Nunez could be attractive trade piece

The Marlins front office is weighing which direction to go by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

The club is tinkering with being out of realistic playoff contention. Already there are internal rumblings about moving the squad in a different direction. The Marlins would like to get more athletic and become better defensively. To do so, they may wind up reshaping a number of core pieces.

If trades are on the horizon, a name to keep an eye on is Leo Nunez.

With 18 saves in 23 attempts, Nunez impressed scouts in Atlanta on July 4 with the way he attacked the zone. The 26-year-old brought his fastball in at 97 mph, and the team wants him to rely more on the fastball than tossing too many changeups. Nunez was equally impressive on Monday, collecting a save at Dodger Stadium.

Now the Marlins are also in the market for bullpen help. So parting with their best reliever wouldn’t help the team’s chances in 2010. But if the focus is improving in 2011 and beyond, another team may be willing to overpay for Nunez.

The right-hander turns 27 in August, and he’s would be entering his second season of arbitration. He is making $2 million this year, and traditionally the Marlins don’t pay relievers more than $2.5 million.

They may have to in years to come. But the Marlins also have had success finding and grooming closer candidates. They converted Kevin Gregg from a long reliever to closer, and he held the job in 2007-08.

Should Nunez be traded this season, Clay Hensley would be a candidate to close the remainder of the season.

— Joe Frisaro


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