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Marlins likely to rev engines at Winter Meetings

Marlins likely to rev engines at Winter Meetings

Marlins likely to rev engines at Winter Meetings

MIAMI -- An otherwise quiet offseason for the Marlins is expected to get substantially more noisy next week in a town known for generating excitement.

The Marlins will head into the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Monday ready to do some wheeling and dealing.

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Already, the team is creating some waves on the free-agent front, agreeing to terms Tuesday on a three-year deal with free-agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who won the World Series with the Red Sox this past season.

Before the Saltalamacchia news, the Marlins operated under the radar. Internally, they've exchanged ideas in hopes of piecing together a plan to attract more offense.

Thus far, Miami hasn't been very active on the transaction front, mainly because the club has been getting its house in order. Before making an all-out push for free agents or trades, the Marlins solidified their revamped front office.

Mike Berger was recently named vice president/assistant general manager, and Jeff McAvoy was added as director of pro scouting. Both are highly respected evaluators. Berger was with the D-backs the past few years, and McAvoy joins Miami from the Rays. The two put the finishing touches on a remodeled front office that features Michael Hill as president of baseball operations and Dan Jennings as general manager.

Coming off a 62-100 season, the Marlins' mission at the Winter Meetings is simple: add impact hitters.

Miami ranked last in the Majors in most significant hitting categories last year, and the team is in the market for run producers. Besides catcher, third base is another area being explored on the trade and free-agent markets. If something makes sense, first base is also being discussed.

The front office has been surveying the landscape and is searching for big league-ready, club-controllable players. These are tough commodities to find, but the Marlins feel they have some enticing pieces of their own to fill their needs.

"When you have starting pitching that you're willing to part with, you should be able to make some deals," Hill said recently at the General Managers Meetings.

Pitching depth is the strength of the organization. Aside from Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi and No. 2 prospect Andrew Heaney, the Marlins are open to moving some pitching for a couple of impact bats.

Last month at the GM Meetings, Miami's brass met with a number of clubs and batted around general ideas. The market has since revised itself because of trades and free-agent signings. And on Monday, arbitration-eligible players who were non-tendered joined the market.

The Marlins remain in a building stage, and they're striving to put together a strong foundation from their Minor Leagues on up.

And with the cost-conscious Marlins, money matters. The payroll is projected to be in the $40 million to $45 million range. Most likely, about $7 million of that figure will go to Giancarlo Stanton.

Stanton, the power-hitting right fielder, is in arbitration for the first time, and he likely will rank as either Miami's highest-paid player or close to it for 2014.

Stanton also is a player who promises to be talked about at the Winter Meetings, simply because he has repeatedly been the subject of trade rumors. Publicly, the Marlins have said Stanton isn't available, and they've conveyed that to inquiring teams, yet the trade speculation remains.

A more likely trade candidate is Logan Morrison, the left-handed-hitting first baseman who also is arbitration-eligible for the first time. Morrison has dealt with two surgeries to his right knee, and for the first time since 2011, he is expected to enter Spring Training healthy. Miami indeed could bring Morrison back. But other teams have asked about the 26-year-old, and the Marlins are willing to listen.

In their search for infield help, the Marlins could have interest in more modestly priced options like third baseman Juan Uribe and second baseman Mark Ellis. Third baseman Eric Chavez is another potential fit.

The Marlins have a history of making a big splash and being unpredictable. If the club attempts another end-around surprise play, it could go after free agent Mike Napoli. The first baseman was a playoff hero for the Red Sox last season, and his asking price has been speculated at four years and $60 million. Although the cost in terms of dollars would be high, such a free-agent move could enable the Marlins to save some of their young pitching.

If Miami can address its offense with a free agent or two, it wouldn't have to part with pitching prospects.

The Marlins' view of the market right now is: All options are on the table.

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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