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Marlins Talking to Jose Reyes

      The Marlins are so enamored with All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes that they were in contact with the player at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, the moment the free agent signing period could begin. A contingent of high-ranking front office executives for the Marlins were spotted at Miami International Airport on Wednesday headed for New York, where Reyes' agent, Peter Greenberg, keeps his offices.

       If the Marlins were able to sign the Mets shortstop, it would necessitate a position change for Hanley Ramirez, something he said in September that he would welcome and accept. "It would be nice to play next to him," Ramirez said at the time. "He's an energy guy."

       Reyes is considered one of this year's "Big Three" position-player free agents, along with Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. He has battled a myriad of leg injuries the past three seasons that have cut into his playing time. He made two trips to the disabled list this past season with hamstring issues, but still managed to play in 126 games and qualify for the league batting crown with a .337 average.

       Reyes, 28, isn't the only marquee name the Marlins are targeting. They will be sending a contingent of 13 people -- including Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria -- to the Dominican Republic on Thursday to take a look at five-tool center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, a 26-year-old Cuban defector. Cespedes is expected to receive clearance to begin talking with major league teams later this month and could command a $30 million figure to sign, according to reports.

        "The Marlins love him," according to one source with knowledge of the team's interest.

        Some believe Cespedes is major league ready. If so, and the Marlins were able to sign both he and Reyes, it would likely put Ramirez at third base. Ramirez is recovering from September surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, but the Marlins believe he'll be ready for April 4 when they open their new ballpark against the World Series champion Cardinals.

        The interest in Reyes and Cespedes would seem to indicate the Marlins are prepared to increase payroll well above the $80 to $90 million figure some have projected. Reyes is expected to receive a 5- or 6-year deal, and the Marlins have said that they intend to upgrade the rotation with one or two more quality arms.

         This much is certain: as the Marlins prepare to move into their new digs, they're going all-out to jazz up the roster. Marlins president David Samson, president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest and general manager Mike Hill flew from Miami to New York last Wednesday to begin discussions with Reyes at the first possible moment.

          They'll head to the Dominican on Thursday to evaluate Cespedes in a private workout. On Friday, when they officially become the Miami Marlins, they'll unveil their new logo and uniforms in a three-hour ceremony at the new ballpark.