By Joel Sherman
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Marlins are pushing hard to add a top closer, notably Kenley Jansen, which could set off a series of moves that would make it more difficult for the Yankees to reunite with Aroldis Chapman.
The Marlins are hungry to upgrade their rotation, especially after the death of Jose Fernandez. The Marlins have signed Edinson Volquez. But they realize the free-agent starter market is unappealing and they do not have the minor league trade assets to acquire a top starter, such as Chris Sale or Chris Archer, via trade.
Thus, the Marlins are thinking about trying to shorten the game by deepening a bullpen that already includes A.J. Ramos, Kyle Barraclough and — if not needed in the rotation — David Phelps.
The Marlins are talking to representatives for the big three free-agent closers: Chapman, Jansen and Mark Melanacon. Owner Jeffrey Loria — who is at the Winter Meetings — is involved in the process of those negotiations, sources told The Post.
Jansen has particular appeal to them because Marlins skipper Don Mattingly managed Jansen for the Dodgers. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports was the first to report Miami was pursuing Jansen and therefore was willing to give up the first-round pick as compensation and perhaps approach or exceed the $80 million it would take to secure the righty.
The Dodgers have been trying to retain Jansen, but internally many of their top officialsbelieve Chapman is a better long-term play. Remember when the Yankees let David Robertson go to get the compensation pick and signed Andrew Miller, feeling he was better anyway? That is what the Dodgers could do here by letting Jansen go and signing Chapman.
Either way, this would put Chapman in a desirable position by having the two highest-payroll teams — among others — perhaps bidding for his services after Jansen has established, as a baseline, a new record contract for a relief pitcher.
Chapman, Jansen and Melancon each is expected to exceed the four-year, $50 million deal of Jonathan Papelbon, the current high-water mark for a reliever. The Giants and Nationals, in particular, are viewed as players for Melancon.
Both the Yankees and Dodgers insist they will have a limit to how far they will go for a closer. They both would love to have an elite guy at the end of the game, but both organizations fret that the top closers are going to be over-valued after a postseason in which elite relievers were highlighted.
The Yankees would prefer to have a closer to allow Dellin Betances to attack earlier innings. They could still pursue someone from a group that includes Greg Holland, Koji Uehara and Brad Ziegler to help with closer duties, along with Tyler Clippard, if necessary.