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Marlins have a plan with Stanton; Heat pursues free agents; Dolphins, UM chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The thinking around the Marlins, going back to last winter, had been pretty simple: Offer a long-term contract this winter to Giancarlo Stanton, who can become a free agent in November 2016, then likely consider trade offers this winter if he rejects it.

The second half of that scenario has changed.

According to a person with direct knowledge, the Marlins’ current plan is to make an attractive multiyear offer to Stanton this offseason but keep him to start the 2015 season even if rejects it. The Marlins are prepared to pay him whatever he will command as a second-year arbitration-eligible player this winter --- potentially in the $13 million to $14 million range for 2015.

Though it's possible owner Jeffrey Loria could change his mind if Stanton requests a trade, two factors have influenced the team’s thinking:

### The Marlins believe they will be a playoff contender next season, with the prospect of Jose Fernandez coming back around the All-Star break, and know Stanton helps their chances in 2015 more than anything they could acquire for him via trade.

### The Marlins are confident they can get a lot for Stanton even if they wait closer to his eligibility for free agency, perhaps before the 2016 season or during it. Last month, the Red Sox traded ace Jon Lester three months before free agency and got Yoenis Cespedes from Oakland.

Stanton wants to see the Marlins make a commitment to winning consistently. The Marlins' hope is that even if he turns down their offer this winter, he might accept one the following offseason if the Marlins are a playoff team in 2015 and prove they're ready to win consistently.

If it reaches the point of trading Stanton eventually --- and the Marlins know it would be foolish to lose him for nothing --- they will not seek merely prospects in return.

According to an official who has spoken to the Marlins, the team sees at least five clubs that could put together an attractive package for Stanton, with big-league players and prospects: the Dodgers, Boston, Texas, Pittsburgh and Houston.

If it reaches the point of trade discussions, expect the Marlins to ask the Dodgers about Yasiel Puig. But trade conversations haven’t happened.

Though the Marlins know of Stanton’s affection for California, they hope he will genuinely consider their offer this winter.

Asked if he will consider a Marlins offer with an open mind, Stanton --- who’s hitting. 295 with 32 homers and 88 RBI --- said last week that topic “doesn’t matter” to him and he won’t think about it until the offer happens.

Stanton enjoys living in Miami, according to associates. But many believe he wants eventually to play in California or for a perennial winner.

I'll be surprised if he signs a multiyear contract with the Marlins to buy out some of his free agency years, but hopefully he'll surprise us, for the sake of baseball in South Florida.

Stanton said he’s having his most fun as a Marlin because “every other year in my career, we’re 20 games out at this point in the season.”

He’s hitting .315 with 21 homers and 60 RBI at home but said earlier this summer he still believes the Marlins need to move in the fences at Marlins Park, which the team has been disclined to do but hasn't ruled out.

### Loria, incidentally, has not informed his front office of a projected payroll for next season. It's close to $50 million this season and will need to rise to accommodate raises for several arbitration-eligible players.

CHATTER

### The Heat is serious about adding another shooting guard and a big man if it can find two good ones willing to take the veteran’s minimum. After recently working out Jordan Hamilton (who signed with Toronto) and Chris Douglas-Roberts, the Heat also has inquired about Leandro Barbosa and Jordan Crawford, who both hold appeal to Miami.

Among power rotation players, the Heat has shown interest in Emeka Okafor and has considered Ekpe Udoh. Preliminary inquiries were made on Andray Blatche and Jason Maxiell. Agent David Falk said he talked to the Heat about Elton Brand but that Brand is unlikely to end up here.

### Dwyane Wade said on social media that he has spent the past few days working out with Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem and Josh McRoberts at Indiana University, which is coached by Tom Crean, Wade's friend and former coach at Marquette.

### Word is Brad Kaaya did not especially help or hurt his chances in Monday’s scrimmage, with Jake Heaps sidelined with an arm issue that he says isn't serious. Kaaya threw two touchdowns but his accuracy wasn’t always great on downfield throws. He goes through periods where he's very hot, and other stretches where his accuracy drops off. But UM coaches like what they've seen overall.

### Thurston Armbrister returned a Malik Rosier interception for a touchdown during the scrimmage, but the staff likes Rosier's upside.

### The UM defense has been unable to effectively cover quick, shifty freshman slot receiver Braxton Berrios, and he’s going to be difficult to keep off the field.

Berrios says he has been hearing the comparisons to Wes Welker for six years and “there are definitely similarities. If I have a tenth of what he has, that’s a good thing. I’ve been studying Welker, DeSean Jackson, Tavon Austin, Steve Smith, Danny Amendola.”

### UM people are raving about how running back Joseph Yearby looked in Monday's scrimmage, even though he's not even 100 percent back to form after last fall's ankle surgery. He is going to get a lot of playing time this season.

### Killian safety Jaquan Johnson tonight became UM's sixth four-star oral commitment in its 2015 class. Johnson previously had been leaning toward Florida State.

### Baltimore-based Dolphins fan Neal Driscoll, who works in sales, has gotten 806 fan signatures on a petition to try to get the Dolphins to move Dion Jordan from defensive end to linebacker, which is a bigger need area for Miami.

Jordan’s message to Driscoll? “Stick to sales. They got me here to pass rush. That’s what I should be focusing on, not playing linebacker.”

He says he’s comfortable at defensive end and believes he has had a good training camp/preseason.

### Undrafted rookie making the strongest push? Linebacker/end Chris McCain, who was dismissed from the California team last September and had offers only from the Dolphins and St. Louis.

“He’s got an interesting skill set we are trying to get to know better,” Joe Philbin said.

McCain is working mostly at linebacker but some at defensive end on third downs and said he's being used in ways similar to Jordan's role in the Dolphins' speed package.

### Mike Wallace said the NFL’s renewed emphasis on defensive holding and illegal contact is helping “other teams, not our team. We don’t get those calls. I don’t know why.”

Please see the last post, from this afternoon, for more Dolphins, UM and Heat chatter... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

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