Yelich, McGehee not options at first base

SAN DIEGO — If the Marlins acquire a speedster, they are open to moving Christian Yelich out of the leadoff spot. But don’t expect Miami to ask their Gold Glove-winning left fielder to change positions.

Because Yelich is athletic and he played a little first base in high school, there has been some buzz about moving the 23-year-old to first base.

The thinking is, Miami needs a power bat, and there are more choices who play corner outfield than first base. Atlanta’s Justin Upton is an example.

There were some rumors that Miami may trade for Upton to play left and switch Yelich to first. Before giving that idea much thought, let’s put the rumor to rest. No way is it happening.

First off, Yelich may have played some at first in youth baseball and as a prep star in Southern California. The reality is he didn’t play there enough to even seriously be considered a first base candidate, especially in the big leagues.

Secondly, Yelich just won the Gold Glove. He’s a rising star and deserves the respect to play where he is most comfortable.

Quite frankly, if Miami did approach Yelich about switching position, the conversation wouldn’t have been pretty. He doesn’t want to play first. End of story.

Besides, the Marlins feel they have the best outfield in the National League. They like Yelich in left, Marcell Ozuna in center and Giancarlo Stanton in right. All three are terrific defensively. Outfield is the strength of the club, and they aren’t going to risk making it a weakness.

There’s also been some talk about third baseman Casey McGehee perhaps moving to first if free agent Chase Headley signs.

Miami has limited interest in Headley. But the preference is for McGehee to stay at third. He’s been very strong there, and works nicely aside shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, a Gold Glove finalist.

Taking the stance Yelich will be in left and McGehee will remain at third makes it a little tricker to acquire a first baseman. Yet it is the path the team is taking.

Joe Frisaro

Should Marlins go after Chapman?

SAN DIEGO — All offseason the Marlins have made it very clear they are seeking a top of the rotation starter. The ideal candidate is an All-Star caliber pitcher who can eat up innings and keep the club in the playoff picture until Jose Fernandez returns around the All-Star Break.

It’s a reach for the sky wish, and one not easily attainable. Arizona lefty Wade Miley would fit the bill, and he still may wind up in Miami. But the trade return will be painful, most likely meaning the Marlins would have to part with their top prospect, Andrew Heaney.

This much is known, the Marlins are exploring a number of different scenarios. They’re open to creative thinking. So much so that they are considering converting newly acquired reliever Aaron Crow into a starter.

Perhaps the Marlins have learned something from Crow’s former club, the Kansas City Royals.

A main reason the Royals reached Game 7 of the World Series is because they had arguably the best bullpen in the game in 2014. Not many clubs could match their seventh, eighth and ninth inning trio.

Since finding the ideal starter isn’t easy, perhaps the Marlins should consider building a super bullpen. If they are leaning that way, Aroldis Chapman would be a logical option.

We don’t know if the Marlins are thinking this way, but what is clear is the Reds are open to trading Chapman, their fireball-throwing lefty closer.

Cuban-born, Chapman would be an immediate fan favorite in Miami. He also would make the entire pitching staff better.

The fact he is 26, and doesn’t reach free agency until 2017 means he could be with the Marlins at least two seasons. Entering his prime, he also is affordable. In 2015, he is set to make $5 million after collecting 36 saves and striking out 106 in 54 innings last season.

If the Marlins do acquire Chapman, then what happens to Steve Cishek? Teams have checked in on Cishek’s availability. Like Chapman, the 28-year-old is entering his second year of arbitration.

Cishek likely will have his salary raise to close to $6 million.

How to resolve Cishek’s situation could be simple. They could trade him for either a starter or a power bat. Or they can keep him, and use him in the eighth inning.

Cishek in the eighth and Chapman in the ninth would give the Marlins one of the top back ends of any bullpen in the National League. You’d have two proven closers. Cishek also has the personality to accept whatever role he is given, without grumbling.

The seventh inning candidates would be Mike Dunn, A.J. Ramos, Bryan Morris, Carter Capps and Chris Hatcher. Immediately, Miami’s bullpen would become the envy of the league.

A powerhouse bullpen could be the answer to their starting pitching search, becuase the team would be able to shorten games. If the starters can keep the team in the game for five or six innings, Miami will like its chances to come out with a win.

