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Marlins GM: Trade talks heating up

Marlins poised to make a move at Meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Trade talks have intensified for the Marlins over the last 36 hours, and the club may be primed to complete a deal before the Winter Meetings wrap up on Thursday.

Without offering specifics, Florida general manager Larry Beinfest noted that since the meetings began, several new ideas have surfaced that have caught the team's attention.

"I would say there are some new things that we've pursued over the last 36 hours, and maybe there is a chance we could consummate [a deal]," Beinfest said early Tuesday night. "But I don't have a good feel at this time. It will revolve around the areas that we have talked about already."

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The areas the Marlins are looking at are center field and a potential closer.

In the meetings on the grounds of Disney World, Beinfest noted: "We're not coming here for the thrill rides."

A prime center field target is Tampa Bay's Rocco Baldelli, who likely will command a young starting pitcher.

Interest in Baldelli intensified on Monday, and to secure a deal may involve a package that would include one of the four rookies in the Marlins rotation this past season.

Sources said Baldelli was the hottest name in the lobby on Tuesday, drawing serious interest from six teams. The Tigers, along with the Marlins, are believed to be making a strong push for the center fielder.

Unless they have a change of heart, the Marlins will not part with Josh Johnson, and they are very reluctant to move Scott Olsen, Anibal Sanchez or Ricky Nolasco.

"I don't want to give false hope to the media, or our fans, but we are active," Beinfest said. "Again, it takes two to tango. We've been through this drill before. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't. But there are some new things we have followed up on in the last 36 hours, either presented or they were brought to us."

A number of Marlins officials are actively combing through the Dolphin Hotel lobby, interacting with representatives of other teams.

Signing a high-profile free agent isn't part of the team's plans at this time. Because of budget restraints, the Marlins are seeking making deals for affordable parts.

"People want to improve their clubs," Beinfest said. "We talk to teams. They want to be active because this is the time to try to make your team better. Whether it's trying to sign a high-profile free agent or moving around some prospects, people want to do stuff. It's just a matter of how they are set up and if it makes sense."

Pitching is the luxury the Marlins most enjoy. Organizationally, there is depth throughout their farm system.

Typically, if the Marlins move pitching through a trade, they'd seek pitching in return.

Another plus the Marlins have is, should all four rookie starters from 2006 return, they'd each make the league minimum of $380,000 next year. And their arbitration period doesn't kick in until after the 2008 season.

It's for those reasons that the Marlins are so cautious about moving their current rotation. Also, the team wants to have additional starting pitching depth as insurance to guard against injury or a performance drop off.

That makes Sergio Mitre, Jose Garcia and Yusmeiro Petit valuable in the eyes of the front office.

"It's very important to have those people in place," Beinfest said. "They are very important parts to us. It's a long season, and you are going to need everybody."

Beinfest repeated that there are closer candidates from within, including Matt Lindstrom, Henry Owens and Taylor Tankersley. Perhaps converting one of their current starters like Nolasco to closer is another possibility.

Ideally, the team would like to have someone with experience in the back end, either as closer or eighth-inning options. Milwaukee right-hander Derrick Turnbow fits the profile.

In Winter Meetings-related news, National League Rookie of the Year Hanley Ramirez was at the Trade Show as part of a promotion for Pro-Start Athletics.

The 22-year-old shortstop is endorsing an instructional hitting tool called "Hit Like A Big Shot!"

Ramirez is the Marlins' second Rookie of the Year. In 2003, Dontrelle Willis won the award.

Ramirez signed autographs and mingled with fans at the Trade Show for a couple of hours.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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