LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Trading Giancarlo Stanton is one thing, the most-challenging task facing the Marlins this offseason. But in their efforts to produce a winner, upgrading their pitching staff should be -- and more than likely is -- their top priority.
Pitching -- and starting pitching, in particular -- is the organization's greatest weakness, and one the front office will try repair in the coming weeks and even years.
"This is not an overnight process," said Michael Hill, president of baseball operations. "And there's no set timing of how long that's going to take. We know it needs to get better."
With a staff ERA of 5.12, the Marlins' starters ranked 13th among 15 National League teams last season. They have only two projected starters returning in 2018 -- Jose Urena and Dan Straily -- that made as many as 20 starts last season.
And their top minor-league prospects aren't close to major-league ready.
Don't expect the Marlins to spend big on free agent pitchers this winter.
Instead, they more likely will try to build pitching depth by signing minor-league free agents and adding a low-cost starter or two to shore up what is a weak rotation.
"I'd say we're open to everything at this point," Hill said. "Some of the trades may dictate what that looks like, what shape or form that looks like."
Over time, Hill said pitching improvements will likely occur through the draft, international signings and trades. But all of those strategies take time.
As if trading Stanton wasn't hard enough with his $295 million contract and no-trade power, here's one more issue that could complicate matters: the tax implications.