Rental not ideal option, Marlins after pitching

MIAMI — The last call was made around 1 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning, shortly before Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill left the ballpark. The first message Hill received after he woke up was about 8:37 a.m.

Numerous calls are coming in, and the Marlins are weighing all options as Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.

The Marlins are working hard to make a trade or two before the 4 p.m. ET deadline. A controllable starting pitcher remains a priority, but a rental remains possible, but not at the cost of mortgaging the future.

“Not ideal for what we’re trying to do,” Hill said of a rental. “It’s something that we’ve entertained and have dipped our toe in the water. It all depends on the cost to acquire a rental and if it sidetracks what we’re trying to do in the long term.”

That may rule out Red Sox lefty Jon Lester, who would with the club for the rest of the season.

Miami made it back to .500 (53-53) by beating the Nationals on Tuesday night. Hill was working the phones all the way until he left Marlins Park, which was about 1 a.m.

“These guys in this room know we believe in them, and believe in the talent in this room,” Hill said Wednesday morning. “Whether we’re able to make a deal or not, I think they know we have their back. We’re supportive of what they’re trying to do. We’re going to do what’s best to try to upgrade. But we’re not going to be foolish. We’re not going to be short-sighted. I think we understand where we’re at as an organization, but we also understand where we’re trying to go.

“I think that’s the balance that you strike at this time of year. We’ll see what happens these next two days. But there’s been a lot going on. You try to work through it, and see if what you’re trying to do makes sense, not just in the near term, but in the long term.”

Starting pitching is the priority. Second base also could be addressed, but it is not as big an objective as a controllable starter.

Miami also is not planning on taking any core player off its big league roster.

If need be, the club will take on salary.

“I would say we’re looking at everything,” Hill said. “Money deals. Prospects deals. We’re looking at everything.”

Joe Frisaro

Shades of ’03! Marlins should consider Beckett

MIAMI — Young team coming together that is dreaming the big dream.

Sound familiar, South Florida?

It should. The youthful Marlins of 2014 have some similarities to the miracle Marlins of 2003. The team, which in the words of Juan Pierre, “shocked the world!”

Monday’s 7-6 comeback win, after trailing by six, was the team’s most impressive late-rally since the ’03 squad came back from 9-2 down at Boston.

The Marlins of ’14 have been a stunning surprise, reaching the .500 mark (53-53) after losing 100 a year ago.

Hopeful of making a push that would “shock the world” once more, the Marlins’ front office is in full buyer mode as Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.

Miami has put its name in the hat for Boston’s Jon Lester. If the asking price is too high (which is obviously is), there may not be a fit for Lester in Miami. Lester for Christian Yelich? No thanks.

However, if Lester goes out West to the Dodgers, then other potential trade chips may surface.

Say Lester does go to the Dodgers, what’s next for Miami? Why not make a pitch for one of the greatest names in Marlins’ history?

The Marlins should at least give consideration to returning Josh Beckett to the place where he was the World Series MVP 11 seasons ago.

Lester’s arrival could mean the Dodgers don’t have room for Beckett in their rotation. If that’s the case, Beckett could be a natural to help Miami attempt another improbable run.

Becket is a former teammate of Miami manager Mike Redmond. Beckett still has an affection for the Marlins, the team that made him the No. 2 overall pick in 1999.

Clearly not the overpowering right-hander he was at age 23 in ’03, but at 34, Beckett knows how to pitch. Let’s not forget, he no-hit the Phillies earlier in the season. He’s not throwing 95-plus any more, but he has become a crafty pitcher. The fierce competitor is still there, and he has had success pitching more off his breaking ball.

Beckett would be a good influence on a young rotation that would certainly benefit by the presence of a proven veteran.

Beckett has publicly said he isn’t sure if 2014 will be his final season. If it is, why not let the two-time World Series champion go out playing for the organization where it all started?

Joe Frisaro

Steep asking price for Lester

MIAMI — The Marlins are seeking a game-changing starter, and Jon Lester would be the ideal candidate to help the young club make a playoff push. But at what price?

Boston, in the market for outfield help, would seek Christian Yelich in return for Lester, a two-time World Series champion. Miami has no interest in parting with a 22-year-old pure hitter with All-Star potential.

In fact, the Marlins are not willing to part with any core players on their big league roster.

