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James Shields, Max Scherzer only remaining paths for Marlins to improve

If the Marlins wanted to improve on their roster further, signing free agents James Shields or Max Scherzer are pretty much the only remaining avenues. However, their price tags are too steep for the improvement.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins are clearly going for it in 2015, but they too have limits. The Fish set their payroll for this upcoming season at $65 million and are essentially at that mark already. The only current remaining thread is to figure out if the team can keep Dan Haren's $10 million sent over by the Los Angeles Dodgers while still trading him to another team. The Fish supposedly want to use this money to help pay for Mat Latos's final arbitration season.

The Marlins are going for it in 2015, but they appear to be all but complete in actually "going for it" in the offseason. After a flurry of moves have reset the roster, the team appears to be done adding significant parts. It is interested in a variety of outfielders to fill a fourth outfielder role, particularly from the lefty side, It may even consider another lefty reliever. But as far as improving the team's starting cast and the important players on the roster, it appears the Marlins are essentially out of options.

The only two players available to a team like the Fish who would actually improve the roster would be free agents James Shields and Max Scherzer. The Marlins were realistically never involved with Scherzer, but Shields has been an off-and-on flirtation. Miami is only interested in Shields at the right price though, and currently the Fish cannot even fit him for much of any price without expanding the budget or trading Haren's contract away.

Shields is expecting a deal around the purported five-year, $110 million contract he has "on the table," and at that price, Miami would and should be out of the bidding. Shields is expecting to earn $22 million a year to starting at his age-33 season. Even if the Marlins backload the contract, it would be a hefty deal to have to either trade or contend with in future seasons as Shields ages. His health has never been a question throughout his career, but no pitcher is invincible and time is still undefeated. The Marlins committing that kind of money just to get the maximum benefit for their 2015 and perhaps 2016 runs seems unnecessary.

One look throughout the rest of the field, however, and the remaining options at starter are no better than what the Fish have. The field of starting pitchers is wrought with injury risks and mediocre names beyond Scherzer and Shields, and the top two starters are way too expensive for Miami.

Look at the rest of the roster and you will see a team that apparently bears no glaring weaknesses, at least according to this article and the Marlins' plans. You and I might see the infield of Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria as a problem, but the Marlins think those roster spots are set. The team's primary needs in the middle infield and at first base were filled. The club even upgraded at third base. The outfield is entirely set. The rotation and bullpen are almost complete

The Marlins also have no further options in terms of acquiring players via trade. The Fish had been building a sufficiently effective farm system behind a plethora of pitching. The team then decided to trade a good number of those pitching names for the upgrades they made this offseason. It was an understandable move, but the well is now almost dry on the Marlins' talent pool, with a diminished pitching prospect crew to go along with a thin position player line. The Marlins' farm system right now probably ranks in the lower third and lacks the ammo to go after an upgrade.

The Marlins are now officially out of avenues to improve the franchise significantly for 2015. The only remaining options are too expensive and should be avoided. The team has exhausted all of its depth in acquiring the players it has. The club now has no glaring holes in its proposed starting lineup. For better or worse, this is the 2015 Miami Marlins. We will have a few months to iron out the final kinks and see if the team has what it takes to compete.