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Dealing pitchers unlikely in Marlins' quest for center fielder


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LAKE BUENA VISTA ? Making a run at Devil Rays center fielder Rocco Baldelli makes sense on so many levels. Age. Athleticism. Affordability.


What may not compute for the Marlins is blowing up their rotation to get him.

The Winter Meetings opened Monday with Baldelli still producing the loudest ping on the Marlins' sonar. Considering the Devil Rays are believed to have asked for Cole Hamels or Chase Utley from the Phillies for Baldelli, that signal may be considerably more faint by week's end.


According to one National League executive who has spoken with the Marlins, their pursuit of Baldelli is "in its earliest stages," but it should intensify this week.


Baldelli won't be had without at least one piece of the Marlins' rotation going to the Gulf Coast. The Devil Rays likely would insist on two, which even for the pitching-rich Marlins might prove too steep.


"We are in no rush to trade our pitching," Marlins General Manager Admin Beinfest said. "It's a fair way to assess it: We will trade based on need, but we're not going to steal from one component to help another. We need to keep the depth in the pitching because we're not sure where you get it once you have either a performance or an injury problem."


The Marlins have plenty of arms, but most of them are at the major league and Class A levels. Four Greensboro starters -- Chris Volstad, Sean West, Ryan Tucker and Aaron Thompson -- were ranked among Baseball America's top 20 low-Class A South Atlantic League prospects last season.


Until that group is closer to the majors, the Marlins have told teams they are less inclined to trade a Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen, Ricky Nolasco or Anibal Sanchez. In fact, it's out of the question for anything less than a long-term solution in center.


"I don't think there was any smoke there," Beinfest said. "These were legitimately good young pitchers that were throwing great, and they gave us a chance to win every night."


Hence Beinfest's reticence to move any of them. So where does that leave the Marlins if they deem the Devil Rays' asking price unreasonable? Marlins fans should prepare for the possibility of center field still being a sore spot in 2007.


According to the NL executive, the Astros won't make Willy Taveras available, and the Marlins have crossed him off the list. Others who would interest the Marlins but are not up for discussion: David DeJesus and Mitch Maier of the Royals, the Cubs' Felix Pie and the Phillies' Shane Victorino.


The Marlins still like Brian Anderson, but the White Sox likely won't be ready to talk about him until after trading one of their excess starters and resolving the Joe Crede/Josh Fields situation at third.


The Pirates need a left-handed hitting first baseman and can offer center fielder Chris Duffy for Mike Jacobs, but don't look for that trade to happen anytime soon. According to one front office source familiar with the Pirates thinking, Jacobs is well down their list of options.


Nate McLouth is well thought of by the Marlins' front office and could be a cheaper fallback option than Duffy. Cincinnati's Chris Denorfia is another intriguing possibility and likely available for pitching help since the Reds are keeping Ken Griffey Jr. in center.


"We'd like to grow with a young center fielder, but I wouldn't say there's a definite profile," Beinfest said. "We have a good young team and we're looking to add good young talent."




COACH OF THE YEAR: First-year pitching coach Rick Kranitz will receive Baseball America's Major League Coach of the Year award this afternoon at the magazine's sixth annual Winter Meetings gala. This is only the second season Baseball America has recognized a big-league coach, giving the inaugural award to Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. "It's obviously quiet an honor, especially with all the highly qualified people that are out there," Kranitz said. "It's been a wonderful year watching the pitchers grow. They deserve a lot of the credit. Anytime you get something like this so many people are involved from the organization."



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This is music to my ears. Everyday we don't trade a starting pitcher is a good day regardless of the motive - competiveness, increasing value, weakening your opponent's resolve - I like it.


And congrats to Kranny. Let's see what you can do with them this year. More of the same I hope.


As for KC, they have a much improved GM now and while I'm surprised Maier is (at least according to this article) an untouchable, this is the first time I've seen that anywhere. In fact in my correspondence with the Star's beat reporter he indicated he thought while Maier's value was up, he would be traded this off-season for pitching. Just today was another article about how much they need pitching and willing to over pay for Menche and Miguel Batista. I think our two teams match up well.

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