Busy Day for the Fish

image

With all the excitement of free agency this offseason, it’s easy to overlook the significance of the moves made by most of Major League Baseball yesterday. It was the most active day the Marlins had this offseason, as difficult as that may be to believe. Yesterday was the deadline for tendering all arbitration eligible players contracts. In simple terms, what that means is that if a team decided to keep a player (tender), they would give them a contract where they would receive a raise based on their performance the previous year. If the team chose not to offer them a contract (or non-tender), the player would then become a free agent. This is a process which can become very costly for a team, but is also an effective way for other teams to pick up players that fill their needs.

For the Marlins, it started last Friday when they designated RHP Clay Hensley for assignment. It came as a surprise to many fans after having seen the success he’s had out of the bullpen with the Fish. However, had the Marlins tendered him a contract, he would have gone to arbitration, and he was due for a raise they simply did not want to pay. Yesterday, he was officially non-tendered. Then came another surprise when the Marlins traded the rather popular Burke Badenhop (a.k.a the Hopper) to the Tampa Bay Rays for Minor League catcher Jake Jeffries. Badenhop, another bullpen arm known for his pitch movement, makes for the third bullpen pitcher the Marlins have lost. The first was Brian Sanches who joined the Phillies earlier this offseason. All three pitchers were among the better arms the Marlins had in their bullpen, but apparently were considered ‘replaceable’ given their new price tags.

As for the players the Marlins tendered, they are Donnie Murphy, Juan Carlos Oviedo (a.k.a Leo Nunez), Anibal Sanchez, Emilio Bonifacio, Chris Volstad, and Edward Mujica. It’s still unclear exactly what the team intends to do with Oviedo who’s legal status is still up in the air, but some believe he will be traded. Others have said he will be used as a setup man for Heath Bell. But until his identity issues are addressed, he won’t be doing much of anything in the baseball world next season. As for Chris Volstad, it seems his days as a Marlin are numbered. The Marlins are still in the market for some starting pitching. Volstad was the weakest link the in rotation, and with news that pitchers like Joe Saunders are now on the free agent market and the unfading interest the team has in Gio Gonzalez, it would be surprising if Volstad were pitching for the Marlins next year.

Perhaps the most interesting move the Marlins made yesterday was signing former Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand to a Minor League contract. Rowand is a quality defensive outfielder and a decent hitter with some power. If he makes the team come Opening Day, he should make for a nice addition to the team without the heavy cost (the Giants still owe him $12MM). But there are a lot of new names that have hit free agency as of yesterday, so keep your eyes open for more news. The Marlins are still not done and you never know what other tricks they may have left up their sleeves.

Could Fielder Be the Marlins Next Target?

image

With Albert Pujols going to the Angels, Marlins fans are searching high and low for a silver lining. Their hope had been that this offseason would culminate with the signing of the best baseball player in modern history; that Albert Pujols would become a Marlin and help bring them over the top, immediately making them World Series contenders; that the mere presence of Pujols in a Marlins uniform would force people to care about a team nobody seemed to pay attention to for the last 9 years. But with Pujols now off to Anaheim, fans are seeking after some form of consolation; something that can give them hope that the team can rebound from this great loss…the next best thing…Prince Fielder. But there are many questions left to be answered before fans can jump on that train. Is he a good fit? Who else is after him? What are their chances? Is he even worth the effort after having lost out on Pujols? Will the Marlins even pursue him?

Prince Fielder is a force to be reckoned with, and there’s no denying that. In just over 6 seasons, he’s managed to rack up a respectable .282 batting average, with an average of 106 RBI and 37 home runs a year. Any team would flock to grab hold of a player of that caliber. To say Fielder would not be a good fit for the Marlins would be a lie just based on those numbers. The Marlins ranked 23rd of 30 in runs scored with 625 runs as compared to the reigning World Series champs, the Cardinals, who ranked 5th with 762 runs scored last season. The Red Sox lead the MLB in runs scored with 875 runs scored and didn’t even make the playoffs. Certainly, if the Marlins have any hope of contending for a playoff spot, they’ll have to improve in this area. Fielder can help them do that, but would they be alone in pursing him?

