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Building around Stanton the focus for Marlins

Building around Stanton the focus for Marlins

Building around Stanton the focus for Marlins

MIAMI -- Heading into next week's General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Fla., the Marlins know who the centerpiece of their lineup will be in 2014. How to improve the supporting cast is the unknown.

Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill on Wednesday repeated the club intends to build around right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton, who turns 24 on Friday, is an established middle-of-the-lineup threat.

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An All-Star in 2012, the slugger also is one of the most speculated players in trade rumors. But the club has already made it public that Stanton is not available, and it fully intends for him to be the team's right fielder.

"We need to put more offense into our lineup to supplement [Stanton] and to supplement our offense, and allow us to score more runs," Hill said. "Obviously, Giancarlo is a big part of our offense. We want to make things easier for him and the rest of our lineup, and lengthen the lineup the best we can to allow us to score more runs."

The Marlins finished last in the Majors in most major offensive categories, including batting average (.231), runs scored (513) and home runs (95). Third base and catcher, along with speed and power, headline the team's shopping list.

In figuring out how to bring in additional pieces, money is an object. Miami is not expected to be in the market for high-priced free agents. But Hill noted there is flexibility to sign players if the deals make sense.

Team owner Jeffrey Loria gave Hill a payroll range, which hasn't been publicly disclosed. In 2013, payroll was around $38 million, and the belief is the maximum mark for '14 would be in the low to mid-$40 million range.

"We have a range that we're working on," Hill said. "We haven't been given a definitive number at this point, but we know what we need to do. We have a range of where we may be, and we will hit the ground running in Orlando."

Asked if the allocation would enable the club to pursue select free agents, Hill added: "I think we're comfortable with the range that we have, and we can do what we need to do to improve the club. I think if there is something that we feel is mandatory for this club, I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility to go to Jeffrey and see if it is something that we can do."

How Stanton's salary figures into the payroll also remains to be seen, because the Marlins are considering offering him a multiyear contract.

After making $537,000 last season, Stanton is set to see his salary escalate to around $5 million in his first year of arbitration. If he is receptive to signing long-term, he's looking at tens of millions of dollars.

Miami has yet to approach Stanton or his agent, Joel Wolfe, about a multiyear deal. Hill noted the Marlins are weighing their next step in retaining Stanton for years to come.

"I would say it's an ongoing discussion," Hill said. "As I said earlier, he's a big part of this team's success, and we'd like to think that we could build around him, and put pieces around him to allow us to win games for a long time. But at this point, I'd say it's an ongoing discussion."

Adding impact bats is one way to making Stanton agreeable to remaining in Miami for several more seasons. Another step would be bringing in the fences at spacious Marlins Park, one of the toughest buildings in the league to hit home runs.

Stanton and first baseman Logan Morrison have been two of the most outspoken Marlins pushing for the walls to be adjusted. It is doubtful any adjustments would be made for 2014, but there is a chance for perhaps '15.

Internally, the team is checking into how Marlins Park plays.

"There obviously has been research and data taken over the last two years," Hill said of the ballpark's dimensions. "But my main focus has been the team that we put in this park as it currently exists. And putting a productive team that is going to score runs, regardless of the makeup of the ballpark. That's been our main focus from a baseball standpoint."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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