Will the Mar­lins trade J.T. Real­muto?

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - Wdusen­[email protected]­tinel.com; On Twit­ter @dusere­port

If you’re in Las Ve­gas and see a swarm of re­porters awk­wardly cor­ner­ing Ma­jor League Base­ball ex­ec­u­tives and agents by the el­e­va­tor bank, you’ve found the Win­ter Meet­ings.

From Sun­day-Thurs­day, Man­dalay Bay will play host to the an­nual event. The Win­ter Meet­ings fea­ture power play­ers from all 30 MLB teams — from own­ers to front-of­fice ex­ec­u­tives — as they try to work out trades and lock up key free agents.

While the most-cov­eted free agents will be Na­tion­als out­fielder Bryce Harper and Dodgers in­fielder Manny Machado, the Mar­lins fig­ure to fea­ture promi­nently as the hot stove heats up.

Here are three sto­ry­lines to keep an eye on for the meet­ings:

Ever since the All-Star Break, trade ru­mors have been swirling around the Mar­lins’ All-Star catcher and that buzz has only grown since the sea­son ended. Take a quick look on Twit­ter and you’ll likely find Real­muto linked to a dozen po­ten­tial teams.

While the Mar­lins have Real­muto un­der club con­trol for the next two years — mean­ing they have no obli­ga­tion to trade him — it’s been made clear he doesn’t want to be in Mi­ami long-term. Real­muto’s agent, Jeff Berry, pub­licly said in Oc­to­ber his client won’t sign an ex­ten­sion with the Mar­lins.

Mi­ami can opt to stand firm for now, ei­ther keep­ing him for the du­ra­tion of his con­tract or trad­ing him, but his trade value will never be higher than it is now. This past sea­son, he was un­ques­tion­ably the team’s MVP and es­tab­lished him­self as ar­guably the best catcher in base­ball.

The 27-year-old notched ca­reer highs in mul­ti­ple of­fen­sive cat­e­gories, with a .277 bat­ting av­er­age, .340 on-base and .484 slug­ging with 21 home runs, 30 dou­bles and 74 RBI in

125 games. With two years left on a fa­vor­able con­tract — he made just

$2.9 mil­lion this year and is ar­bi­tra­tion-el­i­gi­ble — he’s ex­tremely at­trac­tive can­di­date for teams look­ing to make a play­off push.

With ex­ec­u­tives from all 30 teams in one spot, this would be the prime time for the Mar­lins to po­ten­tially make a deal.

Will the Mar­lins make free agency moves?

After a 98-loss sea­son, in which it had trou­ble scor­ing runs, Mi­ami has plenty of room for im­prove­ment. The main po­ten­tial tar­gets could be first base, catcher, out­field and bullpen.

The Mar­lins have three in­ter­nal can­di­dates at first — Peter O’Brien, Gar­rett Cooper and re­cently signed Pe­dro Al­varez — but could look to add an­other bat if there’s an avail­able player who makes sense.

If Real­muto is dealt, Mi­ami will re­turn Chad Wal­lach and Bryan Ho­la­day be­hind the plate. Nei­ther of those play­ers come close to match­ing Real­muto’s pro­duc­tion — to be fair, not many catch­ers in base­ball do — so Mi­ami might look for a stop­gap op­tion. The team’s catcher of the fu­ture is Will Ban­field, who was se­lected in June with the team’s Com­pet­i­tive Bal­ance B se­lec­tion. But at 19, he’s likely a few years away from mak­ing an im­pact in the ma­jors.

Like ev­ery MLB team, the Mar­lins could use more bullpen depth. Drew Steck­en­rider, Adam Con­ley and Tay­ron Guer­rero fig­ure to be the most prom­i­nent late-in­ning arms, but the team needs to find a re­place­ment for er­ratic right-han­der Kyle Bar­r­a­clough, who was dealt to the Na­tion­als this off­sea­son.

Rule 5 Draft

On Thurs­day, the Win­ter Meet­ings will con­clude with the Rule 5 Draft. Any player left off his team’s 40-man ros­ter who was signed at 18 or younger with at least 5 years pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence or 19 and older with four years are el­i­gi­ble to be cho­sen.

Any team that doesn’t have a full 40-man ros­ter can make a se­lec­tion. Cur­rently, the Mar­lins have a full ros­ter, so they can’t make a pick. How­ever, if Real­muto or an­other player is taken off the ros­ter, then they can par­tic­i­pate.

Two of the most prom­i­nent Mi­ami Rule 5 se­lec­tions were Dan Ug­gla and Justin Bour. Last sea­son the Mar­lins snagged Elieser Her­nan­dez from Hous­ton and Brett Graves from Oak­land.

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