Obviously, the answer is no. Fielder is widely regarded as the second best free agent on the market this offseason, behind only Albert Pujols. That’s an elite class which draws all sorts of attention. Among the possible suitors for Fielder are the Mariners, Cubs, and Blue Jays. The Mariners have money to spend and need a high impact player like Fielder, the Cubs are trying to rebuild and could use a young player like Fielder to build around, and the Blue Jays are a combination of the two and could also benefit from Fielder’s services. The Marlins have tied up a significant amount of capital in signing Bell, Reyes, and Buehrle, and while they’re still players in the free agent market, it’s unclear how much more they’re willing to spend. With Fielder’s projected annual income to be around $20MM, his asking price may take them out of the running.

When the Marlins officially announced the signing of Mark Buehrle, owner Jeffrey Loria was asked about Pujols and Fielder. He said:

Albert Pujols was an interesting fit if it worked at our parameters and it didn’t. We moved on. We never viewed Prince the way we viewed Albert, either on or off the field. Albert Pujols is the best hitter of our generation, your generation and my son’s generation. There’s Albert and then there’s everyone else when it comes to that type of franchise-changing contract.”

Comparing Pujols’ career numbers with Fielder’s, it’s fair to say that Loria is completely right. However, what Loria said can be viewed as a form of disrespect towards Fielder, and on that premise I believe that the Marlins not only will not go after Fielder, but he will not even entertain offers from them.

So what other alternatives do the Marlins have to add more power to their lineup? There are a lot more options available than I can explore here, however, here are some possibilities via free agency or trade:

  1. Signing Yoennis Cespedes

    Yoennis would make for an interesting match with the Marlins. While the team has a lot to gain from keeping Emilio Bonifacio in the starting lineup, if Cespedes proves to be the player many think he can be, he can add both power and speed to their lineup. However, being unproven at the Major League level means the Marlins would have to take a big risk in signing him. The demand for Cespedes is also so high that teams will likely start a bidding war for him, and with an asking price of about 8 years $60MM, he may be too expensive to take a chance on.

  2. Trading for Joey Votto

    Believe it or not, Joey Votto has better numbers than Prince Fielder, including defensively. Votto is an All-Star and a quality player, but acquiring him may cost the Marlins some big names, namely Gaby Sanchez and/or perhaps Logan Morrison. The Reds are not likely to deal Votto as they want to extend his contract prior to free agency, however, if the right deal comes along, don’t be surprised if they jump on it. Maybe they’d be interested in a trade involving Hanley Ramirez.

  3. Signing Carlos Beltran

    Carlos Beltran has seen better days in the Big Leagues. He’s been plagued by injuries and slowed production over the years and is likely in the tail end of his career. However, that doesn’t discredit his defensive ability or his power. He could definitely add some pop to the lineup, but might be best suited platooning with Emilio Bonifacio in center field. His asking price may also be too high for a player that won’t be an everyday player. Still, it’s a possibility the Marlins should at least explore.

  4. Signing Carlos Pena

    The most interesting of all of the players I’ve proposed is Carlos Pena. He has a career average of 34 home runs and 96 RBI. That’s a significant increase in production than that of current first baseman Gaby Sanchez. The Cubs would be in need of a first baseman with Pena signing with the Fish, which would open the opportunity for a trade for more pitching. It’s a win-win for both clubs and the move I favor most.

