MIAMI — Teams that reach the All-Star Break firmly in last place typically consider making major moves by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
That may be the case for many clubs. But it’s not what the Marlins are thinking.
After falling 5-2 in 10 innings to the Nationals on Sunday, Miami entered the break with a 35-58 record. Still, there is plenty of reason for optimism, mainly because its young core is coming together.
Since May 31, the Marlins are 22-17. And they are 21-17 since June 1, compared to a 14-41 mark in April and May.
The fact they’ve built some positive momentum has the Marlins leaning towards staying the course as the July 31 deadline approaches. They aren’t anticipating making any major trades.
Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison, Steve Cishek and Mike Dunn have all been mentioned in trade speculation. All four are eligible for arbitration next year. But the bottom line is all four are considered building blocks for the remainder of this year and in 2014. Don’t expect any of them to be dealt. Of course, a team willing to dramatically overpay could change things. But that is highly unlikely.
In summing up the first half, first-year manager Mike Redmond noted the Marlins are pleased with the improvement, but they recognize there is plenty of room for improvement.
“By no means are we satisfied with where we are at,” Redmond said. “We know we can get better. We know we can continue to improve. We’ll go out there in the second half, and hopefully have a great second half and finish strong.”
The Marlins pretty much made their big move already. A week ago, they dealt Ricky Nolasco to the Dodgers for three pitching prospects.
It was no secret Nolasco was available, because the right-hander will be a free agent after the season. The Marlins feel they have a group of young starting pitchers to replace Nolasco, so they weren’t planning on making an offer to retain him.
With Stanton, there isn’t an obvious replacement. His power is critical for a team that is last in the Majors in home runs. And he’s a threat at Marlins Park, which has allowed the fewest amount of homers of any stadium this year.
Morrison also is viewed as a building block because he is the primary power threat from the left side, and he has the ability to become highly productive. Injuries slowed him down, and the team wants to see what he can do playing regularly.
Cishek has not been made available, largely because with so much strong, young starting pitching, the Marlins are counting on a reliable closer to secure wins. The organization doesn’t want to demoralize its young pitching by having late leads disappear.
For another club to acquire Cishek, its bidding likely would have to start with their No. 1 prospect. Even then, finding a match appears remote.
The Tigers, for instance, have a need. But even their top prospect, Nick Castellanos, may not be a fit. Castellonas plays third base and outfield, two areas the Marlins already have prospects.
The Marlins just signed their first-round pick, third baseman Colin Moran, for $3.5 million. Moran is viewed as the third baseman of the future. And they have young outfielders like Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick. Both could be called up in the second half. So there is an outfield surplus, which also limits the trade market.
Candidates the Marlins could trade are relievers Ryan Webb and Chad Qualls. Placido Polanco, Justin Ruggiano and Greg Dobbs are position players who are possible trade pieces.
Even they may not be moved in July.
Chances are the Marlins could make more moves in August, during the waiver-trade period than by the end of July.
Right now, the club wants to see how its core progresses together.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Having already completed one big trade this month, what would it take for the Marlins to pull off another?
A hefty return, that’s what.
On Saturday, the Marlins dealt Ricky Nolasco to the Dodgers for three pitching prospects. Moving the 30-year-old right-hander was expected, because he is eligible for free agency after the season, and he wasn’t part of Miami’s future plans.
The Marlins made it a point to get ahead of the market on Nolasco, not wanting to risk having a chance to complete a deal fall through. The Dodgers, eager to add rotation depth, became the ideal fit.
Although the Marlins didn’t lure in any of Los Angeles’ top five prospects for Nolasco, they trimmed about $5.5 million (the remainder of Nolasco’s salary this season) and adding three quality arms to their system. And in Angels Sanchez, 21, Miami got a starter who they feel has a chance to be solid in the future.
Also in the deal, Miami received relievers Steven Ames and Josh Wall. They did inquire about right-hander Chris Withrow, ranked the Dodgers’ eighth best prospect, but were told he wasn’t available.
Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest made it clear the organization remains open for business on the trade front, but that they also aren’t necessarily to unload any of their core players.
The most prominent name in the organization is Giancarlo Stanton, the 23-year-old slugger. But Stanton isn’t on the market, and he isn’t expected to be dealt this season. There is a chance he could be moved in the offseason, if he declines a multi-year offer. Even if he does, it isn’t automatic he will be traded.
Basically, Stanton could fill a bulk of the $11.5 million that Nolasco was making this year. So financially, the Marlins are well positioned to take on Stanton’s first-year salary in arbitration.
The next player teams would likely have interest in is closer Steve Cishek. Like Stanton, Cishek will be up for arbitration in 2014. The 27-year-old right-hander with the deceptive, side-arm delivery is an ideal trade chip because he is affordable for three more seasons, and three years away from being up for free agency.
