MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — Coming off of a surprisingly good season in which the Miami Marlins stayed in the National League playoff race until mid-September, the team is already looking towards the future.
The first step in ensuring that future is full of more playoff-caliber seasons is to lock down the team’s best player for years to come.
Contract talks have started between Giancarlo Stanton and the Marlins, who are prepared to offer a multiyear deal that would be a big departure for the historically thrifty franchise.
President of baseball operations Mike Hill declined to say whether the Marlins have made an offer, but they’ve begun discussions with agent Joel Wolfe regarding an agreement with the All-Star right fielder.
“Negotiations are ongoing,” Hill said Wednesday. “We’re hopeful we’ll be able to make him a Marlin for many years to come.”
Even if Stanton rejects the Marlins’ offer, he’s expected to play for Miami next year, and doesn’t become a free agent until after the 2016 season.
Stanton recently won the NL Hank Aaron Award and was voted the NL’s outstanding player in balloting by his fellow major leaguers. He’s a top candidate for the NL Most Valuable Player Award.
“He’s the MVP in my eyes,” Hill said. “There are probably some things that will impact our negotiations that still need to be determined. But we reached out and let his representative know we’re ready to engage.”
Stanton’s season ended Sept. 11 when he was hit in the face by a pitch. Despite missing the final 17 games, he led the NL with 37 homers and a .555 slugging percentage for the Marlins, who went 77-85 but ended a three-year streak of last-place finishes in the NL East.
Stanton has 154 career homers at age 24 and is part of a talented young Marlins roster.
“We have a different team when he’s not in the lineup,” Hill said. “He’s a big part of our offense. That’s why we’re trying to keep him long-term in the middle of that order and surround him with pieces that give us an opportunity to win on a daily basis.”
The Marlins haven’t set a deadline regarding negotiations, Hill said.
“At some point he’s either going to be signed to a multiyear or a one-year,” Hill said.
Wolfe didn’t respond to messages from the AP seeking comment.
The last time the Marlins spent big was before a poor 2012 season, the first in their new ballpark. Their 2014 payroll of $52.3 million was the lowest in the majors. That figure is expected to rise next year, but Hill declined to offer specifics.
“We’re going to be able to do what we need to do,” he said. “The plan is to retain all our players including the big right fielder hopefully and find a way to continue to upgrade the roster.”
Hill said Stanton looks great but still has an occasional headache in the wake of his beaning. He’s expected to follow his normal offseason workout routine, but likely won’t get in a batting cage until spring training.
Ace Jose Fernandez is on schedule in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, Hill said.
“Jose’s progress has been great,” Hill said. “We are cautiously optimistic he’ll be back and ready to go sometime in June or July.”
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