Will the Marlins go after Prince Fielder? Most likely not, but I can’t answer that definitively, so I’ll go back to quoting Jeffrey Loria when asked about going after Fielder:

I don’t know about that. I don’t know. We’ll see” 

CJ Wilson to Join Pujols in Anaheim

image

Much to nobody’s surprise CJ Wilson will be joining Albert Pujols in Anaheim next season. The lefty has agreed to a 5 year $75MM contract with the Angels. This morning marks perhaps the most expensive day in the Angels’ history having spent upwards of $325MM between the two players. The move also makes for the second major free agent that the Angels have “stolen” from the Marlins. The Marlins can’t have all the fun, right? But for those greedy Marlins fans, team beat writer Joe Fisaro Tweeted:

image

A Lost Dream

image

After a long and hard-fought battle, it seems that Marlins fans will not have their dreams of having Albert Pujols wear a Miami jersey realized. After much deliberation and speculation, reporters finally announced yesterday that the Marlins were out of the running for Pujols. The signing of LHP Mark Buehrle to a 4 year $58MM contractwas a clear indicator that the team had moved on. Thus, Mr. Pujols has decided to take his talents to more Westward plains and signed with the Angels on a 10 year contract worth northward of $250MM. It’s also believed that CJ Wilson, who the Marlins are also after, may follow suit and join Pujols in Anaheim. The Marlins have reportedly offered Wilson a 6 year contract as compared to the 5 year contract he’s being offered by the Angels, however Wilson is a Southern California native and may choose to stay closer to home. Now that Pujols has signed, his destination may almost be certain.

The reasons why the Marlins dropped out of the running are not completely clear, but one factor that likely played a significant role was the teams lack of a no-trade clause in their offer. The Angels have included one in their contract with Pujols.

But Marlins fans have no need to be disappointed. For the first time in franchise history, the team has been a big time buyer this offseason, signing some of the biggest names to hit the free agency market in Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle. And while it doesn’t seem likely, some believe that if the Marlins don’t land Wilson, their next target may be Prince Fielder. Regardless of the next step, Marlins fans have much to be excited about. The team is finally doing the one thing it has been criticized for since its inauguration: spending money on good players. Cheer up Marlins fans, the offseason isn’t over and the Marlins have come out winning so far.

Buehrle/Guillen to Reunite in Miami

image

…And the ball keeps on rolling in the Marlins favor. Yesterday the Marlins locked up yet another big name free agent with reports that the Marlins signed LHP Mark Buehrle to a 4 year $58MM contract. Buehrle was one of the most sought-after arms available in the market and had as many as 14 suitors interested in his services. However, shortly after reports that the Marlins had dropped out of the bidding for Albert Pujols, news had surfaced that the Fish had inked the southpaw to a deal. He now rejoins his manager from the White Sox, Ozzie Guillen.

Buehrle adds to a heavily right-handed rotation which was in need of upgrading. His veteran presence and post-season success make him the only Marlin in the rotation with any experience playing in late October. He will be joining Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, and Chris Volstad to round out the rotation. He is also the fourth pitcher the Marlins have signed this offseason, following Wade LeBlanc, Heath Bell, and JD Martin. The team still has a standing offer on CJ Wilson reported at 6 years $80MM, but with Pujols signing to the Angels, it’s likely that Wilson will be headed out West instead of South.

Many criticized the Marlins’ pursuit of Pujols, claiming that they were in need of pitching and that adding Pujols would do little for their chances of competing in the same division as the pitching-heavy Phillies. Perhaps they listened to the critics, as this deal realigned them with their initial offseason priority of obtaining starting pitching. Many still believe the Marlins are not done making moves with reports that they’re showing interest in pitchers like Wandy Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez. However, the Marlins would prefer to add via free agency as it won’t cost them as steeply. Many teams (the Athletics in particular) are appear to be asking for too much in return. Be on the lookout for more news regarding the Marlins. The Winter Meetings are not over yet.

The Battle for Pujols

image

Just 2 days into the Winter Meetings in Dallas and already the battle for Albert Pujols is in full effect. In what can only be described as a marathon of a day, Pujols’ agent Dan Lozano spent all of yesterday dialoguing with suitors and Pujols himself. It appeared to be just a two dog fight (between the Cardinals and the Marlins) when rumors surfaced that a third “mystery team” had also presented a 10 year offer to Pujols. Some believed that team to be the Angels, others the Cubs, but both teams denied it. The Marlins trio (Larry Beinfest, Jeffrey Loria and David Samson) were in and out of Lozano’s hotel room as the discussions intensified. At one point the trifecta spent 75 minutes dealing with Lozano. At another point, the team met with Dan Halem (Senior Vice President of the MLB) in what was believed to be a verification of their offer’s compliance with the new CBA. Many expected a conclusion by night’s end, but in anticlimactic fashion, Lozano told teams late last night that Pujols would need more time to think things over.