All those reasons are factoring into why the Marlins also want to keep Cishek.
If the Marlins were to listen to offers for Cishek, they’d likely command another team’s top prospect.
Hypothetically, let’s say the Tigers were interested in Cishek. To get the Marlins’ full attention, they’d probably have to have Nick Castellanos, Detroit’s No. 1 prospect according to MLB.com, in the package.
Maybe the Tigers would be willing to over-spend, but the Marlins are in position to ask for that, otherwise they have no reason to move one of the promising, young, affordable closers in the game.
– Joe Frisaro
ATLANTA — Everything is lined up for Ricky Nolasco to start for the Marlins against the Braves at Turner Field on Wednesday night.
Still, those plans could easily change.
The Marlins have been actively shopping Nolasco, and a deal could possibly get done prior to first pitch.
The Dodgers appear to be the frontrunner among more than a half-dozen teams that have expressed some level of interest. And indications are, if it is not Los Angeles, Nolasco still could be headed West.
The Rockies, Giants and Padres also have made inquires. On the East Coast, Baltimore has been active in discussions.
With Nolasco, it is not a matter of will he get traded, it’s when.
Around the Marlins’ clubhouse, many thought Nolasco was going to be dealt last week, prior to his June 28 start against the Padres.
The Marlins rotation also is prepared to move forward without Nolasco. Henderson Alvarez is scheduled to be reinstated from the 60-day disabled list to start against the Braves on Thursday.
As of now, the rest of the rotation has been bumped back one day. Jacob Turner is scheduled for Friday at St. Louis, followed by Nathan Eovaldi (Saturday) and Jose Fernandez (Sunday). If Alvarez is pushed up to start on Wednesday, the rest of the rotation could also move up a day and still be on five-days’ rest.
The Marlins will have to make a roster move to reinstate Alvarez either Wednesday or Thursday.
There is rain in the forecast in Atlanta for Wednesday and Thursday. So, the rotation still could be impacted if there is a rainout or two.
As of Wednesday morning, Miami’s immediate focus is on completing a deal for Nolasco.
At issue is the remaining $5.7 million on his $11.5 million this season.
Nolasco, a free agent after the season, is completing a three-year, $26.5 million contract.
On a last-place Miami team, Nolasco has pitched better than his 4-8 record.
The 30-year-old right-hander has a 3.93 ERA, and he’s struck out 83 while walking just 25 in 105 1/3 innings.
The Marlins acquired Nolasco from the Cubs at the 2005 Winter Meetings.
Like now, the Marlins then were going through a transition period. Nolasco was a highly-touted prospect in the Cubs’ system. He was dealt to Miami along with Sergio Mitre and Renyel Pinto for Juan Pierre.
In his eighth season, Nolasco has established a number of Marlins records, including wins (80), games started (196), innings pitched (1,218 2/3) and strikeouts (994).
From the start of Spring Training, it was evident Nolasco was a candidate to be traded by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Rumors the Southern California native could be moved picked up in recent weeks. And in his last two starts, Nolasco has had his struggles. He gave up six runs (five earned) on a season-high 11 hits in a June 28 loss to the Padres.
On June 21 at San Francisco, he alowed three earned runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision.
Despite his recent troubles, a National League scout said: “He did nothing to not get himself traded.”
– Joe Frisaro
ATLANTA — When Ricky Nolasco exited after five-plus innings in his start last Friday against the Padres, it appeared he could be making his final appearance with the Marlins.
But now that he has been announced as Miami’s starter on Wednesday night at Atlanta, it is evident the 30-year-old will be with the club at least a few more days.
The subject of constant trade rumors, Nolasco is expected to be dealt before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. It’s just a matter of when.
Right now, nothing is imminent.
One source said, “There are many lines in the water, but nothing has been lured in.”
On Sunday, Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest spoke generally about Nolasco to Jim Bowden and Jeff Joyce during an MLB Network Radio appearance on Sirius/XM.
“As far as all the rumors, we’re getting to that time of the year when this stuff starts to fly,” Beinest said in his radio segment. “Obviously there’s been a lot of stuff out there on Ricky and understandably. He’s a would-be free agent and making a lot of money here. People will speculate we have some good young pitching coming and he may not be part of the program. All those things are fair.
“We’ll see what happens. I’m not going to get out there and talk about everything, especially rumors.”
The Dodgers are believed to be the frontrunners for Nolasco, a Southern California native who would be an ideal fit.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com added the Rockies have offered two decent prospects, but they are hesitant to pick up all of the remaining $5.7 million owed to Nolasco this season.
Nolasco is making $11.5 million in the last of his three-year, $26.5 million contract.
The Giants, Orioles, Rangers, Pirates and Red Sox all have had some measure of interest.
