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Marlins offseason plans; Holtz on UM-Notre Dame; Tuesday Dolphins chatter; Heat

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Marlins chatter on the eve of the offseason:

### The Marlins have not met yet to discuss their offseason plans, but they plan to make third base a priority this winter and also likely will look to add another starting position player if they do not re-sign Carlos Lee.

But here’s the challenge: Though there’s no final decision, the Marlins expect payroll to be in the $80 million range, about $15 million below 2012. That would leave only about $9 million to spend on seven or eight players, unless they trade a high-priced pitcher, which will be considered.

Five position players are likely set: Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Reyes, Logan Morrison, Emilio Bonifacio, Rob Brantly.

With the Mets expected to pick David Wright’s $16 million option, the free-agent third base options aren’t especially inspiring: Kevin Youkalis (.236, 19 homers, 60 RBI), Jeff Keppinger (.328, 9, 40) Placido Polanco (.257, 2, 19), Eric Chavez (.284, 16, 37), Mark Reynolds (.226, 23, 69), Brandon Inge (.218, 12, 54), Ty Wigginton (.234, 11, 43) and Scott Rolen (.243, 7, 38).

“We might need to find somebody under-the-radar like we did with Jorge Cantu a few years ago,” one Marlins official said.

Don’t rule out a trade for a third baseman. The Marlins believe third base prospect Zack Cox is a year or two away.

### Owner Jeffrey Loria really likes Donovan Solano (.296), who has made a strong case to be the full-time starter at second base. If Solano starts, Bonifacio likely would play center field, though third base is possible. He said he would be comfortable at any of the three.

### Lee said he would like to re-sign, but the Marlins have told him nothing. His return is not completely out of the question, but the Marlins are expected to explore other options. If Lee isn’t kept, they likely would move Morrison to first base and add an outfielder to start or platoon with Justin Ruggiano.

### Unless the Marlins trade salary to create payroll space, they cannot afford free agent outfielders Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher, Delmon Young, Michael Bourn, Melky Cabrera, BJ Upton, Torii Hunter or potentially even Cody Ross, Angel Pagan or Shane Victorino.

Among cheaper free agents outfielders: Juan Pierre (.310), Scott Hairston (.258, 19, 54), Raul Ibanez (.235, 18, 59), Reed Johnson (.287) and Jonny Gomes (.256, 17, 46).

James Loney (.249, 5, 40) and Casey Kotchman (.231, 12, 55) are among the very few (somewhat) decent free-agent first base options if Morrison stays in left field, which seems unlikely.

### The Marlins have $64.6 million owed to eight players for 2013: Josh Johnson ($13.75), Ricky Nolasco ($11.5 million), Mark Buehrle ($11 million), Heath Bell ($9 million), Reyes ($10 million), John Buck ($6 million), Greg Dobbs ($1.6 million) and Jacob Turner ($1.75 million).

That figure grows to about $71 million when factoring in arbitration-eligible Bonifacio and Ryan Webb, plus eight players under team control, including Stanton, Morrison and Steve Cishek.

The Marlins could deal Nolasco for a run-producing position player if they believe they can fill the third through fifth rotation spots with Nathan Eovaldi, Turner and either Wade LeBlanc or a cheap free agent. Trading Johnson instead is a possibility if a team is also willing to take on the $18 million due on Bell's contract. That would free up a ton of money to improve the offense.

Position players expected to be available in the trade market this winter include, among others, Colorado center fielder Dexter Fowler and infielder/outfielder Michael Cuddyer.

CHATTER

UM and Notre Dame, meeting in the regular season for the first time since 1990 (they played in the 2010 Sun Bowl), likely will meet about seven times in the next 20 years, including 2016 and ‘17.

ESPN announcer and former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, who went 2-2 against Miami in the final four games (1987-1990), said off air Tuesday that the series renewal “is good for college football. What made it so great is so many people love Notre Dame and some hate them, and there are a lot of Miami haters in this country.

Al Golden has done an excellent job, and I like your quarterback,” Holtz said. “Defensively, you’re a ways away from being a great team. For all the great things that Steve Walsh… and those guys did, it was their defense that made them great. No doubt Notre Dame is a better team.”

Golden said Tuesday that “former players know we want to play well for them” Saturday, but he won’t much discuss the rivalry with his players because “getting into all that this week, I don’t know how that’s going to help our team grow.” Randal Hill reportedly wanted to address the UM team about the rivalry this week, and other former Canes greats are weighing in on Twitter.

“Gonna drop kick that leprechaun right through the uprights and stamp a U on his butt! LOL!” tweeted Alonzo Highsmith, whose son starts at safety for UM.  Alonzo smiled about his dad's tweets: “He has got a lot of energy."

Chicago, the site of Saturday's game, is less than 90 miles from Notre Dame's campus. So when Golden was asked what he thinks of neutral site games, he smiled and said: "Well, I prefer it to be neutral. We start there."