Pujols, arguably the best player in baseball, is an asset that any team would love to have, but few can afford. That’s why the Marlins are such a surprise player in their contention for “The Machine”. Their offer is believed to be a 10 year deal north of $200MM, more likely in the $220MM range. Many ask where the money is coming from, but the go-to answer always seems to be that they 'have new revenue streams that they didn't have access to when they were at Sun Life Stadium'. A political answer, and politics has gotten the organization in all sorts of trouble (of the Federal kind), but the reality of bringing Pujols to South Florida is a cost they are willing to pay.

The biggest obstacle the Marlins are facing in reeling in Albert is their team policy which they hold firmly: they don’t extend “no-trade clauses” to anybody. It’s an issue they’re facing with LHP Mark Buehrle as well. Yet, in spite of their unwillingness to make an exception, they believe that it will not be of great concern as they have other ways of making up for it. It’s rumored that the current offer on the table would tie Pujols to the team even after his career is over, and that the 10/5 rule would also be in effect with a 10 year contract, negating the need for a no-trade clause.

There are plenty of reason why Pujols could choose to go to either team, but the Marlins have a lot to offer. One of the most significant factors is one that made the Heat’s Big 3 possible: no state tax. No state tax means Pujols gets to keep more of his money, and if dollars are of any importance (and they are seeing as he rejected the Cardinals initial offer of 8 years $198MM), Pujols will definitely have to consider a move to Miami. The Marlins also have a lot of momentum this upcoming season. With a new look, new stadium, in-house talent such as Josh Johnson, Hanley Ramirez, and Mike Stanton, and the addition of Heath Bell and Jose Reyes, they’re looking to compete in 2012, whereas the Cardinals are in somewhat of a rebuilding stage after having lost one of the greatest coaches in baseball history in Tony LaRusa. However, the most intriguing aspect of their pitch to Pujols is one that absolutely no other team in the MLB can offer him. Miami is a unique city in that it houses the highest population of hispanics per capita in all the U.S. It’s considered the gateway to Latin America. With Pujols joining the Marlins, he would not only be popular in Miami’s hispanic-heavy market, but he’d become an international star. His reach would span beyond the shores of South Beach and into Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, and just about every other baseball-loving country nearby. As an added bonus for the Marlins, they’d have all sorts of international sponsors just begging to bring their brand to Miami.

The Marlins have made what many are saying is their final offer, but don’t expect that to speed up the decision-making process. Pujols is facing the biggest decision of his career, and it’s not one he will take lightly. He once said that he’d let God guide his decision, and he’ll definitely need God’s direction with so many factors to consider. Marlins fans just hope God favors the Fish on this one.

Marlins Sign RHP J.D. Martin

image

Somewhere in between their relentless pursuit of slugger Albert Pujols the Marlins have found time to quietly make other moves, though on a microscopically smaller scale. The team has signed former Nationals pitcher J.D. Martin to a minor league contract today. This makes for the third pitcher the Marlins have signed (Wade LeBlanc, Heath Bell, and now J.D. Martin) proving that pitching is in fact a priority for the Fish, in spite of any other pursuits they may have. Martin has pitched just 24 games within the last two season posting a 4.13 ERA last year in 15 starts. Signing the righty is likely an attempt by the organization to bolster the farm system, or perhaps the bullpen. Martin, like LeBlanc, will have the opportunity to earn a spot on the roster in spring training, but will most likely join LeBlanc in the minors in the beginning of the season. A good move by the Fish, but not likely the one we will be talking about for the rest of the day.

Not even a full 24 hours since Reyes has signed and already Reyes merchandise is available. The other picture is the unofficial Heath Bell t-shirt (if you didn’t catch it already). What will the next one be..Mark BuehrleCJ WilsonAlbert Pujols?