It’s unclear if the Marlins are continuing to pursue Lester for a lesser package. But what is clear is the front office is scrambling to make a move or two by Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Lester, a free agent after the season, would be a rental in Miami. The Marlins ideally are seeking a starter they can control beyond 2014. A possibility in Boston could be John Lackey, who also has World Series experience. The price would be much less for Lackey than Lester.

Lackey is signed through 2015, and his salary will be tendered at the league minimum because he underwent a second Tommy John surgery. That language was written into his current contract.

If Tampa Bay were to make David Price available, the Marlins would have heavy interest.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins reportedly in on Lester

MIAMI — Winning eight of nine has the Marlins in complete “buy mode” as Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.

It appears the club is aiming high in its search for veteran help to make a playoff push.

According to Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio, Miami is one of seven teams who have reached out to the Red Sox regarding Jon Lester.

If the front office is looking to send a signal to the clubhouse and South Florida fan base, pulling off a deal for the two-time World Series champion would do the trick.

Lester, owed just over $4 million for the rest of the season, would be a rental, because he will be a free agent in the fall.

The asking price in terms of prospects would certainly be high. So the question would be how much Miami would be willing to give up for a shot at making a serious push in the final two months.

Bowden reported the Blue Jays, Brewers, Mariners, Cardinals, Dodgers and Orioles also have expressed interest in Lester.

The Marlins are suddenly rejuvenated after taking six of seven at Atlanta and Houston. On Monday night, the club pulled off its biggest comeback of the year — rallying to a 7-6 victory over the Nationals after trailing by six.

Ideally, the Marlins would like more than a rental. They’d prefer a starter with controllable years. None of the candidates would make the immediate impact of Lester.

The Marlins are in a tricky spot because they are a game under .500, and have plenty of ground to make up. They’re six games behind the Nationals and 5 1/2 games behind the Braves.

Miami has greatly exceeded expectations, and also are looking for a second baseman.

The rotation has been without Jose Fernandez since May, when the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Miami is open to moving prospects, but is trying to avoid dealing Andrew Heaney.

The Marlins also are looking to avoid moving anyone off their active roster.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins looking to buy, Stanton not for sale

HOUSTON — Five days before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and Giancarlo Stanton remains not available. This is no big revelation to those around the Marlins, but it remains the most asked question to those on the outside.

Occasionally, the Marlins will field a call from a club hoping to hear otherwise. The answer is always an emphatic — not available.

Five days before the deadline, the Marlins are hoping to become buyers. Winning four of five to open their road trip has raised optimism and hope they can make a playoff push.

A starting pitcher is on their shopping list, but the urgency could subside if Brad Hand and Jacob Turner reach their potential in a hurry. Hand is doing so, coming off an impressive two straight wins of throwing at least seven innings.

At Minute Maid Park on Friday night, Hand threw 7 1/3 scoreless innings in Miami’s 2-0 win over the Astros.

Turner will start on Sunday at Houston.

Adding an experienced arm to the rotation could benefit the entire staff, as well as energize the clubhouse. But the deal has to make sense in order to pull the trigger.

Brad Penny, currently at Triple-A New Orleans, is another option in his attempt to return to the big leagues for the first time since 2012.

Pitching aside, the Marlins also have made finding a regular second baseman a high priority. Ideally, they’d like a speedy middle infielder to hit at the top of the order, either first or second.

The candidate doesn’t necessarily have to be big league proven. Someone at Double-A or above and is considered big league ready would fit the profile.

The way the team has trended the past week has increased the club’s interest in buying.

Joe Frisaro

McGehee not on trade market

ATLANTA — Casey McGehee entered Tuesday night ranked third in the National League in batting average (.322) and tied for first in hits (121). For good measure, the Marlins third baseman is tied for ninth in RBIs (56).

With production across the board, McGehee has established himself once again in the Major Leagues after he spent 2013 in Japan.

The Marlins like McGehee so much that the 31-year-old is part of their longer-range plans.

McGehee’s name is starting to pop up in trade rumors. Jon Heyman of CBS.com and MLB Network reports teams have contacted the Marlins about McGehee. The Mariners, in the market for a right-handed hitting bat, are said to be interested.

However, the Marlins are not shopping McGehee.

McGehee, signed for $1.1 million, has one more season of arbitration eligibility. So the Marlins can retain him in 2015, at a sizeable raise. Miami also is open to offering the third baseman an extension for a few more seasons.

