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Lester off market, Marlins search continues

MIAMI — Scratch Jon Lester’s name off the board. So that leaves, John Lackey, Wade Miley, Tommy Milone and John Danks as names connected to the Marlins.

Actually, you can also scratch Milone off the list. To show how quickly news cam break, the A’s moved the lefty to the Twins for Sam Fuld not long after Lester was traded.

The clock is ticking towards Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Miami is expected to be active. But can the front office complete a deal?

The big splash of the morning came with reports that the Red Sox had sent Lester and Jonny Gomes to the Athletics for Yoenis Cespedes.

The Red Sox have been looking for big league ready outfielders, and they got one in Cespedes. Which explains why, from the Marlins, they were eyeing Christian Yelich.

Miami has no interest in moving any core players off its 25-man roster. So there wasn’t a fit for Lester.

The search is for a starting pitcher with controllable years.

Danks, the 29-year-old lefty, is signed through 2016 at $14,250 million per season. Would the Marlins take on all the salary, or expect the White Sox to pick up a big part of the deal?

Miami does have a trade chip in the fact they possess a competitive balance pici in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft.

Boston also is probably leaning heavily towards moving Lackey, who has a favorable contract for 2015 (league minimum). That said, the Red Sox are seeking to return to glory in 2015 and they are asking for big pieces. But perhaps a close to big league ready pitching prospect could complete a deal?

If Miami is to make a statement and a push, it will need some more pieces. An experienced starting pitcher would send a strong signal to a re-energized roster.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins remain focused on controllable starter

MIAMI — The last call was made around 1 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning, shortly before Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill left the ballpark. The first message Hill received after he woke up was about 8:37 a.m.

Numerous calls are coming in, and the Marlins are weighing all options as Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.

The Marlins are working hard to make a trade or two before the 4 p.m. ET deadline. A controllable starting pitcher remains a priority, but a rental remains possible, but not at the cost of mortgaging the future.

“Not ideal for what we’re trying to do,” Hill said of a rental. “It’s something that we’ve entertained and have dipped our toe in the water. It all depends on the cost to acquire a rental and if it sidetracks what we’re trying to do in the long term.”

That may rule out Red Sox lefty Jon Lester, who would with the club for the rest of the season.

Miami made it back to .500 (53-53) by beating the Nationals on Tuesday night. Hill was working the phones all the way until he left Marlins Park, which was about 1 a.m.

“These guys in this room know we believe in them, and believe in the talent in this room,” Hill said Wednesday morning. “Whether we’re able to make a deal or not, I think they know we have their back. We’re supportive of what they’re trying to do. We’re going to do what’s best to try to upgrade. But we’re not going to be foolish. We’re not going to be short-sighted. I think we understand where we’re at as an organization, but we also understand where we’re trying to go.

“I think that’s the balance that you strike at this time of year. We’ll see what happens these next two days. But there’s been a lot going on. You try to work through it, and see if what you’re trying to do makes sense, not just in the near term, but in the long term.”

Starting pitching is the priority. Second base also could be addressed, but it is not as big an objective as a controllable starter.

Miami also is not planning on taking any core player off its big league roster.

If need be, the club will take on salary.

“I would say we’re looking at everything,” Hill said. “Money deals. Prospects deals. We’re looking at everything.”

Joe Frisaro

High asking price for Lester

MIAMI — The Marlins are seeking a game-changing starter, and Jon Lester would be the ideal candidate to make a playoff push. But at what price?

Boston, in the market for outfield help, would seek Christian Yelich in return for Lester, a two-time World Series champion. Miami has no interest in parting with a 22-year-old pure hitter with All-Star potential.

In fact, Miami is not willing to part with any core player on the big league roster.

It’s unclear if the Marlins are continuing to pursue Lester for a lesser package. But what is clear is the front office is scrambling to make a move or two by Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Lester, a free agent after the season, would be a rental in Miami. The Marlins ideally are seeking a starter they can control beyond 2014. A possibility in Boston could be John Lackey, who also has World Series experience. The price would be much less for Lackey than Lester.

Lackey is signed through 2015, and his salary will be tendered at the league minimum because he underwent a second Tommy John surgery. That language was written into his current contract.

If Tampa Bay were to make David Price available, the Marlins would have heavy interest.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins listed among teams in on Lester

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

Marlins looking to buy, Stanton not for sale

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

McGehee not on trade market

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

Miami relievers being closely watched

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

Marlins weighing whether to buy or sell

ATLANTA –- The Marlins are striving to get back to .500 at a time trade rumors heat up.

The non-waiver Trade Deadline is July 31, and Miami is weighing whether to make an major moves.

Plenty of ground needs to be made up as they sit in fourth place in the National League East.

“For all of us who have been around as players, that’s this time of year,” Miami manager Mike Redmond said. “This time of year there is always a lot of speculation about guys — trades, and all that stuff.”

Closer Steve Cishek has been mentioned as a possible trade candidate, although the Marlins have told teams the right-hander is not available. Lefty reliever Mike Dunn is another potential candidate who could be moved.

If Miami gets hot, the club may become buyers. They’ve been surveying the market for a controllable starting pitcher, and a speedy second baseman.

The direction could turn in a number of ways in the next week to 10 days.

If the Marlins have a successful seven-game road trip to Atlanta and Houston, chances are the club won’t part with established players. If not, and an offer is enticing, then in all likelihood, Miami will listen.

Redmond says all players can do is focus on their task at hand.

“It can become a distraction if you make it a distraction,” Redmond said. “Guys have just got to focuse on doing their jobs, and playing one game at a time. You can’t get too caught up on what you read and what you hear.”

Joe Frisaro

Marlins in market for controllable starter

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.

– Joe Frisaro

Sean Rodriguez could be potential fit in Miami

MIAMI — The Marlins’ short list of potential third base candidates includes Miami native Sean Rodriguez of the Rays.

According to a league source, the Marlins have had internal discussions about Rodriguez. It’s unclear if the 28-year-old Miami’s No. 1 trade target, but he could factor into a plan to at least share time at the hot corner.

The Marlins are closing in on a two-year deal with first baseman Garrett Jones, who has played in at least 144 games in each of the past four seasons with the Pirates.

Assuming Jones eventually signs, the Marlins will likely look to trade Logan Morrison.

Tampa Bay is one of the teams reportedly to have interest in Morrison.

If teams talk about Morrison, perhaps Rodriguez and a pitcher could get a deal done.

Rodriguez, who attended Braddock High School in Miami, made $1 million last season and he is in his second season of arbitration.

In a utility role, Rodriguez batted .246 with a .320 on-base percentage and five homers and 23 RBIs last season.

A right-handed batter, Rodriguez could split time at the hot corner with Ed Lucas or Donovan Solano. Rodriguez also would give some insurance at shortstop for Adeiny Hechavarria, and depth at second or even first base. He also plays the outfield.

Miami may be looking for a stop gap solution at third base until Colin Moran, the sixth overall pick last year, is ready, which could be in 2015.

Joe Frisaro

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