Building around Stanton high Marlins priority

MIAMI — Giancarlo Stanton is heating up again, and so is speculation about his long-term future.

We’ve been down this road before, and will continue to do so until the slugger either signs an extension with the Marlins, or moves elsewhere.

This is a time the Marlins are doing plenty of scoreboard watching, as they’ve moved one game back of the Braves for second place in the National League East. The Marlins are focused on making a playoff push. It’s also a time Stanton has homered in eight of his last 13 games, and playing at an MVP level.

With Stanton, increased invariably leads to questions about, what’s next?

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com recently reported there is skepticism in the Marlins’ front office that Stanton will sign a long-term deal with Miami. If that is the case, the question becomes, does the club keep him or trade him in the offseason?

Naturally, that set off a wave of stories, primarily out of Boston, regarding Stanton.

In conversations with numerous sources, here’s what I’ve learn:

* As an organization, the Marlins have not thrown in the towel on any chance of signing one of the most feared hitters in the game. The intention is to build around Stanton, and in the offseason make a serious multi-year contract offer.

* Here’s the most important piece of information.

With or without a long-term contract, the Marlins are prepared to retain Stanton as long as possible, even if that means waiting it out through the start of his free agency, which is after the 2016 season.

Some may scoff, Stanton’s value will decrease. The Marlins don’t see it that way. His value to the club is far greater than moving him before they absolutely have to. This team can be a serious playoff contender in 2015 and ’16. They’ll take their chances in regards to 2017.

* And say, there is an huge trade opportunity out there, for the Marlins to even consider trading Stanton, it won’t be strictly a “prospects deal.” You’re not going to see a repeat of the Miguel Cabrera trade. It’s not going to be Stanton for six prospects.

At the Trade Deadline this July, the Red Sox showed what the price of a rental could be when they dealt Jon Lester to the A’s for Yoenis Cespedes. Proven big league talent for big league talent.

The Marlins would not be looking for a package of prospects. It could include include top prospects, but it would require major pieces off another club’s big league roster.

That’s pretty much where the Stanton situation stands.

Also from what I’ve gathered, the Marlins are upbeat about what is being built in Miami. They fully intend to retain their core.

This is a team that went 62-100 in 2013, and yet on Aug. 13, they find themselves being one-game under .500, and within striking distance of a Wild Card spot. All this without Jose Fernandez since May.

The Marlins are clearly looking to move forward, not move Stanton. Not now. And barring a complete change of thinking, not in the offseason.

In fact, looking forward, the hope is to see the payroll increase to around $75 million in 2015, which would make room for Stanton’s salary, and others.

Locking up Stanton is definitely a high offseason priority, but it isn’t the team’s sole focus.

Adding a top of the rotation starter is high on the team’s shopping list. That could mean making a serious push for pending free agent James Shields. Fernandez isn’t expected back until around next All-Star Break, and the club wants to build a championship-caliber rotation in anticipation of his return.

What’s next for Stanton promises to be one of MLB’s biggest offseason stories. To the Marlins, however, as big a priority is to make the rotation as strong as possible for the 2015 playoff run.

Joe Frisaro

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