It just may work out where Miami’s best chance to improve its rotation is by dramatically strengthening its bullpen.

Joe Frisaro

Shields unlikely for Marlins

SAN DIEGO — James Shields fits what the Marlins want, a top of the rotation veteran and proven innings-eater. But the right-hander doesn’t match up with the club’s budget.

Until the Royals ace in 2014 signs, you never completely close the door. But it is extremely unlikely the Marlins will sign Shields.

Miami’s payroll projects around $65 million, and Shields may end up signing for close to $100 million.

Although they appear out of the Shields’ sweepstakes, there is a confidence within the organization that the Marlins will make at least one significant move during the Winter Meetings, which start Monday and run through Thursday.

A top of the rotation starter and power bat are the team’s top two priorities. The trade route seems the most likely for the pitcher.

Miami is willing to trade prospects, and there is considerable interest from other clubs in Nathan Eovaldi, who could become a trade piece if a starter is added. Should that play out, where Miami adds an arm, and Eovaldi is dealt, that increases the chances Aaron Crow would get a chance to start.

The Marlins acquired Crow, previously a reliever for Kansas City, the day after Thanksgiving.

For Miami, there are lefty trade possibilities out there.

Arizona’s Wade Miley makes sense. The lefty is entering his first season of arbitration, and he topped 200 innings in ’14. The D-backs just acquired lefty Robbie Ray, which adds depth to their roster.

Detroit’s David Price is the most established. A former Cy Young Award winner, the veteran can step in and become an immediate ace. But the lefty is a free agent next year, so he would likely be a one-year alternative.

The Angels are open to trading lefty C.J. Wilson, who the Marlins coveted when he was a free agent in 2012. But Wilson is making $18 million in 2015, and $20 million in ’16.

If Miami made a deal with the Angels, Los Angeles would likely have to pick up at least half of the remaining contract.

Jon Niese of the Mets is another potential lefty, but New York would unlikely trade with a National League rival.

Cole Hamels of the Phillies could be a choice. But, like Niese, Philadelphia doesn’t appear open to moving their former World Series MVP to Miami.

Joe Frisaro

Nothing imminent as Marlins approach Winter Meetings

MIAMI — Many ideas and scenarios are being tossed around, but no signings or trades are imminent for the Marlins three days before the Winter Meetings get underway in San Diego.

“I will say that there have been multiple conversations on a lot of fronts,” president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “I wouldn’t say that we’re near the finish line on anything, but it’s good conversation and good dialogue on a number of things.”

With that said, the market is ever changing, and deals can materialize quickly.

“Stuff happens quickly,” Hill said. “We’re able to move as fast as we need to move. I’m not sure what the timeline will be, but we are having dialogue on a number of fronts.”

The Winter Meetings begin on Monday, and Miami remains focused on adding a power bat and a front-line starting pitcher. Second base may be a need, but it isn’t the club’s highest priority. The team is prepared to have open competition with Donovan Solano and Enrique Hernandez being the frontrunners.

“It’s not a very rich market,” Hill said. “That’s why I think we were very fortunate to acquire [Hernandez] at the deadline. It’s not something where there are numerous options out there ready and available that we feel are significant upgrades over what we have. It’s something we continue to monitor. I wouldn’t say it is at the forefront of our goals.”

Hernandez was acquired from the Astros on July 31. A few weeks ago, he sustained a lower-abdominal strain while playing Winter Ball in Puerto Rico. The injury is minor, and he has already resumed his offseason workouts.

“It was very minor,” Hill said. “I think he was just scared because it was something new. We flew him in to Miami just to be sure. No issues. No limitations. He’s good to good. He’s back on his offseason program and getting ready to play in Spring Training.”

The Marlins also are encouraged by Giancarlo Stanton’s recovery from the facial fractures he suffered after being struck by a pitch at Milwaukee on Sept. 11.

Stanton has begun his workouts and is hitting in the cages near his home in Sherman Oaks, Calif.

“He’s already started his offseason program,” Hill said. “He’s working out in California, and he’s getting ready to hopefully lead this team to a tremendous 2015 season.”

Before Stanton signed his 13-year, $325 million contract on Nov. 19, the Marlins put their slugger through a variety of medical tests to make sure he will be ready for Spring Training.

