MIAMI -- Until James Shields is off the market, the Marlins will remain linked to the 33-year-old right-hander. The catch is structuring a contract that won't damage the organization's long-term payroll projections.
The front office is in the process of finding out if a deal with Shields is possible. MLB.com has confirmed the Marlins and Shields continue to have ongoing conversations, but it is unclear if they are the front-runner.
The Padres, Blue Jays, Cardinals and Yankees reportedly are also vying for Shields' services. FoxSports.com reports Shields has multiple offers on the table and that he may sign by the end of the week.
It's no secret Miami has had Shields on its wish list since the start of free agency. But there are long-range concerns because of the fact he has logged at least 200 innings for eight straight seasons.
Ideally, the Marlins would like to get the deal done for three seasons, but it may require a fourth. The question then becomes dollars, as well as how to structure a deal without risking payroll projections over the next few seasons.
The Marlins have made a four-year offer to a 33-year-old starter in the past. Mark Buehrle signed for $58 million in 2012. But Buehrle's contract was backloaded, and it had him making $18 million in 2014 and $20 million in '15. Miami traded the lefty to Toronto after the '12 season.
Another issue the Marlins are facing is the status of Dan Haren. Regarding Haren, the Miami Herald recently quoted team owner Jeffrey Loria saying: "I don't know: one moment he says he wants to play, the next minute he says might retire, the next minute he wants to pitch on the West Coast."
Although Haren has informed the team he will report to Spring Training, the 34-year-old right-hander also stressed his preference to pitch out West.
The Marlins acquired Haren from the Dodgers at the Winter Meetings in December, and Los Angeles has agreed to pay his $10 million salary, whether he pitches for Miami or retires.
It's unclear if the Marlins can afford a rotation that includes Shields, Haren and Mat Latos, who will make either $9.4 million or $10.4 million. One of those two figures will be decided at Latos' arbitration hearing this month.
What the organization has made clear is it is a win-now mode. If the front office can make the case to ownership that Shields greatly improves the club's playoff chances, then Miami may be able to finalize a deal.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.