WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN; UPDATED BELOW WITH TONIGHT'S NOTEWORTHY WADE/DURANT SOCIAL MEDIA EXCHANGE
Marlins special assistant Andre Dawson said owner Jeffrey Loria told him recently that he plans to acquire hitters, and Dawson said there are three priorities: third base, first base and catcher. But budget constraints again could prove limiting.
Marlins people (not Dawson) suspect the payroll will fall in the range of this season’s, which was $36 million before the Ricky Nolasco trade in July, plus $12.5 million paid to players dealt to Toronto and Arizona. But Loria hasn’t informed the staff of the 2014 payroll number and he’s prone to changing his mind.
“You are in dire need of offense, and it’s going to cost money,” Dawson said. “You have to spend to win, and you might have to overpay.… Jeffrey said on the last homestead that we have to get hitters in here and he’s going to.”
The Marlins entered Tuesday last in baseball with 503 runs (the average for National League teams is 630); last in homers at 95 (140 is the NL average) and last in batting average at .232 (.252).
The Marlins could fill one or two of those priority areas through trades. There are three problems with luring high-quality free agents, even beyond how much Loria is willing to spend: The team is coming off a horrible season; Loria is viewed suspiciously by players after trading Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle a year after signing them; and the roomy ballpark dimensions –-- criticized by Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison –-- are a major turnoff to hitters.
“Any single person who has taken batting practice here,” Stanton reiterated this week, “is not talking about how beautiful the park is or what hitters they’re worried about. They’re talking about the graveyard it is out there.”
Stanton said he suspects Marlins management is aware of the “chatter about” the ballpark dimensions but said “it’s not my job” to implore Loria to move in the fences. Manager Mike Redmond said he would not get involved in the issue. The Marlins have hit just 36 homers at home, 59 on the road.
Among free agents at the three priority areas:
### Catcher: The Braves’ Brian McCann (.261, 20 homers, 57 RBI) is presumably out of Miami’s price range. Other notable free agents: Boston catcher and West Palm Beach native Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.266, 13, 59), Texas’ A.J. Pierzynski (.275, 17, 66), the Cubs’ Dioner Navarro (.303, 13, 34) and Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz (.273, 5, 37).
### Third base: Weak group of free agents. The Marlins want someone who can be productive there for at least a year or two until Colin Moran is ready. The top free agents are all between 33 and 36: the Dodgers’ Juan Uribe (.273, 12, 48), the Dodgers’ Michael Young, who previously drew Marlins interest (.284, 8, 46) and Arizona’s Eric Chavez (.283, 9, 44).
### First base: A Marlins person said Loria expected more from Morrison (.246, 6, 36 in 81 games), even though Morrison was coming off knee surgery. “With all due respect to Logan, you want to address the need for better defense and more production offensively,” Dawson said.
Among free agents, the Brewers’ Corey Hart (.270, 30, 83) would be too expensive. Also set for free agency: Cuban defector Jose Dariel Abreu, who intrigues the Marlins; Boston’s Mike Napoli, who grew up in South Florida and can also play catcher (.257, 23, 90), Pittsburgh’s Justin Morneau (.258, 17, 76), Tampa’s James Loney (.296, 13, 71) and Seattle’s Kendrys Morales (.276, 22, 78).
Fort Lauderdale native Mike Morse, 31, has slumped badly for Seattle and Baltimore (.215, 13, 37) but had two exceptional years for Washington in 2011 and 2012 (combined 49 homers, .298 average), and Marlins like taking chances on players one season removed from good years because they tend to come cheaply.
### Dolphins defensive end Cam Wake, nursing a mild MCL sprain, did on-field work in a half-speed practice Tuesday and wants to play against New Orleans in passing situations, but the Dolphins haven’t decided whether to allow that. They will make a decision later in the week.
### Though defensive tackle Paul Soliai said there’s a 50-50 chance he will play Monday, it wouldn’t be surprising if he remains out. He told teammates that the original prognosis was four weeks for his MCL sprain, which would sideline him for the Saints and Ravens games before a bye week. And with the Dolphins playing a pass-heavy team Monday, Soliai wouldn't play as much as he would against a run-heavy team. He is still receiving treatment and hasn't been cleared to practice.
### Dolphins cornerback Dimitri Patterson said he re-aggravated his groin injury last week and might miss a third consecutive game.
“Best thing is to rest,” he said. “You have to be careful how you nurse it. If you aggravate it, it will turn into a year old deal.”
### Though the Dolphins auditioned several veteran free agent corners on Monday (DeMarcus Van Dyke, Ryan Mouton, Terrence McGee, Jacob Lacey, Jalil Brown, Ron Bartell), Bartell’s agent said the Dolphins told Bartell none would be signed for now.
### Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi, who missed part of Sunday's game with a shoulder injury, participated in the light session Tuesday, and teammates expect he will be fine for Monday's game.
### Dwyane Wade and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant engaged in a testy exchange on social media late tonight.
It started when Durant told Cinesport that his former Thunder teammate, James Harden, should have been included in Sports Illustrated's list of the top 10 NBA players this season instead of Wade, who was ranked eighth.
Wade responded with this hand-written note on Instagram: "9/24/13: Kevin Durant said James Harden should replace me in the Top 10. Note to self* Make him respect your place in history... again." Wade also typed the words: "Don't believe me. Just watch."
Durant's response? "Show me, Don't tweet me."
### Heat players have shown no sign of complacency off two championships. Wade indicated he was working out until 1:30 a.m. Monday night, Norris Cole has been shooting jumpers late into the night and Chris Bosh has been working hard on his game in California. A bunch of others, including Michael Beasley, have been doing on-court work at AmericanAirlines Arena. And Greg Oden, continuing to progress from his history of knee programs, has been doing work both on court and in the weight room.
### Add veteran NBA swingman Roger Mason Jr. to the list of players auditioning for the Heat. Mason, who's workout out for Miami this week, averaged 5.3 points in 69 games for New Orleans last season and shot 41.5 percent on three-pointers. Swingman Von Wafer was invited back to Miami for a second week of workouts but has been unable because of an injury.
### UM safety Deon Bush, still trying to regain his speed after hernia surgery and abdomenal issues: “It’s obvious I’m a totally different player than last year. I was disappointed in the way I played [Saturday].” When does he expect to be back to himself? "I can't really tell how long it will be."
### UM chose to discontinue its five-game series with USF, meaning Saturday will be the last matchup. UM saw no upside in continuing the series. The Hurricanes still have one non-conference opening on next year's schedule, with Southern Mississippi a possibility. A road game at Nebraska's is UM's only particularly challenging non-conference game in 2014.
### For more UM, Dolphins and Marlins notes, please see the last post from earlier today. I'm on Twitter: @flasportsbuzz