“If there is a test out there, we put him through it,” Hill said. “I think from a medical standpoint, we were all comfortable with the results of the myriad of tests that he went through. We were all comfortable moving forward.”

As for making upgrades, the Marlins are looking for players who fit their clubhouse culture as well as fit within their budget, expected to be $65 million.

Miami is open to dealing some pitching prospects to help the big league club. The club has been linked to a number of players who are a year away from free agency. David Price of the Tigers and Chris Davis of the Orioles are in that category.

“That is the process we’re working through right now,” Hill said, while not mentioning any players specifically. “There are a number of five-plus [service years] players out there available, and when you talk about six-plus years of control for your inventory, there’s definitely value in that. I think we’re just trying to measure the value of the piece that we’re adding versus the control that we would be giving away.

“Our situation, we’re never going to be a high revenue, high top of the market, payroll-wise club. So we have to be mindful and protective of our inventory. But we also know that we have to win games. I think that is what we’re trying to balance and make the right decision that helps us, both in the near term and the long term.”

Hill also addressed Derek Jeter’s impromptu visit to Marlins Park on Monday, where he toured the ballpark with team owner Jeffrey Loria.

“That was a pleasant surprise,” Hill said. “We had seen him and spent time with him in Panama over Spring Training. He enjoyed the tour of the ballpark. It was nice. We congratulated him on a great career, and asked him if he had any pinch-hits left in him.”

The Marlins and Yankees played two Spring Training games in Panama last March as part of a tribute to Mariano Rivera.

Jeter’s only previous visit to Marlins Park came prior to the 2012 season. Before the inaugural season at Miami’s new building, the Marlins played the Yankees in two exhibition games.

Now retired, Jeter, in South Florida on personal business, told Miami officials he wanted to see the entire building.

“But he said all he saw [in 2012] was the clubhouse,” Hill said.”He got a full-fledge tour of every inch of the building.”

Joe Frisaro

Plan to pay for and sustain long-term success

MIAMI — Different times, different slogan. In the end, the Marlins ultimately hope to achieve the same objective.

A catch phrase the front office is repeatedly using now is “sustained success.” The mission is to retain their solid young core, and build upon it by spending smartly. The hope is the results on the field will do the talking, and the organization will be stocked with talent to remain playoff competitive for years to come. The structure of Giancarlo Stanton’s record-setting 13-year, $325 million contract gives flexibility to field a contender with a modest payroll.

The approach now is completely different than 2012, when the Marlins pronounced they were “all in.” Then, they were rebranding in their colorful new retractable-roof ballpark. They spent freely, hired an outspoken manager in Ozzie Guillen, and assembled a number of pricy free agents, led by Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. The payroll rocketed from $57 million in 2011 to $101 million in ’12.

The mix didn’t work, and by the July 31 no-waiver Trade Deadline, big parts were traded off. The rest of the dismantling occurred after the disastrous, last-place season.

Breaking the team up created a negative backlash, that in some circles, exists today.

Still, that hasn’t changed the direction or the objective of the restructured front office. President of baseball operations Michael Hill, general manager Dan Jennings and manager Mike Redmond continue to shape the new direction. They are looking for the right pieces, at the right price.

Getting Stanton to buy in was the biggest move imaginable for a franchise looking to demonstrate good faith, as well as show the skeptical South Florida market and the industry Miami means business.

Based on their past, many wonder what’s the catch? Stanton’s contract is backloaded, and includes an opt-out clause after six years, or 2020. So the assumption is the slugger will be traded at some point in the next five years, despite the fact the deal includes the only no-trade clause in club history.

How is the math going to work to make Miami more than just a one-man team? Generally, teams with one player commanding 20 or more percent of overall payroll tend to not work.

Here’s what’s different now than in 2012.

First, the payroll plan. Unlike 2012, when the figure topped $100 million for the only time in club history, the projection for 2015 is a payroll around $65 million. Stanton, who will make $6.5 million, will command 10 percent of that figure.

What about after 2015?

The franchise’s objective is to gradually build up, pretty much in step with the structure of Stanton’s contract.

In 2016, Stanton will make $9 million. The overall payroll likely will be in the $80 million range. Obviously, the exact figure is a year away. But if the number jumps to $80 million, Stanton will take up about 11 percent of the total number.

