January 2014

NFL great Aikman was intriguing baseball prospect

Troy Aikman once was a star baseball player.

Troy Aikman once was a star baseball player.

MIAMI — A Hall of Fame quarterback with three Super Bowl rings, Troy Aikman obviously made the right call by pursuing a career in football.

But growing up, Aikman was a multi-sport athlete, and he had the skills to stand out in baseball.

Stan Meek, the Marlins vice president of scouting, was an assistant baseball coach at the University of Oklahoma when Aikman played football for the Sooners in the mid-1980s.

Meek recalls former Sooners football coach Barry Switzer giving Aikman approval to also play baseball. The quarterback declined.

There were days after spring football practice where Aikman would drift over to the baseball field to check out the program.

“He’d sit down the right field line and watch practice,” Meek said. “He did that several times. I’d say, ‘Hey, go swing a bat a little bit.’ He’d say, ‘Coach, I’m sorry, I better stay with football.’ ”

Had Aikman, now a TV analyst for Fox, given baseball a shot, he projected as a power-hitting outfielder.

“Aikman probably would have been a four or five hole hitter in our lineup, and played right field,” Meek said. “We already had the blessing of Barry Switzer to do it.”

Aikman eventually transferred to UCLA, and of course, he went on to a storied career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Meek remembers the days when Aikman was a touted baseball prospect.

“He was turned in really highly by the scouting bureau coming out of high school as a baseball guy,” Meek said. “But people backed off because he had such a commitment to play football. It paid off for him.”

A few years ago, Aikman did get a taste of the big leagues when he was part of the group that owned the Padres.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins interested in Vernon Wells

MIAMI — The Marlins still have some offseason shopping to do before Spring Training opens on Feb. 16.

The club is in the market for a right-handed hitter to come off the bench. A veteran on Miami’s list is outfielder Vernon Wells.

The 35-year-old was designed for assignment by the Yankees earlier this month, and he is a free agent.

Wells batted .233 with 11 homers in 2013, his lone season with the Yankees.

Miami covets a right-handed hitting outfielder to fill the role vacated when Justin Ruggiano was traded to the Cubs. In that deal, Miami obtained Brian Bogusevic, who is a left-handed hitter.

Bogusevic can play all three outfield positions, and he is expected to be the club’s fourth outfielder.

If the Marlins come to terms with Wells, he would be a right-handed option as either a pinch-hitter or spot starter.

The 2014 season will be the last in Wells’ seven-year, $126 million contract. The Yankees are on the hook for $2.4 million of Wells’ salary this season, with the Angels picking up the remaining $18.6 million.

Joe Frisaro

Haines to manage Triple-A New Orleans

MIAMI — The Marlins Minor League managers are pretty much set.

Andy Haines, who managed Class A Jupiter last year, has been named manager of Triple-A New Orleans.

Former big league catcher, Brian Schneider, has joined Miami’s organization and he will manage the Hammerheads in Jupiter.

The Marlins have yet to officially announce the hirings.

Andy Barkett returns to manage Double-A Jacksonville, and Dave Berg is back to manage low Class A Greensboro.

The Marlins are in the process of interviewing possible replacements for Tarrick Brock, who left the organization to be the Astros’ first base coach.

Brock had been Miami’s Minor League outfield and baserunning coordinator.

Joe Frisaro

Stanton, Cishek, Dunn avoid arbitration

MIAMI — Negotations went down to the deadline, and Marlins reached agreements on deals with Giancarlo Stanton and reliever Mike Dunn.

Stanton will make $6.5 million. Cishek is set to earn $3.8 million, and Dunn will receive $1.4 million.

By agreeing, all three avoid going through an arbitration hearing.

The MLB salary arbitration exchange deadline was Friday at 1 p.m. ET.

Per team policy, if the Marlins had not reached deals by the deadline, each player’s salary would have been decided at a hearing in February.

Joe Frisaro

Stanton unlikely to sign multi-year deal with Miami

MIAMI — The Marlins face a 1 p.m. ET on Friday deadline to come to contract terms with their three arbitration-eligible players.

But according to a league source, barring a dramatic change of events, Miami will not be locking up slugger Giancarlo Stanton to a long-term contract. At least, such an agreement would not take place on Friday.

Friday is the salary arbitration exchange date for all qualifying players.

Stanton is arbitration eligible for the first time. The 24-year-old slugger has belted 117 home runs since being called up from Double-A Jacksonville in 2010, and he is one of the premier right fielders in the game.

For months, the Marlins stated publicly that they would entertain signing Stanton to a multi-year contract.

“It’s not going to happen,” the league source said.

It’s unclear if serious long-term discussions occurred. Indications are, the idea was at least discussed. It’s also been reported that Stanton may not be willing to remain in Miami past his target date to reach free agency. That will be after the 2016 season.

Even without a long-term deal, the Marlins are hoping to avoid an arbitration hearing with Stanton.

The club has a policy to break off negotiations after the salary exchange deadline. If that occurred, the Marlins and Stanton’s representatives would present their offers, and an arbitration panel would decide at a hearing in February the slugger’s salary for 2014.

Stanton, closer Steve Cishek and lefty reliever Mike Dunn are Miami’s three arbitration players.

Stanton made $537,000 last year. His salary is expected to jump to about $7 million.

Even without a multi-year contract, the Marlins plan on retaining Stanton at least for the 2014 season. The club could sign him on a season-to-season basis until 2016. In that case, there would be plenty of trade speculation, and chances are, the longest he would remain a Marlin is two more years.

Joe Frisaro