Logan Morrison a full healthy year to see what he can do once and for all, and they may be content with Donovan Solano and/or Derek Dietrich at second. One way or another, they’ve got to find some bats, and catcher and third base are the most obvious holes.
MN: Who is one (or a few) free agent(s) that you feel is a particularly strong and practical fit for the Marlins?
GG: I’m not going to speculate on what specific free agents may make sense for the Marlins because there are so many factors that come into play that make that almost a foolish exercise. I will say this though: In my opinion, the impact players the Marlins could add this winter are probably more likely to come via trade than via free agency. Outside of a few big names at the top, this is a rather thin free agent crop this winter. With supply low and demand high, you’ll see prices driven up and you’ll see a lot of players signing for more than they’re probably worth. So it’s very possible the Marlins would be better off going the trade route to try to fill some holes than doing it through free agency.
GG: Among their own free agents, I think Chad Qualls is the one guy who they’re likely to try to bring back. He had a nice year in 2013. He was a good veteran presence in an otherwise young and largely inexperienced bullpen. He took a leadership role in that bullpen. He was a workhorse who pitched a lot and got some big outs along the way, and I think he’s indicated he’d like to be back.
MN: As someone who watched this team night in and night out this season, who do you think has the potential to be a breakout player in 2014?
GG: I think if they can stay healthy, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna have a chance to join Stanton to form as exciting a young outfield as there is in Baseball. Even though he was only 21, Yelich was very steady over the couple of months he was up down the stretch, and now that he’s gotten his feet wet, he’ll only get better with time and experience. And if Ozuna can make some adjustments and improve his plate discipline, he’s got a chance to be a big-time run producer. He was only 22 this past season, but he brought such energy to the ballpark every day. He did a terrific job with men in scoring position. He was a game changer in the outfield with his glove and arm. There’s something very special about Marcell, and I think he has a chance to have a big year if he can just improve his command of the strike zone.
One other player I’ll mention is Adeiny Hechavarria. Hech had the chance to play every day in the big leagues for the first time last season, and he showed that defensively, he’s right there with the best shortstops in the game. Now outside of one stretch in June and July, it was a struggle for him at the plate, but I see Hech being a huge project for new coach Brett Butler. If Hech can master the bunting game, if he can learn to put the ball on the ground more often and use his speed, if he can reach base more consistently and become a 25-30 stolen base man, then you’ve suddenly got a pretty special player when you consider he’s going to give you Gold Glove-caliber defense at shortstop. I think he and Brett Butler are going to spend a lot of time together this spring, and when you look at Brett’s career, he’s a terrific example for Hech to follow.
MN: A hot topic right now amongst Marlins fans is whether or not the team should move in the fences. With such a young pitching staff and a struggling offense, do you tailor the park to the pitchers or the hitters?
GG: My personal opinion is it’s too soon to make changes to the ballpark’s dimensions. I’m not saying the time won’t come when maybe it makes sense, but it took the Mariners more than a decade and the Padres almost 10 years to alter their dimensions. The Mets did it more quickly, but if you talk to people up there, most will tell you the opposition has benefitted from the changes at Citi Field more than the Mets have. Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.
The truth is, year after year, the teams that win in October do it on the strength of their pitching and defense. Look at the scores of all of the post-season games played this year. If you look at the numbers, the Marlins performed better offensively at home than on the road in most categories in 2013. People like to wonder what Stanton’s numbers would look like in a smaller home ballpark, but he’s actually been significantly more productive at Marlins Park than on the road since the new park opened. The numbers, particularly in 2013, aren’t even close. The Giants have won 2 of the last 4 World Series playing in a pitchers park. Great pitching and defense can take you a long way. There’s a way to use Marlins Park to your advantage offensively. And until the day comes that some kind of change is made, that’s what the Marlins will need to find a way to do.
MN: When Spring Training rolls around, what will we be saying about the 2014 Miami Marlins?
GG: Being realistic, if you’re looking ahead to 2014, this team has a long way to go to challenge the Braves and the Nationals in the NL East. But the same way 2013 will one day be looked back upon as an important year in introducing some core players to the big leagues, 2014 ought to be the year in which those players and others really establish themselves in the major leagues. If you give me a full season of Stanton, Ozuna and Yelich in the outfield, I think you have three very exciting building blocks. 2014 has to be the year when the Marlins find out once and for all what they have in Logan Morrison at first base. Can he stay healthy for a full season? Can he be the kind of on-base man we saw in 2010, or can he provide the power he showed before getting hurt in 2011?
Give me 30-plus starts and 200 innings from Jose Fernandez and full, healthy seasons from Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez and Jacob Turner, and I think you have the makings of a heck of a rotation with others like Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino, Anthony Desclafani and Adam Conley now knocking on the door. With Steve Cishek leading the way, this was a very good bullpen last season, and it ought to return more or less in tact in 2014. So, overall, I think it’s very realistic to expect that this team will be significantly better in 2014. There’s no doubt this team needs help from the outside. But I think anyone who underestimates the core that is already here plus some of the talent that’s moving rapidly though the farms stem is making a big mistake.
Thanks to Michael and Mr. Geffner for doing this interview for Marlin Maniac. Please drop a comment and let us know what you thought of what Mr. Geffner had to say about the Marlins.
Disclaimer: Glenn Geffner is not an official spokesperson for the Miami Marlins.