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Phillies still have a thing for Giancarlo Stanton
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Earlier this season, we told you about the Phillies’ interest in Miami Marlins’ slugger Giancarlo Stanton (see story).

Well, the Phils still have a thing for Stanton.

“I’ve tried to trade for him at least 10 times,” GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said Wednesday afternoon.

Amaro pretended to tap out a text message on his cell phone.

“He says, ‘I’m not trading him,’“ said Amaro, pretending to read the response from Larry Beinfest, the Marlins’ president of baseball operations.

When was the last time Amaro inquired about Stanton?

“Not all that long ago,” Amaro said.

The Phillies have long been on the lookout for a big, middle-of-the-order, right-handed bat. Stanton, who had 93 home runs before his 23rd birthday, certainly fits that description.

“He’s one of the best right-handed power bats in the game,” Amaro said.

He paused and added: “He’s property of the Marlins, dude.”

Stanton, who turns 24 in November, has been mentioned as a trade possibility ever since the Marlins shipped out a bunch of high-priced talent last offseason. The prevailing thought was that Stanton would be the next one to go because his salary was set to jump significantly from $537,000 as he became eligible for arbitration this winter.

The Marlins have steadfastly said they intend to keep Stanton, but that hasn’t stopped other clubs -- such as the Phillies -- from inquiring.

While the Phillies are likely to continue to inquire about Stanton, they have some potential right-handed power bats in their own system. Darin Ruf has gotten a long look during the second half of the season and impressed with 13 homers in his first 192 at-bats.

Down below, Maikel Franco hit .320 with 31 homers and 103 RBIs in 134 games split between advanced Single A and Double A this season. Franco is ready to go to Triple A next season and he might not be far away from Philadelphia. The only hitch is: Where will he play? He is a third baseman by trade and the Phillies have been extremely pleased with what they have seen of rookie Cody Asche at the position. Franco doesn’t have the foot speed to play outfield, but has dabbled at first base. However, there’s no room there as Ryan Howard’s contract (three more years at $85 million) is virtually unmovable.

Several weeks ago, Amaro mentioned the possibility of Asche taking some balls in the outfield, just to see if that was a down-the-road option.

That plan is on hold, but could be revisited in spring training, especially if Franco’s bat is too difficult to ignore in Clearwater.

“We kicked it around,” Amaro said of Asche getting a look in the outfield. “Right now we see him as a third baseman. He might be athletic enough to play the outfield, but right now we see him as a third baseman.”

Amaro acknowledged, “There’s a lot of time between now and next April. A lot can happen -- trades, signings. There’s going to be some competition for jobs in spring training. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.”

If Asche were to ever play the outfield, left field would likely be the spot as he’d be looking at the ball from the same angle as third base. His arm would also play better at the position. Domonic Brown, who has played left field this season, could still end up in right field someday. If that were to happen in the short term, Ruf could be used in a trade to fill an area of need.

This is all September speculation, the thing you do when the team is out of the race and looking for more offense next season. As Amaro said, a lot can happen between now and April. One thing seems certain, though. The Phils will continue to covet Giancarlo Stanton even if the return text message always says, “I’m not trading him.”