Clearly, money is an issue. Not every team at this point is willing to absorb nearly $6 million. The Dodgers appear the most willing, but then the Marlins may risk getting a lesser prospect in exchange.
Most likely Nolasco will be moved by the All-Star Break because the organization is getting Henderson Alvarez back into the rotation after the right-hander has missed all of the season with shoulder inflammation.
The Marlins have other young starting pitchers they want to see, and Nolasco is not part of their long-term future.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — After giving up four straight hits to start the sixth inning on Friday night, Ricky Nolasco handed the ball Marlins manager Mike Redmond and he trotted towards the dugout.
The Marlins Park crowd gave the 30-year-old a nice applause in what just might have been his final appearance in a Miami uniform.
Nolasco, a free agent after the season, had a rough night in a 9-2 loss to the Padres. But the veteran right-hander has enough of a track record to draw plenty of interest on the trade market.
It is no secret Nolasco is expected to be dealt by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
It certainly appears a deal will get done well before the end of July,, and it could be made before Nolasco’s next scheduled start, which would be Wednesday at Atlanta.
The Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Orioles and Pirates are among teams interested. The Dodgers are believed to be the frontrunner.
Nolasco, the Marlins’ all-time leader in wins, is 80-72 in eight seasons with the organization. He also holds franchise marks in a number of categories, including games pitched (212), starts (196), innings pitched (1,218 2/3) and strikeouts (994).
Nolasco is well aware he could be on the move soon. The right-hander just doesn’t know if Friday’s loss was his final game with Miami.
“I’m the wrong person to answer that question,” Nolasco said. “That’s for the front office and stuff. I’m not thinking like that. I’m just thinking day by day, coming in, doing my work and getting ready for every fifth day.”
Another indicator that Nolasco may indeed be moved within a few days is the fact Henderson Alvarez is ready to join the rotation. Alvarez, acquired from the Blue Jays last November, had another impressive rehab performance for Double-A Jacksonville.
The right-hander also threw on Friday, tossing 7 2/3 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and no walks against Mobile. In two rehab games with the Suns, Alvarez has threw 14 1/3 scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts and no walks.
Alvarez opened the season on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Healthy, he is lined up to replace Nolasco in the rotation.
For Nolasco, the Marlins will likely receive a mid-to-upper range prospect. The return could come down to how much of the remaining roughly $6 million Nolasco is owed for the rest of the season.
While Nolasco is on the verge of being traded, the Marlins are showing signs of keeping Giancarlo Stanton. It appears not just through the end of the season, but for 2014 as well.
Stanton is eligible for arbitration next year, and the club plans on approaching the slugger about a long-term contract. Even if Stanton isn’t looking to get locked up to a multi-year deal, the Marlins have internally discussed that fact the right fielder could basically fill the salary slot Nolasco has this year.
Nolasco is making $11.5 million, and Stanton could approach $7 million to $10 million in arbitration.
A portion of that $11.5 million the team also could put towards retaining first baseman Logan Morrison next year, when he also reaches arbitration for the first time.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Giancarlo Stanton is a force in the middle of the Miami Marlins. But like any player in the organization, the 23-year-old slugger is not considered “untouchable.”
But that doesn’t mean the Marlins are actively looking to deal Stanton or that the club is planning on trading him anytime soon.
Still, Stanton speculation is running high.
On Sunday, the All-Star right fielder’s name surfaced once again after a Sirius/XM/MLB Network Radio report.
Marlins assistant GM, Dan Jennings, was a guest on the “Front Office” show, with hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette.
Jennings was asked if the Marlins would listen to offers for Stanton. Per company policy, the team does so on any player.
“Oh, I think that’s been our M.O. I know in the 10 years I’ve been here that’s our M.O.,” Jennings said during the radio segment. “We’ve never not listened to a deal on any player. Sometimes I chuckle when I hear people say, ‘This guy’s untouchable,’ and ‘That guy’s untouchable.’ You know what? They may be untouchable until someone either overwhelms you or you get a package back that makes such a significant improvement on your club going forward. So we’ve always been willing to listen.”
Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest has long stated the same points.
“I think Larry, he’s never said, ‘No.’ But what we’re not going to do is move a player for less than what we value their ability,” Jennings said. “In Giancarlo Stanton you’ve got a [23-year-old] guy that we think going forward has got a chance to be a .300 hitter and [hit] 50 home runs and be a guy that is a big-time run producer. So while we’re not shopping him, certainly not looking to move him, yeah, if someone knocked on our door and said, ‘Hey, would you guys consider this and this and this,’ you have to listen.”
Basically, Jennings repeated the team policy, and there isn’t anything new here, other than a team official publicly addressing Stanton by name.
Yes, the Marlins would move Stanton, but only for a tremendous haul, which means, he would essentially clean out the top prospects of any organization. It would basically take four or maybe five players to complete a deal for Stanton.
