James Shields to the Marlins is still highly unlikely

In writing about the James Shields market on Thursday, I said that the Marlins’€™ front office was trying to persuade owner Jeffrey Loria to sign the free-agent right-hander, according to major-league sources.

Well, Shields to the Marlins is still highly unlikely.

The Marlins signaled early in the off-season that they were budgeting for about a $60 million payroll. Their payroll currently projects to about $70 million, and the signing of Shields likely would take it to the $85 million to $90 million range.

Shields, 33, still would be a perfect fit for a mostly young Miami rotation, but the Marlins want to avoid the mistakes they made during the 2011-12 off-season.


That was when the Fish signed three free agents — shortstop Jose Reyes, left-hander Mark Buehrle and closer Heath Bell — to backloaded deals worth a combined $191 million.

The Marlins have done a better job of staggering commitments in their latest buildup — right-hander Mat Latos is under one more year of control, infielder Martin Prado and outfielder Michael Morse two. Even right fielder Giancarlo Stanton’€™s 13-year, $325 million extension is designed to fit the team’€™s new financial model.

Stanton will be paid $107 million over the first six years of his deal, after which he can opt out. His opt-out would occur in 2020, the same year the Marlins’€™ local TV contract expires. The Marlins intend to re-negotiate the TV deal before then, better positioning them to handle Stanton’€™s larger salaries if he stays.

The team, then, is embarking upon a measured buildup, not another all-in frenzy. Yes, the Marlins could clear $10 million by trading right-hander Dan Haren and convincing his new team to take all of his salary. But any prospective suitor likely would balk, noting that the Dodgers agreed to pay all of Haren’€™s salary as part of his trade to Miami. And even if the Marlins could pull off such a trick, they still would not have enough for Shields.

It’s a new era for the Marlins, all right. Impulsiveness is out. Restraint and rational planning are in.