Stanton’s salary boosts to $14.5 million. So the payroll would have to to jump to at least $100 million to keep him under 15 percent.

The really big money in the contract will kick in 2018, when Stanton’s base salary rises to $25 million.

By that point, the payroll will have to be over $125 million to make years four, five and six work, before he could consider opting out.

The Marlins clearly are looking at a window of winning big over the next five years. The hope is success on the field, plus featuring an elite talent like Stanton, builds excitement, and boosts attendance. The club is hoping to allow Marlins Park become the revenue producer it was intended to be. That means more stadium-generated revenues — attendance, concessions, parking, etc.

If a naming rights partner is found, that would mean additional dollars.

A key issue may become a revised local TV contract. The Marlins deal with Fox Sports Florida runs through 2020. Perhaps by 2018, a new deal could be in place.

These team generated revenue streams are separate from national streams that all teams share. So, the Marlins are in position to afford Stanton while remaining competitive.

How it all plays out will be an interesting storyline to follow. The plan is clearly a process, with the objective to create some payroll stability, while breaking away from their all or nothing past.

— Joe Frisaro

Stanton sends out letter to fans

MIAMI — Giancarlo Stanton has given the Marlins a long-term commitment, and on Thursday, the two-time All-Star sent out a letter of thanks to season ticket holders.

MM_Letter#2_Stanton

Give Miami Day event underway

MIAMI — The Miami Marlins front office will shut down on Thursday to participate in the fifth annual Marlins Ayudan Day of Service and Philanthropy. Beginning at 9 a.m. on the West Plaza at Marlins Park, Marlins employees will be split into nine groups consisting of 18 employees.

#GiveMiamiDay! Today is Miami’s biggest day of giving and philanthropy of the year! Last year, Miami raised $3.2 million! Pretty incredible!

Remember to give “In Honor” of Jackie Robinson’s 9 Values: Courage, Determination, Teamwork, Persistence, Integrity, Citizenship, Justice, Commitment and Excellence

Steps:

1. Go to GiveMiamiDay.org

2. Select the charity you want to give to! Any charity you like!

3. Complete the form but be sure to enter your choice under the “In honor of…” field.

LaRoche, Shields, ballpark fences and more

MIAMI — Giancarlo Stanton is signed, sealed and delivered for 13 years at $325 million. What’s next?

Here’s what I’ve learned is on tap. The Marlins have serious interest in Adam LaRoche and James Shields remains on the club’s radar. The Miami Herald reported Miami has a two-year, $20 million offer on the table for the veteran first baseman. MLB.com has confirmed interest.

A power bat to protect Stanton is a high priority. LaRoche would fit the bill, adding playoff experience, as well as the fact he hits from the left side.

A high-end starting pitcher is also a priority. Shields, obviously, would bring plenty of experience to a young rotation that will be without Jose Fernandez for much of the first half.

Worth noting

* The dimensions at spacious Marlins Park were brought up in the Stanton negotiations. Nothing was written into the megadeal guaranteeing the fences will be moved in. But the Marlins are open to doing so over the next few years. The organization is studying the impact of the park. It’s not just a concern for Stanton, who obviously has the power to clear the fences as is.

But if the team feels the building is causing its players to constantly change their approaches, then it could lead to making changes. The concern is the Miami batters will have one approach at home and another on the road.

Another factor is the pitching. If the Marlins’ pitchers are tending to be much better at home than on the road, it may have something to do with them playing to the big park, challenging hitters. Mistakes that are rewarded at home could be damaging hits away. In other words, pitchers may not be as sharp hitting the corners routinely because they get away with mistakes at home.

* The Marlins have no interest in Pablo Sandoval.

* Miami may seek to trade prospects for a controllable starting pitcher, much like their Jarred Cosart deal with the Astros. Aside from Tyler Kolek, their No. 1 pick this year, the club is open to trading pretty much any prospect.

* Jarrod Saltalamacchia, in his second year of a three-year deal, is not a trade candidate.

* Other clubs are inquiring about J.T. Realmuto, but Miami isn’t interested in trading their catcher of the future.

Joe Frisaro

Is UM-FSU only reason Stanton is in town?