Stanton will not be arbitration eligible until 2014, and he isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season. So the Marlins are in no rush to trade Stanton. Yet, it remains highly unlikely he will agree to a long-term contract.
It is appearing more inevitable that sometime before he reaches free agency that Stanton will be moved, because the Marlins are reloading their roster, and will look to add as many quality pieces in the next few years.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Two touted Cuban prospects will work out for MLB scouts on Jan. 5. Don’t expect the Marlins to pursue either one of them.
According to a source, Miami has zero interest in either Dariel Alvarez or Aledmys Diaz, two Cuban natives who were declared free agents earlier this month.
Alvarez is a 24-year-old outfielder, and Diaz, 22, is a shortstop.
The Marlins are not expected to attend their workout.
A year ago, the Marlins aggressively pursued Cuban-born outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who ended up signing with the A’s. The organization was in a different situation then, looking for a big year with an expensive roster that has since been broken up.
At this point, the Marlins are not willing to spend multi-million dollars on unproven international players.
While the Marlins don’t like to use the word “rebuilding,” there is little pretense about what the franchise is looking to accomplish right now. Although it is unpopular to part with proven players like Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, Miami is in the process of restocking the organization from the bottom up.
At the big league level, they may be bracing to take their lumps for a couple of years, but the hope is they will develop the necessary foundation to come out of the stretch stronger in the future.
And there are some solid prospects like Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick who aren’t that far away from being big league ready.
Development is about to take on a greater importance, since the club isn’t expected to be a serious player on the free agent market for at least a year or two.
To turn things around as quickly as possible, the Marlins will be looking to find impact players in their First-Year Player Draft, as well as making sure they receive value in return on any trades that may be made in the near future.
So don’t look for any quick-fix, high-cost signings, or for Miami to be in the mix for Alvarez or Diaz.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — What’s happening with the Angels may have a domino effect that could impact the Marlins.
Josh Hamilton, the biggest free agent on the market, reportedly has reached agreement on a five-year, $125 million contract with the Angels.
Once the signing becomes official, the balance in the American League West has again shifted. The Angels’ lineup becomes perhaps the best in the game.
So what’s next for the Rangers?
All eyes turn to them to see if they will make a counter punch. If they do, they may have to seek a big trade.
Or how about the Angels? They now have a surplus of outfielders, and they too may seek to make more deals.
At the Winter Meetings, the Marlins told teams that Giancarlo Stanton is not available. That was then, prior to Hamilton relocating to Southern California.
The Rangers have a loaded farm system, and if they are willing to offer some of their top young players, the Marlins may be in position to cash in, if they don’t consider Stanton part of their long-term plans.
Would Miami be tempted to move Stanton if suddenly Jurickson Profar and/or Mike Olt are centerpieces in a deal?
The Marlins also could be positioning themselves to tap into what the Angels now have available.
Peter Bourjos, a speedy outfielder, has been on the Marlins’ radar for a while. Could he suddenly be had in a trade? Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales also may be on the market.
Miami’s farm system is substantial stronger since the Nov. 19 trade with the Blue Jays. If something makes sense, there are prospects who could be moved.
Since the Winter Meetings, the Marlins have been searching for a third baseman. Now, the landscape for trades has changed. Will Miami’s front office also have a change of heart and seek more deals?
– Joe Frisaro
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Trade talks have picked up regarding Yunel Escobar, and the Rays and A’s are among the teams most interested.
The Marlins are planning on dealing Escobar, quite possibly before the Winter Meetings conclude on Thursday at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.
Escobar, a veteran infielder, was acquired by the Marlins on Nov. 19 from the Blue Jays. A career shortstop, Miami was considering playing Escobar at third base.
In return, the Marlins are likely to receive a Triple-A pitcher.
In other news, the Marlins main their firm stance that they will not trade slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Plenty of teams, including the Yankees, have inquired about the All-Star right fielder. The Marlins are telling teams Stanton is not available.
Also, the Marlins do not intend on trading Ricky Nolasco. On Monday, the right-hander’s agent, Matt Sosnick, made it public that Nolasco would prefer to be dealt before the start of Spring Training.
Nolasco is lined up to make $11.5 million in 2013, the final year of his contract. There is a chance he still could be moved by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
– Joe Frisaro
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two weeks after being acquired by the Marlins, Yunel Escobar could be on the move yet again.
According to a source, Miami is actively trying to trade the veteran infielder. At least two teams are involved in discussions, with one of them believed to be the A’s.
A deal could be reached before the Winter Meetings end on Thursday.
Escobar was obtained by the Marins as part of a 12-player trade with Toronto that was finalized on Nov. 19.
Escobar is under contract for $5 million in 2013, with club options of $5 million for 2014 and ’15.
The Marlins were projecting him to play third base, although he is a natural shortstop.
– Joe Frisaro