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
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
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
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
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
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
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
MIAMI — All-Star week is a time to celebrate the sport, and showcase MLB’s brightest stars. The Marlins are well represented with Giancarlo Stanton and Henderson Alvarez taking part in the festivities at Target Field in Minneapolis.
If not for injury, the Marlins perhaps could have had a third star at the event. It wasn’t meant to be because Jose Fernandez sustained a serious ligament tear in May, and underwent Tommy John surgery in the same month.
Recovery time for a starting pitcher is generally in the 12-18 month range.
In Fernandez’s case, expect the time frame to be roughly 14 months. If so, look for the right-hander to rejoin the Miami rotation around the 2015 All-Star Break.
Fernandez, who turns 22 later in the month, is not eager to push things. Over the weekend Scott Boras was in New York. He talked to the New York media about Mets right-hander Matt Harvey, who also is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Boras noted a 14 month recovery for Harvey, another of his clients.
It’s safe to apply that same time line to Fernandez.
The Marlins know they can’t easily replace Fernandez, but they’re searching the trade market for starting upgrades.
That’s one reason why the club isn’t looking for a rental. The front office is aware Fernandez won’t be ready for the start of the 2015 season, and most likely the first half. So in trade scenarios, they’re seeking controllable years.
Miami will need to add a fifth starter shortly after the All-Star Break. Chances are a trade could be completed by that point. An internal option could be Brad Penny, who had an effective five-innings start at Triple-A New Orleans on Sunday.
– Joe Frisaro
NEW YORK –- Add the Marlins to the list of clubs looking for starting pitching before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
But Miami isn’t just seeking any type of starter. The club is targeting controllable young arms, meaning those who are not on the verge of becoming free agents. The club has no interest in a rental.
“A rental, it may help you in the short term,” president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “We want something we can move forward with. I think that will definitely influence the direction we go.”
Along with a starting pitcher, the Marlins also are exploring second base options.
The Marlins felt they had a second base answer when they signed free agent Rafael Furcal in the offseason. But a left hamstring injury has limited Furcal to just nine games.
Furcal was expected to be a speed threat at the top of the order.
On the trade front, the Marlins are looking for a second baseman who can run and potentially lead off.
* A couple of more Draft picks are expected to have their deals finalized by Friday’s deadline to sign all picks. Seventh rounder Anfernee Seymour’s deal is about done, as is 10th rounder, lefty Dillon Peters from Texas. Peters is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and won’t be ready to pitch for another year. All of Miami’s top 10 round picks will be signed.
* Brad Penny, who is pitching at Triple-A New Orleans, could be a rotation option at some point in July. Miami needs a fifth starter by July 22, or the fifth game after the All-Star Break.
* A.J. Ramos (right shoulder inflammation) is expected to come off the DL on Friday. Ramos will pitch in some rehab assignment games at Double-A Jacksonville.
* Colin Moran, the sixth overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, is showing improvement at Class A Jupiter, and he could be headed for a promotion to Jacksonville in the upcoming weeks.
– Joe Frisaro
NEW YORK — The Marlins remain extremely active on the international signing front.
Add seven more 16-year-old standouts to an already impressive list. All are from the Dominican Republic, and the list features right-hander Luis Mojica, lefties Gabriel Baez and Julio Frias, shortstops Samuel Castro and Ronald Reynoso, plus outfielders Juan Borges and Sleyter Soto.
This year, the organization has tripled its budget to signing international prospects. The signing period for 16-year-olds started on July 2.
On the first day, the organization believes it struck big by reaching deals with Venezuelan outfielder Anderson Castro, Venezuelan shortstop Andres Villalobo and Dominican Republic outfielder Christian Capellan.
Castro, especially, has been promising. He’s considered a five-tool talent with immense power.
– Joe Frisaro