MIAMI — College football was on Giancarlo Stanton’s mind Saturday, as the Marlins’ slugger attended the Florida State-University of Miami game at Sun Life Stadium.

Pregame, Stanton was on the sidelines, interacting and posing for pictures.

But with a record-setting contract offer on the table, you have to figure Stanton’s visit to South Florida isn’t all about The U. Is this also a business trip?

From all indications, negotiations between the Stanton and the Marlins are winding down. The two sides reportedly are closing in on a 13-year, $325 million extension that will include an opt-out clause and a no-trade clause.

Nothing has changed over the last few days to indicate either side is about to fumble away the deal. In fact, there is growing speculation that an announcement will come sometime this week. If so, Stanton already is in town.

Stanton isn’t the Marlins’ only order of business this offseason, but he is priority No. 1. This much we do know, the club also is considering extending some other young core players, like Christian Yelich, Adeiny Hechavarria and Marcell Ozuna. There is even an outside chance they will seek a long-term deal with Jose Fernandez.

For now, all those talks have been pushed aside. Signing Stanton is in the forefront, and all other talks are on hold.

Also unclear is the breakdown of Stanton’s contract. The years and figures have changed in recent days. When the story broke on Thursday that Miami was making a record-setting offer, the initial framework was said to be at least 10 years and $300 million. Then word came it was 12 years at $320 million. Now, the latest is 13 years, $325 million.

From what I’ve heard, the initial figure the Marlins were danging was 12 years, $300 million with opt-out and no-trade clauses. The terms may have indeed changed as the negotiations heated up.

Whether it is $300 million or $325 million, the dollar amount would surpass Miguel Cabrera’s $292 million as the richest for a professional athlete.

There also is a report Stanton can opt out after the fifth year, or 2019.

In early October, the Marlins were thinking of a deal in the five or six year range with a salary similar to Mike Trout’s six-year, $144.5 million contract.

The opt-out clause gives an opening for a shorter deal, but still one that would keep the 25-year-old Stanton in Miami until he is at least 30.

There’s been a lot of progress in the talks. Now it’s a matter of pushing the deal across the goal line.

Joe Frisaro

Could fences be attached to Stanton deal?

MIAMI — The numbers are staggering, and if finalized, would be historic. The latest is the Marlins are closing in on a benchmark contract extension with Giancarlo Stanton. The sides reportedly are nearing agreement on a 13-year, $325 million contract.

If accepted, Stanton would become the highest paid athlete ever, topping the $292 million extension Miguel Cabrera signed with the Tigers.

When the particulars are known, we’ll find out if there are strings attached, such as a no-trade clause or an opt-out provision.

Something else to look for is whether there is a stadium attached. Or more specifically, the fences at spacious Marlins Park.

Although Stanton won the National League home run crown with 37, he’s spoken out publicly in the past about just how spacious Miami’s retractable-roof building is. He’s advocated moving the fences in, not just to pad his numbers, but to reward hitters in general.

Already the Marlins are in unchartered waters. Quite frankly, the club was prepared to offer Stanton no more than five or six years at a figure that could have rivaled Mike Trout’s $144.5 million.

Now, the years being reported, and not refuted, are more than a decade, and the salary is north of $300 million.

For players, Marlins Park is a terrific place to play, and the fan experience is excellent. The downfall, at least to position players, is the field is way to spacious.

If the Marlins are committed to securing Stanton for the next 10 years, they will be locking up the game’s most feared power hitter. It would make sense for both sides to pull in the fences to give the slugger a better set off the 72-foot Home Run sculpture in center field.

An unanswered question is whether the stadium dimensions are part of the negotiations. Perhaps the fences were addressed, either directly as a clause to the contract, or just an assurance that they will be move in over time.

Stanton already has 154 career homers. If he stays for the next 10 years, he could become a historical player, reaching milestones, which inevitably would generate more interest and attention.

Also, having Stanton as their centerpiece also could attract other power hitters to want to be in Miami. If the ballpark is more hitter-friendly, Stanton could be the franchise’s best recruiter.

When the dust settles and exact salary figures are releases, we may also eventually see the wall that sports the 418 foot marker in center field pushed up a bit.

Joe Frisaro

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 122 other followers