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Marlins make no qualifying offers to free agents

Marlins make no qualifying offers to free agents

Marlins make no qualifying offers to free agents

MIAMI -- Let the shopping begin.

Free agency is starting up, launching a Hot Stove season that once again should be eventful for the Marlins.

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Five players from the 2013 squad will be free to test the open market -- third baseman Placido Polanco, reliever Chad Qualls, and outfielders Juan Pierre, Matt Diaz and Austin Kearns.

Qualls, 35, enjoyed a solid season as a setup man, posting a 2.61 ERA in 66 games. The right-hander, a non-roster invitee last spring, likely will get an attractive offer for next year.

The Marlins and Qualls have mutual interest, but other possibilities could arise for both sides.

Polanco, 38, was a veteran leader on a young squad, and he batted .260 in 118 games. It is doubtful he will return.

Pierre, a fan favorite, understands that his second stint with the Marlins could be his last, even though at 36 he may have limited opportunities elsewhere.

"I'm fine. I understand the situation," Pierre told MLB.com a few weeks ago. "I still love to play, that's no secret. I still work out like I'm going to be out there every day. I hope to get a chance to get a job for next year.

"If not, and this is the last hurrah, I can't complain one bit. I can honestly say I never thought I'd play over 13 years in the big leagues. I'm grateful for every opportunity. Physically and mentally, I still feel like I can play at this level."

The free agency process began last Thursday, the day after the World Series ended. League rules allow for each team to have a five-day window in which to negotiate with or sign its pending free agents.

All teams had until 5 p.m. ET on Monday to make qualifying offers to their pending free agents, which enables them to receive Draft pick compensation if the player signs elsewhere. The Marlins made no such offers.

They did claim utility player Jimmy Paredes off waivers from the Astros on Monday, bringing their roster to 33.

The Marlins aren't expected to be big spenders in free agency, but if something makes sense, they are open to modest deals, with the top offseason priorities being third base and catcher.

Incumbent Jeff Mathis is expected to handle the bulk of the catching duties next season, but the team is looking for another veteran who could split time behind the plate.

Although Rob Brantly was the Opening Day catcher last year, the 24-year-old may need more seasoning in the Minor Leagues.

Atlanta's Brian McCann, one of the top free agents on the market, is not considered a viable option. At this stage of his career, he may be best suited for the American League, where he could get relief from catching duties by being used as a designated hitter.

Another high-profile free agent, Boston's Jarrod Saltalamacchia, may be out of Miami's price range, since it has been estimated that he will receive more than $30 million for four years.

More modestly priced options could be Jose Molina of the Rays, Dioner Navarro of the Cubs and former Marlin John Buck of the Pirates.

Navarro, a switch-hitter, turns 30 in January. He batted .300 in 89 games, and he has 54 career home runs.

There could be plenty of competition for Navarro's services, as he's already been linked to such teams as the Yankees and Phillies.

Navarro traditionally has hurt the Marlins, batting .318 with a .402 on-base percentage, plus three homers and 17 RBIs in 24 games.

Journeyman Molina, 38, spent the past two seasons with Tampa Bay. A standout on defense, he batted .233 with a .290 on-base percentage in 99 games last year. He is a career .238 hitter, with 39 homers and 213 RBIs.

Buck was the Marlins' regular catcher in 2011-12 before going to the Blue Jays as part of the blockbuster 12-player trade last November. The veteran, now 33, was then traded to the Mets and later to the Pirates.

It is unlikely he will return to Miami.

The Marlins may wind up pursuing trade options for a catcher, and Chris Iannetta of the Angels could be a possible match.

The search also begins for a third baseman. A free agent possibility could be Juan Uribe, who made an impact in the postseason with the Dodgers.

There is also speculation that the team could inquire about trade options with the Red Sox for Will Middlebrooks. Mark Trumbo of the Angels is a potential power candidate.

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.

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