Reyes taking his talents to Little Havana

image

Do not adjust your screen. This is not a test. This is serious…“dead serious”.

Jose Reyes has actually signed with the Miami Marlins. As Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen alluded, the Marlins were not joking when they extended offers to high-profile free agents Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols, and Mark Buehrle. He could not have been more right. As originally offered, the contract is for 6 years, however, the Marlins have raised their initial bid of $90MM to $102MM with a 7th year $4MM buyout option. At $17MM a year, this contract makes Reyes the highest paid Marlin on the roster, or at least for the moment. It appears the critics and the doubters have been silenced, but it didn’t start with Reyes.

Earlier this week, the Fish locked in a 3 year $27MM contract to premier closer Heath Bell. Many paralleled the signing to 2005 when the Mets (Reyes’ alma mater) inked Pedro Martinez to a 4 year deal, which was then followed by signings by Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, and seemingly every other big name in the baseball at the time. Could this be deja vu? It appears so, though this time the tables have now been completely turned as the Mets rebuild and the Marlins rack up on elite talent. But will it end with Reyes? Will the Marlins go after any other big name free agents? The Marlins still have offers out on Mark Buehrle, CJ Wilson, and Albert Pujols which have yet to be accepted or declined by either player. As if it weren’t enough that they just picked up last years’ NL batting champ in Reyes, sources close to the Marlins are saying that the Fish are now locking in on Albert Pujols. As difficult as that is to believe, they say the team has sorted out its finances in such a way that would allow them one more major free agent, and it appears Pujols is their new target.

Could the Marlins become baseball’s version of their neighbors, the Miami Heat? If Pujols signs, it certainly would be a fair comparison. However, the enchantment of signing Pujols may be a bit blinding to certain realities of the Marlins’ current roster. Much like the Heat, the team has yet to address a crucial need. For the Heat it was (and still is) a center, and for the Marlins it’s starting pitching, something they stated was a priority at the beginning of the offseason. While the trade of John Bakerfor LHP Wade LeBlanc may have been a smart one, it is unquestionably far from sufficient as LeBlanc is not expected to make the Opening Day roster. But if the Marlins are in fact making a run for Pujols, expect the squad to use trading as a method of solidifying their rotation. With the obvious need for a lefty starter in the mix, don’t be too surprised if they attempt to renegotiate a deal for Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez. There’s also been talk of going after James Shields of the Rays. The biggest question would be who they’d have to give up to come to an agreement. Potential candidates for trade bait are Emilio Bonifacio, Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez, Chris Coghlan, Chris Volstad and Ricky Nolasco.

One thing is certain, the Marlins cannot afford to resemble their former roommates, the Miami Dolphins. After picking up one of the biggest names in football in Reggie Bush, the Dolphins have had yet another disappointing season thus far. Why that is can be attributed to all sorts of issues within the team and the organization, but most obviously because they failed to address their biggest area of need: a quarterback. Could the Marlins end up like the Dolphins? If they don’t stick to their own self-imposed priorities, it’s very possible. But the winter meetings are finally here, so expect the Fish to continue to deal and make moves this week as they try to fill in some holes. Stay locked as news can break at any moment!

Just a thought…

image

Some writers have suggested that the failure of the Marlins to invite pitcher Chris Volstad to the unveiling of the new uniforms is an indication that the team intends to trade him. If that is true, what are we to think of those players who have been aboard the Marlins rainbow train? Should we expect them to be plastered in Miami orange come Opening Day? It would seem logical, but then again, they have been known to trade away players who were thought to be out of the question before. Here are the players in question:



-Emilio Bonifacio

-Josh Johnson

-Hanley Ramirez

-Ricky Nolasco

-Logan Morrison

-Gaby Sanchez

-John Buck

-Anibal Sanchez

-Omar Infante



With exception of Buck, Infante, and Johnson, each one of those players has been proposed, at some point or another, as a potential trade option. Will they all be back to debut the new stadium?