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Homecoming could help lure Napoli to Miami

Homecoming could help lure Napoli to Miami

Homecoming could help lure Napoli to Miami

MIAMI -- All indications are the Marlins will seek either trades or modestly priced free agents to upgrade their sluggish offense.

But could they be preparing to make a bigger splash?

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According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Miami officials are having internal discussions about Mike Napoli. Obviously, it doesn't cost a dime to window-shop the free-agent market. Still, it wouldn't be surprising if the team explored the possibility.

After all, new president of baseball operations Michael Hill has repeatedly said, "All options are on the table."

Until the dollar figures don't make sense, it would be natural to inquire about the power-hitting first baseman -- who slugged 23 homers with 92 RBIs for the Red Sox last season -- even if nothing pans out.

For all the criticism the franchise has endured, Miami has its share of attractions.

In the case of Napoli, South Florida is home. The 32-year-old attended Flanagan High School in Broward County.

Marlins Park is state of the art and has a retractable roof, meaning no rainouts or delays. Batting in the middle of the order with Giancarlo Stanton is an enviable spot. Miami is a desirable place to live, and Florida has no state income tax.

From the Marlins' perspective, overpaying a free agent or two would avoid the organization parting with some of its surplus pitching. Acquiring a slugger like Mark Trumbo of the Angels would likely mean parting with hard-throwing right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, a player Miami is not willing to move.

In the past, the Marlins have made bold moves and big splashes. In 2012, they hired Ozzie Guillen as manager and signed top free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell.

In the past two months, the organization has reshaped its front office. Hill replaced Larry Beinfest, and Dan Jennings was promoted to general manager. On Tuesday, the club announced the hirings of Mike Berger as vice president and assistant general manager, along with Jeff McAvoy as director of pro scouting.

If the new front office is looking to make an immediate mark, landing a major free agent would be a start.

Along with the pluses, there are minuses with the Marlins.

Marlins Park, for instance, is spacious, and not an ideal place for power hitters. The organization has a history of trading high-priced players, and they don't offer no-trade clauses, even partial ones.

Another potential hiccup could be the team's facial-hair policy. So unless that changes, Napoli's beard could be an issue.

That said, with most free agents, signings come down to money.

Reportedly, Napoli is seeking a four-year deal worth more than $60 million. It's a big price for a team that typically ranks near the bottom of the league in payroll.

Miami's payroll is estimated to be in the $45 million range for 2014.

If the Marlins are to move into contention, the restructured front office recognizes the importance of adding impact players.

Napoli posted a .259/.360/.482 line for the Red Sox, and he offered solid defense at first base. Health could be an issue because of Napoli's hip condition. But an MRI taken after the season revealed it didn't worsen in 2013.

Whether it is Napoli or someone else, the Marlins are exploring options at first base, which raises questions about Logan Morrison's future in Miami. The organization has received inquiries for Morrison, who is set to approach $2 million in his first year eligible for arbitration.

A Napoli signing would likely mean Morrison would be dealt, which would free up some dollars.

If the Marlins opt not to get into the mix for Napoli, other options are available.

Two priorities are a third baseman and offensive-minded catcher to share time with Jeff Mathis.

Eric Chavez could be an attractive choice to play third base. The veteran spent last season with the D-backs, the organization that Berger was with before joining the Marlins.

Catcher Dioner Navarro is a free agent on Miami's radar. So is Chris Iannetta of the Angels, who would be a trade candidate.

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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