Marlins not done after extending Stanton?
Even after giving Giancarlo Stanton the richest contract in professional sports history, the Marlins might still have some financial flexibility, at least in the short-term future.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark wrote yesterday that Stanton’s record contract with the Marlins is heavily backloaded, paying him $107 million over the first six years of the deal and $218 million over the next seven if he chooses not to opt out. His reasoning for structuring his contract in such a way appears to be the desire for the Marlins to have enough financial flexibility to build a contending team before his opt-out clause in 2020.

Miami’s spending history is reasonable cause for skepticism, but FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal did report last week that the Marlins have opened conversations about extending some of their other young talent. The Marlins appear poised to get involved on the free agent market, with reports surfacing yesterday that they are targeting Adam LaRoche and James Shields.

Stark wrote that the Marlins have shown “aggressive interest” in signing LaRoche, which makes sense considering the .723 OPS from their first baseman last season—a mark that ranked 18th in the league. Garrett Jones was basically a replacement-level player in his age-33 season, tallying a .267 TAv over 547 PA with below-average defense at first base.

LaRoche isn’t entering his prime himself, but he bounced back from a disappointing 2013 campaign to post a .305 TAv last year with the Nationals. FRAA has seen the 35-year-old in a more favorable light throughout his career compared to other defensive metrics, and a positive defensive contribution last season helped boost him to 3.8 WARP.

LaRoche has never fared particularly well against same-sided pitchers, but Jeff Baker would give the Marlins the flexibility to spell LaRoche against tough southpaws. The 33-year-old journeyman served as a platoon-mate for Jones last year and has hit lefties to the tune of a .858 OPS over 957 career plate appearances.

Rosenthal later reported that the White Sox and Padres, among others, could get in on the bidding for LaRoche.

As for Shields, the Marlins would have to cough up significantly more cash, and the no. 12 pick in the draft.

With several other teams expected to be in on Shields this offseason, the Marlins would likely have to commit at least four or five years to Shields, who turns 33 next month. However, in last month’s Hot Stove scouting report on Shields, Jordan Gorosh tabbed him as a role-70 pitcher—a low No. 1 starter who should age well and should “re-define himself as a two-seam/cutter pitcher later in the career.”

With Jose Fernandez not expected back until the middle of the season, Shields would provide the Marlins with a reliable front-of-the-rotation arm that could anchor the young Miami rotation until their staff ace returns.

With no clear second-place team behind the Nationals in the NL East, the Marlins are in a position to build a squad around Stanton that could be playing meaningful games in September. It will be interesting to see if there’s more to come.

Dodgers making a push for Alexei Ramirez?
Rumblings about trade interest in the 33-year-old shortstop cropped up two weeks ago when CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine wrote that the White Sox had answered inquiries from the Mets, Yankees and Dodgers about Ramirez’s availability. It appears that the Dodgers might be taking an extra step forward in negotiations, according to a report yesterday by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale:

Los Angeles seems unlikely to bring back Hanley Ramirez, and in-house replacement Erisbel Arruebarrena isn’t likely to profile as much more than a glove-only option at shortstop come Opening Day. Hence, the elder Ramirez, who is owed $10 million in 2015 with a $10 million club option for 2016, would be a logical fit for the Dodgers.

Whether the two sides can work out a deal is another question, but Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago notes that Rick Hahn and Andrew Friedman do have history as trading partners. Before the 2013 trading deadline, Hahn’s White Sox and Friedman’s Rays worked out a deal for an injured Jesse Crain; it was a unique transaction in which the value of the return would be based on Crain’s performance.

Crain never pitched for Tampa Bay and the deal was completed in October when the Rays traded a pair of non-prospects back to Chicago. At last week’s GM meetings, Hahn told Hayes that the two of them maintain a good relationship and that completing the Crain trade required “a fair amount of creativity and trust.”

Ramirez is fresh off a 3.2 WARP season and has shown that he can still pick it even as he enters his mid-30s. It should take a substantial offer to pry away a strong defensive shortstop who can hold his own with the bat and has a relatively club-friendly contract. We’ll see if Hahn’s camp and Friedman’s new front office can get creative again this time around.

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As a resident south suburban Chicagoan I have been unkind to Alexei. I was about to say that the Dodgers could do better than Alexei and that trying to save money on printing a new name on the back of a jersey was pointless but the numbers show maybe taking the solid 158 game a year Alexei beats the flashes of brilliance Hanley shows.

Going back to 2008 Hanley looks superior with a median WAR of 4.8 v. Alexei clocking in at 2.4 but some interesting math shakes out from 2011 thru 2014. After H.'s 2011 injury his numbers unravel. In 2012, a full season for Hanley, his WAR falls from 5.0 in 2010 to 2.5 for full year 2012 combined. And the 5.0 in 2010 is down from 6.4 in 09 and 8.3 in 2008.

From 2011 to 2014 Hanley has an average WAR of 2.7 per season to 2.6 for Alexei. And it all comes down to plate appearances and games played. From 2011 thru 2014 Hanley plays in 92, 128, 96, and 128 games and averages 108. Alexei, on the other hand, plays 158 games each season. They can spend elsewhere and at the same time have a consistent, if unspectacular middle infield.

And from the Sox standpoint Alexei may have a club friendly contract but they are playing in a a fan angry environment. A highly suspect farm system and a cast of retiring post prime veterans does not an attendance boost make. If Abreu ends up regressing there is no way the sox will match their 1,650,821 attendance figure landing them in the coveted 29th spot.

The firm I work for has Cubs, Sox, Bulls and Bears season tickets and the Sox performance has done wonders for my attendance. I can go and watch Sale punch out 14 any time I want, watch great talent pass thru town, and from right behind home plate because none of our clients, literally 1 out of 81 opportunities, would take us up on an offer of an afternoon or evening at US Cell. Contrast this with the Cubs, where 77 games were filled within two phone calls. For sox games we were calling 5, 6 clients deep, even when Kluber, Darvish, Mike Trout, etc. rolled through and not one client said thanks, lets go. One client, a guy who hates baseball, said yes to the Konerko farewell game.

The Marlins' first basemen ranked 18th in the league in OPS? That is pretty brutal in a 15-team league.