McGehee has offered protection behind Giancarlo Stanton, and he’s been a clubhouse leader.

Right now, Miami views McGehee as a core player, who is under club control. There are no plans to move him.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins relievers being closely watched

ATLANTA — About a dozen scouts are at Turner Field, and many of them are keeping a close watch on Marlins’ relievers.

Specifically, they’ve got their eyes on closer Steve Cishek and lefty Mike Dunn.

The Marlins, for now, are committed to staying the course. They’re striving to string together some wins and get back to .500 by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

One thing is clear, if the Marlins did make Cishek and/or Dunn available, there would be strong interest in both.

Cishek, making $3.8 million in his first year of arbitration, would draw the biggest crowds, and bring in the largest payoff. The 28-year-old doesn’t qualify for free agency until 2018. Clearly, his price tag will rise in arbitration, but Miami also could target him as an extension candidate, seeking to lock him up for several more seasons perhaps an affordable rate.

If Cishek were to be moved, it likely would be to bring back a controllable starting pitcher or a big league ready second baseman.

Dunn, making $1.4 million in his first year of arbitration, will be a free agent in 2017.

This is an interesting time for the Marlins. They’re wanting to put themselves into the picture as buyers. They’ve made it clear, a controllable starter and a second baseman are on their wish list.

The club has a good, young core that they’re trying to add rather than subtract. The organization is striving to build stability with its nucleus, and retaining Cishek would be a positive signal to the clubhouse.

Joe Frisaro

DeSclafani promoted, Lucas sent down

MIAMI — A need for a fresh arm three days after the All-Star Break has led to the Marlins now carrying 13 pitchers.

On Sunday morning, Miami recalled right-hander Anthony DeSclafani from Triple-A New Orleans. In a corresponding move, infielder Ed Lucas was optioned to New Orleans.

The move means manager Mike Redmond once again will be working with a short bench because the club now has 12 position players.

Miami is pressed for another arm after Henderson Alvarez was lifted after 2 2/3 innings on Saturday after he sustained a bruised left shin. And on Friday night, Nathan Eovaldi worked just four innings. So in the first two games coming out of the Break, the starters have logged 6 2/3 innings, while the bullpen has picked up 11 1/3 innings.

DeSclafani has appeared in five big league games, posting a 1-2 record with a 7.40 ERA. In stints with Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans, the right-hander combined for a 5-6 record with a 3.54 ERA.

Lucas, who plays all infield positions, is batting .239 in 51 games.

The Marlins have added Jordany Valdespin to play second base.

Joe Frisaro

Valdespin gets called up from NoLa

MIAMI — Jordany Valdespin is now getting a shot to see if he can bring some stability to the Marlins’ open second base situation.

The 26-year-old left-handed hitting infielder was selected from Triple-A New Orleans on Saturday. In a corresponding move, Miami optioned infielder Justin Bour to New Orleans.

Valdespin was in the starting lineup, batting second on Saturday against the Giants, who are starting Tim Hudson.

In 61 games at New Orleans, Valdespin posted a .270 batting average with eight homers and 29 RBIs. He swiped 15 bases, and was caught 10 times.

The Marlins are actively searching for second base help.

Rafael Furcal (left hamstring strain) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. Derek Dietrich (wrist) is on the disabled list. Ed Lucas and Donovan Solano have been handling second base.

Valdespin last played in the big leagues in 2013 with the Mets, batting .188 in 66 games.

Valdespin was suspended 50 games on Aug. 5, 2013 for being connected to a biogenesis investigation. He also had some issues in New York with manager Terry Collins.

The Marlins signed Valdespin to a Minor League contract last Dec. 20, but he did not receive big league Spring Training invitation.

Joe Frisaro

Ramos returns, Gregg to DL

MIAMI — On the day the Marlins welcomed A.J. Ramos back from the disabled list, the club placed Kevin Gregg on the 15-day DL.

Gregg is headed to the disabled list, retroactive to July 14, with right elbow inflammation. The right-hander has struggled in recent outings, resulting in his ERA rising to 10.00 in nine innings. Gregg pitched in the series finale against the Mets before the All-Star Break at Citi Field, and he gave up three runs in the eighth inning without recording an out.

Miami certainly welcomes the return of Ramos, who had been on the DL with right shoulder inflammation. Ramos, who has an 0.99 ERA in 39 games, is the team’s primary right-handed setup reliever.

Joe Frisaro

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