### Regrettably, Dolphins rookie third-round pick Michael Egnew apparently still isn't ready. Though tight end Charles Clay has had more drops (two) than receptions (one, for two yards), offensive coordinator Mike Sherman suggested Tuesday he’s not ready to use rookie Michael Egnew instead.

Egnew “is still making some rookie mistakes,” Sherman said. And what about Clay? "He “running great routes and has a lot of talent," Sherman said. "I have to find a way to get him going and I haven’t done a very good job of that yet. That’s on me.”

### Davone Bess gave an immediate “yes” Tuesday when asked by another reportert if Brian Hartline’s speed is underestimated because he is white. Hartline leads the league with 455 receiving yards. If teams underestimated his speed, “I don’t think they will anymore,” Sherman said.... See our story elsewhere on the web site, on the Dolphins signing Jabar Gaffney (one-year deal) and cutting Legedu Naanee.

### Sherman said “the time will come at the halfway point” to decide between Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller as the primary No. 2 running back.

### Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said Sean Smith’s game Sunday was “perhaps the best since he’s been a Dolphin.” But he added Richard Marshall “knows he can play better, as can Nolan Carroll…. They’re hopefully going to play at the level we know they can.”

### Opponents are averaging 43 passes per game against Miami, highest in the league, and the third-most passing yards per game. Surprisingly, though, Miami is allowing the third-lowest completion percentage (54), Coyle said… Coyle told his unit: “We have to find a way to win. And we have to find a way to win now. Period. End of story.”

### Heat center Dexter Pittman, at his lowest weight in years (275) after topping 375 as a freshman at Texas, got a pep talk from Pat Riley and said he finally has “figured out the things I cannot do, and I’ve stopped trying to do them. In the past, I was thinking I had to try to dunk every time I got the ball.”

Comments

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Penguin

"The Windy City" takes on a whole new meaning in Soldiers Field. Good luck, everyone!

Juan

Shoulda drafted a receiver instead of Egnew. Another bust.

Jo jo

No one will be crying the blues for the Marlins with their Ownership.They ramrodded a stadium through mostly short-sighted Commissioners and though no record to ever believe their words....they yet promised the Marlins to be a better product AFTER a new stadium.Blah,blah,blah.Now......after Year 1 of the Great Masquerade............the results are worse than even last years.THIS Marlin franchise is heading .......BACKWARDS.......if that is even possible since they were already last.Blah,blah,blah.

mike

Juan, Dennis Pitta a tight end who plays for Baltimore had 1 reception his rookie year, 40 last year and on pace for 70 this year. You can't tell after 4 games who is a bust and who isn't. Don't be a moron.

Jo jo

DANIEL THOMAS is a huge disappointment...game in and game out.The guy is so inconsistently inconsistent.He ll have a good run 1 game on 1 series and you ll say wow.Then......sizzle....pfttttttttttttttttttttttttttt.just like that on the next series.Guy looks tough and then soft....all in a matter of a few series.WHAT S HIS PROBLEM?????????????Personally.....I feel comfortable when I see Lamar Miller in there.At least his speed forces teams to account for him at all times.Also.....he s more versatile and can take it to the house.....on any play.THOMAS will riding the pine soon...and should have been by now anyway.He.....mostly......"stinks".

SunnyDee

Another great update from Barry Jackson. All Miami sports covered in depth in one column. Thank you!

rbleigh

James Loney and Casey Kotchman are decent FA offerings, really? These guys are at or below Gaby Sanchez level and we the fans + the Marlin's FO ran that kid out of town.

Loney is no stick at 1B at a time when the Fish Offense is pitiful. Shoot, keep the money spend it another time if that's the case or here's a bonafide idea let Yelich come up and compete!

sickandtired

fitting that sean smith's best game as a dolphin comes in one where he gives up a 15 yd TD on 4th and 10 with the game on the line. Thats the play I remember, not the 2 INT's. I'm sure Ireland is drafting his contract extension as I write this....

Omaximus

The fact that Loria's (worthless) opinion on Solano is a determining factor in whether or not the kid is a starter next year proves again what a clueless egomaniac the Marlins owner is. Also worth noting that after lying about their finances for years in order to secure their new empty stadium, its clear that payroll is going down already and the $ saved in the Hanley trade will not be reinvested but will instead be pocketed by Loria.

UMike

F**K LOU HOLTZ...that weasel looking gopher A*S CLOWN!

He ruined two programs with his recruiting CHEATING (S.Carolina and Arkansas) and they make him out to be some kind of football guru on ESPN...he's a F**KING TROLL!

DR. LOU my A*S!

Nuck Fotre Dame!!

Julio

Loria likes Solano?? hahaha..Lorias fat assss should stick to artsy-fartsy crap, and leave the player evaluations to the Baseball people.

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